OPINION

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And not a drop to drink?
Water restrictions are currently being enacted in many cities and regions in Australia, which is the Earth’s driest inhabited continent, in response to chronic water shortages resulting from the widespread drought. These can include restrictions on watering lawns, using sprinkler systems, washing vehicles, hosing pavements, refilling swimming pools. Overpopulation, evidence of drying climates, coupled with corresponding reductions in the supply of drinking water has led various state governments to consider alternative water sources to supplement existing sources, and to activate water inspectors who can issue penalties to those who waste water.
In Tasmania, TasWater manages domestic supply, and irrigation water is delivered by a number of entities. One of these, Tasmanian Irrigation, has asked farmers in Richmond, Cambridge and Sorell to halve their usage due to low levels in water storages. It appears that although these low levels were apparent for some time, the imposition of restrictions was not forecast, and many growers of green leaf crops had already planted out their holdings on the assumption that normal water supplies would be maintained. Colin Houston, a Tasmanian pioneer in the field said, “If the restrictions stay we’ll have to reduce our crops and reduce our staff, so we have to work as a team, TasWater, Tasmanian Irrigation and farmers, to utilise the water the best we can”. Some growers rely on imported labour from Pacific Island nations, for whom they still have to find work. Sorell Council mayor Kerry Vincent said, “The main concern for me is how late we found out about it that there was a serious issue with supply over the summer months”.
TasWater has no water restrictions currently in place, but Hobart is using 10 megalitres, or the volume of four olympic sized pools of water a day more than it was at the same time last year. In addition water levels at the Ridgeway and Lake Fenton storages are low. TasWater is also battling to maintain reserves for anticipated firefighting needs. At the same time, municipalities may be placed on public health alerts when local water supplies are unsafe to drink without boiling. If that happens, reticulated water can still be used for flushing toilets, showering and bathing, washing dishes by hand or in a dishwasher; garden irrigation too, although all vegetables should be washed with clean drinking water prior to food preparation. Cooking and washing clothes are okay. As a precaution, babies and toddlers should be sponge-bathed to prevent them swallowing water.
For many years, perhaps the last thirty but two, we lived on tank water. We had occasional outbreaks of E coli (possum poo on the roof), but otherwise we enjoyed pure and untainted water: wonderful for washing your hair, with heaps of lather, and an excellent non-chemical companion to a single-malt whisky. Then we moved ‘further in’ following a well-worn trail, and here we are, on ‘town water’. The pressure is exuberant and takes some getting used to. We could water the whole 2,000 square metres of our block with a single sprinkler if we could get one big enough, and if we were prepared to pay the TasWater bill. I could even, if I felt like it, leave the tap running while I brush my teeth, but I have a deeply ingrained tendency to save water – “if it’s yellow, let
it mellow”.
But lately, I am wondering. If we went back onto tanks, we would need 10,000 litres for domestic use, including hand-watering the garden, and a firefighting reserve or another 10,000 litres, plus a petrol or diesel pump, hoses and nozzles. Until now, we had thought to evacuate early, but there is a looming, though yet unrecognised by government, national emergency. Large parts of Australia now resemble a war zone, and when the last embers are blacked-out, there will be an immense demand for rebuilding, materials and labour, and long delays in getting rebuilds done, even after the insurance has been paid. Our house is well-insured, but at our age, I’m not sure we could handle living in rented accommodation for a period of years.
Stay and defend might be a more rational option. I’m glad I kept my ‘yellows’ from the
volunteering years.
John Fleming II

500 words... Jasmine Smith-Browne holds forth on matters close to her heart
The fifty year anger spike
When did the world’s population start getting so angry? Whether it is householders complaining about their neighbours, motorists engaging in road rage or people ranting their sexism or racism on social media, anger burns among the masses. Even politicians are stirring up anger in crowds, creating a bandwagon effect. Someone starts the aggression by expressing their dislike for something and it drives someone else to express it as well. It is certainly
a contagion.
You might ask what is the purpose of anger. It is defined as “maintaining personal boundaries “, so if someone crosses you, insults you, touches you or gets in your space, retaliation can happen and the anger festers.
Generally around this time of the year it is even more obvious. Whether it is due to money worries, time depletion, carelessness on the roads or in parking lots, anger seems to have attached itself to what is supposed to be a special time of the year. After a day at the supermarket or doing the odd Christmas shop, we arrive home exhausted and on edge, from dealing with
bad attitudes.
Reality TV, 24 hour news cycles, increasing polarisation of political parties and also dealing with the memory of the past two world wars, a shrinking global economy and now the worry of global warming, are all contributing to our social malaise. Social media has done more harm than good. Social interaction should be polite and sharing. One of the main problems is the sharing factor where people disclose too much of their personal information online which inevitably causes negative responses from some readers. When one starts a negative reply it spurs on others to share their own sense of anger. In real life we can discuss things in a conversation to eliminate anger by dealing with a problem face-to-face and working on consequences, but online media has become an open battlefield of nastiness because people can have their say anonymously.
Peter Urchin, a scientist, came up with the study of Cliodynamics, where patterns of history show a series of years that have been more aggressive than others. In 1870 the north of America fought the south in the civil war, then in 1920 worker unrest, racial tension and anti-communism sentiments caused upsurges of violence. Fifty years later, the Vietnam war took place. This 50 year time wave seems to be a recurring theme. This time around we are faced with wage discrimination, reduced standards of living, the threat of world war, economic downturns, unaffordable housing, animal extinctions and mother nature erupting violently to destroy what we work so hard to maintain. With all this negativity is brought on a high amount of violence and it is even harder for us to live happily in this never ending turmoil. If scientists are to be believed, then we are merely facing the 50 year time of turmoil. History does show that it eventually subsides and we break into a calmer and more purposeful time.
Of course not everything can be blamed on the 50 year theory because naturally genetic factors, childhood upbringing, mental illness or even our own living experiences can bring on anger or bad attitudes, but there might be some truth in the generalisation of the 50 year peak. One only needs to see that manners and politeness have gone out the proverbial window. The worldwide political stage is not helping at all, with goading between many countries’ leaders making everyone else even more angry, and contributing to a sense of futility.
If the 50 year habit of unrest is here again from a scientific point of view, does this mean we can do something about it or do we just wait for the storm to pass, so to speak? Or are we becoming too blase about accepting negativity as the norm? Social media will only continue to stir up offence and defence, but it is also a tool where we can make the opposite happen. If we can reach out to so many people then surely we can start a chain reaction to swing the other way.It could become the very tool of this century to be used for a better purpose. I am not a user of social media myself as I much prefer reality. Last year I was talking to a young woman who was devastated and crying over problems that arose in an online social group.
Threats and taunts sent one person into a depression and threatening suicide, I could not believe that such real emotions came out from something that is as inanimate as a computer, but such is the power of the social media of today. Who would have thought 50 years ago that we would have our emotions and anger being controlled by a machine?

All wedding-ed out
Although it doesn’t feel like it, summer is here. Summer, and spring, are considered to be the height of the wedding season. The wedding industry is big business – often requiring a wedding planner. Images of marriages are unavoidable on social media. Even if one doesn’t subscribe to the gossip style of social media, it can be hard to ignore. One’s tablet has random pop-ups, including what is happening in the twitterverse, of wedding showers, hen’s do’s and the goings-on of wedding parties and their hangers-on. Sure, there may be settings to prevent seeing these garish displays of extravagance, bad taste and the crass, ostentatious consumerism of it all, although there is also a small perverse delight in the superiority of knowing that it wouldn’t be one’s own style. Also hanging out there in twitter land is a tendency towards nastiness by some people who post unpleasant or unkind comments about other people’s weddings on social media. There seems to be an awful lot of shaming, criticism, mocking and outright nastiness associated, usually anonymously, about those who are getting married, those who are going to a wedding and those who are forking out for these, often expensive, events. What a pity that the big occasion, an event that is meant to be important to the bride and groom, can be bandied about on social media as a free-for-all for others to comment on.
Blame it on celebrities and royals
Only half-seriously, I blame all the fuss about weddings on celebrities and royals. Celebrities, especially those who feel the need to have three or four wedding dresses or outfits for the day, may be showing off their status or wealth. Will it make their marriage any happier, or even more long-lived, if it was a more modest event? What about the fuss over a Royal wedding? Last year I attended my son’s wedding in the UK. It was a lovely event, not totally small or modest, but certainly not over-the-top. The people who attended were there to witness the couple’s love and commitment to each other, to celebrate with them and to wish them well. With about 130 guests attending, it was still quite large. The young couple had organised it themselves, in a beautifully restored 16th century barn, and it was truly picturesque. Everything was beautifully catered for and guests had a ball. An occasion to be remembered with delight and pleasure.
All wedding-ed out
Less than a week later came the royal wedding of Princess Eugenie and Jack Brooksbank at St George’s Chapel, Windsor – a high profile, socially important occasion. If you are into that sort of thing – being a Royal watcher – then you may have been in seventh heaven. By the time it was over, I was definitely “all wedding-ed” out. The UK media loves that sort of thing – it’s bread and butter to the whole media industry, but the commentary was not always at a high level. Too much gush, too much gossip, and too much comment. People found it necessary to make all sort of crass comments. That princess’s sister is about to be married, and her wedding will be a target for even more comment, mainly because of the scandal surrounding her father, Prince Andrew. The poor thing. I certainly feel sorry for her. Community comment may very well highjack her big day, and detract from the importance, to the couple, of their big day. Maybe they should try to keep it simple.
Keep it simple
Are weddings too complex, too confusing? Just a few weeks ago, I heard about two small children, family members, who were attendants at an especially fancy wedding at the Peabody Library in Baltimore, Maryland, in the United States. The four-year-old flower girl froze at the sight of all the people, confused – she thought that she was getting married, then promptly fell asleep in mommy’s lap! The five-year-old page was marooned, while the register was being signed, between rooms. He was found, crying, confused about what was to come next. A wedding planner fail, perhaps, but a bit sad. Too much fuss. I hope it didn’t put them both off completely – it may affect their future decisions.
Merlene Abbott

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