Australia is in the middle of a drought. I’m not talking no rain this year…I’m talking no rain for some years. I’m not sure of the exact number now – and I’m too lazy to look it up, but on the Today Show Australia they had a rather long segment complete with dust blowing behind tractors and two generations of the same farming family. The father lamented this harsh time but remembered fondly the wet years – back in the 80s I think. His son, not able to remember that far back, instead talked about the very real possibility of leaving farming all together.

Under normal circumstances I would have thought – sad – and moved on. But having read Guns, Germs and Steel recently I can’t help but consider that nothing has changed. One of the main themes of the book is that progression to farming happened in the places it did because of ideal circumstances…a culmination of available/useful seeds and animals, fertile land, water, and predictable seasons.

Australia has almost none of those – hence the reason there was no real farming until it was brought in by Europeans when they settled.

Fast-forward now…as the country is struggling with water shortages on both coasts, depleted ground water and more drought in sight. It got me thinking about New Orleans, a city 12 feet below sea level, surrounded by water, and in the middle of hurricane alley. It was a disaster waiting to happen before Katrina and is a disaster waiting to happen as it is slowly rebuilt.

Sometimes I think the human need to dominate, to prove we can, is counterproductive to our own wellbeing. Just because you can do something doesn’t mean you should. Just because technology allows for a city to be pumped dry – eventually – doesn’t mean that a city nestled between a river, a lake and the Gulf of Mexico is the best place to rebuild. And just because technology makes irrigation possible doesn’t mean such a water poor place should do mass scale farming.

Historically people adapted to their surroundings. Desert people were nomads, followed their food sources, learned to find water where there was none. But with a push towards technology as save-all the idea of adaptation has reversed. Rather than me adapting to life as a roman because I’m in rome the expectation is for rome to change. And although rome – may accommodate for a little while, make no mistake, rome is still rome. Equally, deserts are still deserts and concave cities still prone to floods.

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