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The tactile experience of climate change

There can be no-one in this country by now, barring the unborn, who has not experienced, first hand, some extreme weather event. There are those in the climate change “warmist” camp who cry the ”Aha!” moment at these disasters, while those in the “denialist” cabal give a banal yawn and implore us all to “move on, there’s nothing to see, business as usual.” Meanwhile, the water rises or the sun beats down brutally! The science is in, but in public media debate, both contradict each other … (opinionated) impasse on the scientific field.

Where to from here?

Politics? Forget it! We; the people are the politics and if we cannot come to an agreement, we can hardly expect our representatives to get any guidance from this quarter, especially not in a divisive parliament. We must look elsewhere.

There is another reference point to which we can draw information. A vast congregation of untapped wealth of knowledge, dismissed up till now because of its “unqualified to verify” position. Below the elite scientific field, there are the professions which deal everyday with environmental variables and have vast experience with the subtle changes that are the “canaries in the mine” on climate shifts. Professionals who sift, plunge, mould, till, taste, sniff and feel the variables of the product they manufacture, facilitate or grow. These are the farmers, orchardists, apiarists, veterinary surgeons, livestock breeders, dedicated gardeners and sundry outdoor workers. These people, whose accrued knowledge would have fine-tuned their intuitive radar to the variables of seasonal regularity and have to make sometimes swift adjustment to counteract natural disasters are and indeed/should be used more for a weather-vane on the long-term observations of climate change. They have the stored wisdom and collated records of their experiences.

For instance:

At the entrance to my property, there are three underground tanks of average 3mx3mx3mdeep. There are two others up near the house. If I did a 360deg turn, I could point out at least another half dozen on other properties in the near vicinit … all dug by hand (ie: pick and crowbar and shovel by the pioneers … and through a solid strata of “calcrete” most prevalent in this Mallee country. It is called calcrete for a good reason, the first part of the word denotes the calcium part and the second gives clue to the concrete part … bloody solid stuff … no-one would even start to dig that many tanks and line them with home-burnt lime mortar and do the run-in/run-off swales without some confidence that they would fill regularly. No way! The work would be too back-breaking!

Those tanks are in the same location as when they dug them (obviously!), the swales are still in the same location, the “lay of the land” is still the same … but according to the lady (of the original pioneer German family) they have never filled for forty years … and I have only seen them fill suddenly once in the eleven years we have been here … and that was a cloudburst of gigantic proportions – quite unusual for these dry parts. So what has changed? Only one thing; the rainfall. The Goyder Line has shifted further west and south from here. The climate has changed.

Many multi-generation cropping/animal farmers have kept “paddock records” over the generations. They could tell a story. Orchardists too have their cropping records, vets have knowledge of animal behaviour fluctuations … interrupted breeding cycles due to weather variables etc. Apiarists, particularly, have a keen sense of “knowing” the behaviour of their ‘wards’. Even the humble home-gardener will relate their observations on the strangeness of certain plants over the last several decades! I can recall one “expert” Italian gardener shaking his head in disbelief a number of years ago at the strange event that “this is the first time in my life that I have not been able to sprout my own tomato seedlings as usual.” And I ask; If an Italian cannot grow a tomato?! (please, no racist slur – I am half Italian – and I grow tomatoes!).

The local GP is in a position to observe patterns in unusual viral or fungal infections, these tell of the “migration routes” of seasonal illnesses and can inform what is “in the air” at any one particular time of year.

As an avowed “warmist” who lives within, literally, a stones’ throw of the Goyder Line, I can see some unusual changes in the mallee in regards to flora/fauna cycles. The mallee being a “frozen in time” bio-forest with an exacting evolution to suit an exacting country and climate, any sudden changes are quite noticeable. Here is where we could use the expert opinions of fauna and flora observers to explain the reason for such variables in this and other areas of interest.

These are people and situations that we can all relate to. The scientists of both sides of the argument have reached populist deadlock, perhaps it is time to start to listen to our own collective “elders” in our own community, after all, it is us, now, who are affected, it is us, now, who must act if there is something to be done. We do not need anymore catch-cries from the rabble, but let us listen carefully to those with tactile experience in a variety of fields. I am certain there are those in the fields mentioned who read and listen with head-shaking disbelief to the ravings of some commentators and could, with the help of their own collected statistics enlighten a lot of us to the reality of climate variables that have become definite shifts to a precarious precipice.


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  1. John Boyd

    What gives you the idea that scientists do not access these records. Changes in cropping practice have been analysed for years.

  2. Freethinker

    I agree 100% with your comments Joseph, and we also can add the knowledge of the indigenous people world wide that are more in tune with nature than us.
    But, at the end, will be a good approach, that if in doubt, the best that we can do it is to change our life style to see the results
    It will do no harm, only will affect those selfish and greedy for material things and consumerism and the big corporations that make profits of them.

  3. Miriam English

    Joseph, there isn’t really any deadlock or disagreement. The “debate” is entirely concocted by the greedy, dangerously irresponsible Murdoch press. If you asked 100 doctors about a suspicious lump and 97 of them said it was cancer, but 3 said it wasn’t, who would you believe? And if you looked into the background of those 3 dissenting doctors to find that they are paid by companies that harvest organs from recently deceased patients would that make you suspect their motives? There really is no genuine dissent.

    But, yes, your point is a good one. The long-term, gradual changes can be seen all around us if we wish to look.

    Here is a cheery graphic (all the yellow is desert):

    from the article at:

    (I wish I knew how to inline images here, at AIMN.)

  4. Joseph Carli

    John Boyd..I do not doubt that cropping and some…SOME reliable agricultural records have been analysed for years…But of course, science can only use that data from a secure, reliable source…anecdotal evidence , rightly so, cannot be used for scientific cred’…but it is still there..hence this new corroboration of citizen-science.
    I have had a fair swag of experience with citizen science, being an inquisitive chap myself and assisting as a penciller for many “official” surveys up and down the Murray River..If Michael is willing to do a bit of editing, I will add an addendum to this piece on the subject of : “Collegiate / Fellowship”..

  5. Joseph Carli

    Miriam…you are “preaching to the converted” to most on this site and many other places…but what must be reached is the public, and we can now see, as you correctly point out, the Murdoch press has muddied the waters on this account and much of the public has tuned out.

  6. townsvilleblog

    Pyne has it worked out…..”look over there same sex marriage” ….so that we stay off the climate change subject, bloody pathetic!

  7. Johno

    This imagery only denotes human activity. I wonder what will happen in the oceans re warming/acidification, will there still be life or just mass extinctions leaving only jellyfish and algae.

  8. Joseph Carli

    John Boyd and others..I’ll put that short piece up here and if Michael thinks it worth it, he can transfer it to the end of the article above..

    The Collegiate and the Fellowship..

    I have been to several environmental themed workshops this last couple of weeks and I have noticed there is a pattern of procedure at each of them.
    It works like this…:

    You have the speaker / expert and you have the audience. The speaker comes to talk armed with research notes , topic-cred’ and a kind of bestowed authority. The audience consists largely of a group of lay-amateur environmentalists, strangers to each other who attend out of interest or for social connectivity. Some have collected “on-the-ground” statistics and anecdotal evidence.

    So when these two disparate groups meet, there is a kind of “disconnect” rather than a “connect” of interest. The clash between the “collegiate” of professionals who have difficulty accepting any “on ground” evidence without acceptable research backing….and fair enough. On the other hand you have the lay-people who have witnessed with their own eyes, certain events which are in contradiction to some accepted orthodoxy….so a conflict of interpretation exists between the “collegiate” of insiders and the “fellowship” of observers.

    Usually, the lay people give ground out of respect to the credentials of the experts….but still retain a degree of suspicion that lays dormant till more convincing evidence is forthcoming….after all, one has to believe what one sees with one’s own eyes! Now this, is the moment where a degree of foresight could best be implemented. Foresight to forestall any doubting and disconnect between the parties, because as much as one or the other resents it, each is wedded to the other by necessity…a) the “volunteers” out of a desire to gain knowledge with little cost but maximun benefit to themselves and b) the collegiate out of the need to access, justify, peer-publish and prove the requirements of the stingy research grants.

    There is a problem arising here with a lack of sympathy on both sides of the “fence”..with the “collegiate”, there is a degree of impatience with what could be seen as time wasting listening to and collecting unscientific and unstructured data that is of little or no use in research or field work. With the “fellowship”of amateurs, there is little understanding of the oversight of the direction, policy and funding of the professionals. That there is a strata of management above the collegiate that has performance-based criteria that they are expected to meet and funding reports expected to be written.

    So in essence , there are three strata of persons in the “game”…Higher management..The professional and.The lay-person. The professional is a little like the meat in the sandwich, with demands from above and below. A difficult situation indeed! However, at least they have some power to control procedure within the parameters of research and can have some freedom of movement within certain guidelines. The lay-person is at the mercy of their own intellectual and skills base and with something new to their experience like environmental monitoring, it can become a bridge too far! This is why they attend workshops, to glean some more nous in their observations…to try and target more accurately their subjects. In this there is huge respect for the credentials and authority of the “collegiate”. They are seen as a font of knowledge.

    Perhaps there could be more socialising BEFORE a workshop to help the shy or the doubtful get to know more of the intentions and interests of others also in attendance, perhaps breaking into small groups of strangers to each other so as to break the ice and introduce each other. After all, one thing is for certain…all are there for the same reason..; to protect and enhance the environment.

  9. Keith

    Recreational fishing people are catching species that in the past did not live in a particular marine environment.
    Miami and Southern Florida certainly know about sea level rise through experiencing flooding when there has been no precipitation.
    The Chilean Fishing industry almost collapsed earlier this year through excessively warm waters.

    Though, Joseph, I think you over state … “The scientists of both sides of the argument have reached populist deadlock ….” There are few scientists who specialise in climate change who take a skeptical view. Many of the torch bearers for deniers do not have any science qualifications, many Agencies are funded by fossil fuel interests to spread fake news.
    Powell et al suggested through assessing over 24,000 articles in peer reviewed journals published over a two year period that 99.9% were in agreement with anthropogenic climate change. Powell et al have been critiqued, and 97% of climate scientists holding an anthropogenic view of climate change is seen to be the accepted figure. What Powell et al do display though is the sheer volume of articles published.

  10. Joseph Carli

    Yes, you are correct in that point and I would withdraw or at least modify that (now specious) sentiment…I apologise for the hyperbole.

  11. Vikingduk

    Johno, in the past year, we have collected a large amount of dead coral and various bits of reef life, all washed ashore in some monster storms and seas. The reef (Sunshine/Chandons reef) approx 10 k offshore. Also, at various times, large and diverse amounts of jellyfish, and certainly the largest amount of bluebottles I’ve ever seen, large clumps washed ashore.

    There were also two successful turtle nests on this section of beach this season, unfortunately their survival at increasing risk not only due to climate change, but also the ever increasing plastic pollution.

    If you, any of you reading this want to help in small ways, request anyone using helium filled balloons to please not, or if they must, don’t let them flout free. A constant piece of rubbish we pickup would be dead balloons washed ashore and, of course, plastic bags of various sizes.

    Ocean temp here around 21C, with a high of 27C last summer. The time for positive action is now, otherwise what’s left?

  12. Joseph Carli

    Below are temperature measurements, taken by identical mercury thermometers, both inserted 25mm. into the soil, 500mm apart. One under loose leaf litter, the other in bare soil.

    I did the testing because there was a problem in understanding why mallee trees were not germinating outside the line of mallee trees in the redundant, bare-ground farm soil. I did the test over seven days (on the days I was there working.hence the date gaps) in the middle of winter , 2013.

    June 27th…high frost – sunny day…am. noon.
    mulch………9deg 11deg.
    bare soil……3deg 15deg.

    ” 28th….cloudy……….mulch…..9. 10.
    b-soil….7 13.

    July 2nd..cloudy………. m…….. 9. 14
    b-soil…..9. 14.

    ” 4th……sunny………..m…….. 8. 15.
    b-soil….9 16.

    ” 6th…..frost/sunny………..m….6 11.
    b-soil…..3 16.

    ” 12th……foggy/cloud………m….9 11.
    b-soil…..9 15.

    ” 13th….sun/cloud………….m….11 13.
    b-soil……10 17.

    What stands out is the rather large vairiable from the min’ to the max’ in the bare soil tests…and also note the comparative stable temp’ in the littered test. It is this variability, I believe, that affects the germination and survival of the mallee seedlings. And if you notice that under the mallee trees in a natural state, there is understory that serves as a coolant for the soil.

    So there you links, no “experts”, just the humble thermometer and observation. So those sudden heatwaves and then the frosty nights on that overgrazed, barren soil exacerbates the problem of regrowth and of the survival rates of spores and bacteria in greatly varying temps’.

  13. Joseph Carli

    Sorry..there appears to be a complete F-up in my posting of those figures..I have tried to fix it but it got worse…

  14. helvityni

    Vikingduk, why are our supermarkets still using all that plastic, you need an axe to get some packages to open, and to take things home…in plastic bags again…no energy today to worry about shopping trollies in creeks…

    We talk angrily about de-forestation happening in Brazil and Borneo, and don’t mention it when it happens here…

  15. Johno

    Vikingduc.. Sentiments exactly.. plastic is a scourge.

  16. Freethinker

    In Tasmania the supermarkets do not give any more plastic bags because it is bad for the environment, however inside you can purchase any kind of plastic bags for any application.
    This irritate me no end, if you buy them are friendly to the environment, if they have to give them free are not.

  17. Miriam English

    Plastic is a wonder material. What is tragic is that we throw the stuff away as if it was worthless, and then it chokes waterways and kills and poisons the creatures that live there, then continues out to sea, either in the water or being blown by winds to do even more damage there.

    I’m always amazed when I tell people that plastic is a marvel — a miracle substance. They get a look on their face as if I was telling them they’ve stepped in dogshit. But it is a marvel. It truly is. We should be valuing it, not throwing it away.

    If you build an underground house out of plastic it could potentially last tens of thousands of years. Stone is the only other material that can compare, and plastic is far easier to use. We can build vehicles out of carbon-fiber reinforced plastics that are far stronger, lighter, safer than steel vehicles, and are astoundingly energy efficient. Plastic fibers let us create a mind-boggling array of materials that have qualities far exceeding natural fibers. (Though one of the problems with plastic fibers in fabrics is that they slowly slough off tiny fibers into the environment for decades, and we don’t know the end effects of that.)

    Instead of making plastic “biodegradeable by making it break down into tiny parts (which tend to hold and concentrate toxins and then poison anything that ingests it) we should be valuing its remarkable properties. We have other plastics like polylactic acid (PLA), which is made out of starch, and will actually be consumed harmlessly by bacteria as food when damp for any length of time. We don’t need to poison our environment with micro-particles of indestructible plastic.

    When people denigrate plastic it makes them more likely to throw it away. We should instead value it.

  18. Vikingduk

    Yep, plastics are a scourge, a problem that begins from the many irresponsible, thoughtless humans discarding their rubbish. Plastic pollution is just another part of the whole scale trashing of the environment. Our daily rubbish pickup on the beach consists of disposable coffee cups, clothing, towels, toys, etc.

    But, of course, plastic in all its many forms, is the major culprit, as are bait bags, hooks, fishing line and lures with gang hooks, cellophane, tops and caps from bottles and creams, with the most consistent and dominant plastic pollution being quite small bits, usually blue. And bloody balloons, either largely intact and shredded to neck still attached to ribbon. Rarely would we find a supermarket type bag.

    We console ourselves with the thought that every bit we pickup is that bit less travelling through the food chain. Poor compensation given our propensity to shit in our own nests.

  19. Kevin Brewer

    Apiarists: a Geelong Deakin Uni researcher a few years ago used apiary records as proxies for temperature records because species flowering times are determined by their particular phenological requirements. Getting the paper is the hard part. There are several ongoing world wide online databases of ships’ logs from the 18th century onwards which have been used to analyse weather and climate patterns over oceans, which of course have until the advent of satellites, been a bit short of records. is one, but not the first in place.

    There are many dozens of citizen-science projects in Australia and thousands world wide. Try here:

    The CSIRO has one called Bush Blitz that is using personal observations to find new species.

    I belong to a couple that use my spare computer cycles to do stuff: BOINC is one I have been involved in for 10 years or more.

    The real problem for the type of project Joseph envisages is the collection of data into one place, then the processing of it, because the data will be gappy, a lot of it will be in the form of categorical variables, and not necessarily consistent ones, and it will require fairly advanced analytical skills. So his version of citizen science will require the tools of big data, computer grunt, coding and programming skills.

  20. John Holmes

    Re The Collegiate and the Fellowship..

    I have spent some time as an agronomist working in areas of the development of minimum tillage, weed control and closing the circle where the herbicides which allowed us to go min till have become useless as ryegrass et al have become resistant to them.

    When training new graduates in the arts of Agricultural Extension we impressed on them that it was essential to listen to what the farmers and others associated with Agriculture were observing. We cautioned them to be careful re the explanations mad by the farmers why such observations happened. Then it was part of the advisers job to integrate these observations with trial results and the accepted wisdom of the established researchers. Differences were identified from time to time and this feed back kept the researchers feet on the ground. Likewise the validation of farmer observations when properly compared with the current theory assisted in maintaining the Advisers standing and improved productivity/less collateral damage.

  21. Joseph Carli

    Yes..can sympathise, John..there is a “rain-sign” about this area that when there is three lizards upon three in-line fence posts…don’t know if there is much solid science behind THAT one.

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