Drought and climate change: more of the same or a new normal?

This post is the fourth in our series on drought, flood and water. In this series we are making connections between AUSCCER researchers working on watery themes, and showcasing our research. This week, Lesley Head writes on drought and climate change.

In our book Ingrained. A Human Bio-geography of Wheat, Jenny Atchison, Alison Gates and I discussed wheat farmers’ experience and understanding of drought. Whatever their views on anthropogenic climate change, coping with climatic variability goes with the territory of being a farmer. ‘That’s our job description’, said one, reflecting widespread pride in the capacities of wheat farmers to cope with drought. It’s a job description that comes with a certain amount of pain, as attested by stories of stressed families and sleepless nights over unpaid bills. If living with drought is normal, how different will climate change be? In this post I consider four angles on that question. Continue reading

The productive agency of drought?

This post is the first in our new series on drought, flood and water. Over the coming weeks we will make connections between AUSCCER researchers working on watery themes, and showcase our new books. This week, Lesley Head reflects on drought and wheat, as discussed in Ingrained: a Human Bio-geography of Wheat.

Drought is recent enough in the memory of most Australians for us to feel sympathy with those currently experiencing it in North America. The apocalyptically named ‘Millennium Drought’ affected southeastern Australia in particular for the first decade of this century. In the hemispheric oscillations of wheat supply, one farmer’s misfortune is another’s bumper year; wheat prices for Australian farmers are on the rise as harvest projections plummet in North America.

Drought is often depicted as a catastrophe, in which Australians are locked in battle with a fickle and hostile nature. But there are other ways to think about it. And, as climate change projections consistently indicate that southern Australia – where most of the population and agriculture are – will get drier over coming decades, we need to learn to live with drought in better ways. Continue reading