Anika Molesworth Our Sunburnt Country, Macmillan, 2021*
Anika first became aware of a changing climate at a young age on her family’s farm as she watched the Al Gore film “An Inconvenient Truth” and slowly she comes to realise the climate crisis that we face. Her journey takes her to gain a PhD as she studies, reads, and speaks to many knowledgeable people around the globe, her focus on food and farming as both offender and victim in the Climate Change scenario.
The book explores the need for us to have courage, to not shy away from reality but to know it, and act accordingly. To also recognise the losses as our biodiversity is changing with sometimes huge consequences and impact on the world as we know it. Anika raises the concept of “the shifting baseline” where over generations species become lessened and disappear and we forget what abundance there once was. Hugely depleted fish stocks are a prime example of this. We are devouring our planet and Climate Change affects what we eat and what we eat affects Climate Change, so we must accept responsibility, learn from the past, and realise the need for urgent action now.
Life is seen as fragile and precious, and food is seen as the staple of life. For thousands of years First Nations peoples have sustained themselves from the land and it is by acknowledging our relationship with the land around us that we become aware of our responsibility to look after it. Degradation of the land leads to more people abandoning country life and results in a disconnection from nature as well as the processes of food production. The global average age of farmers is now 60 years.
A big part of the problem facing our food production is seen as the public demand for cheap food which leads to land degradation, deforestation, poor animal husbandry, and destruction of diverse eco systems. As the food becomes less nutritious due to these intense farming methods our health deteriorates and disease increases. The gulf between people and nature widens. Anika suggests that we can all take more responsibility for our food systems by paying attention to where our food comes from, what it takes to produce it, as well as the nutritional value for our bodies.
Anika laments the unfairness that the people most vulnerable and at risk of the repercussions of Climate Change are those who have contributed least to it’s creation. It is seen as social injustice with most of the problems stemming from a wealthy minority. In the developed world we are all part of the problem and must accept responsibility for being part of the solution, recognising and addressing the problems however hard this may be. New and creative thinking is required to alleviate social, environmental, and economic problems.
Change can occur when we focus on building the new and this can happen quickly when policy change is part of the mix. As people demand better leadership, and with mass mobilisation, the goals to heal the planet can be reached. Anika has a vivid vision for the future, one that involves justice, equality, respect, and abundance. All of it achievable if only we have the will to do so. This is an inspiring chapter and outlines just what is possible if we all take action. The last chapter gives ideas and guidance of what we can all do, today, this week, and this month. We can all make a start to do this by sitting in nature and contemplating our role in caring for the planet and the future of humanity.
*copy in the East Gippsland Shire Library