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Negative feedback loop

May 7, 2007

Whilst this may describe what happens when you first start working in any kind of audio related field -when you accidentally (rather than with purpose a la countless musicians etc) send + return audio along the same channel – Eeeeeeeeeee – Ouch! You quickly learn not to do this again, especially if you don’t want to look like a techno moron and/or retain your hearing. Even after years of working in sound post production, I could never work out which one people valued more. I digress so let’s get back to the garden…..

The negative feedback loop (NFL) is a term used by David Holmgren in “Permaculture – Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability” to describe how observation of what doesn’t work in gardens, environments, life, etc. is as important, as the positives that reinforce that you are on the right trajectory. Holmgren in this book describes how permaculture principles can be applied to prepare society for a more sustainable future – a future that is shaped by climate change and energy decline. I’m a total neophyte in the area – check his website or Bill Mollison’s (there are clips of Mollison on youtube) or Rosemary Morrow’s book Earth Users Guide to Permaculture” for authorities on permaculture. Holmgren describes the NFL as an indicator of how we’ve “stuffed up” or what mistakes we’ve made and then how we should work to not replicate them.

His use of that vernacular phrase struck me. I realized how much I love the uses of the word/s “stuff”. Briefly, in the Australian vernacular ‘stuff’ is used in numerous ways; “Couldn’t give a stuff.” “Stuff it, I’m doing what I want” – both used to signal a lack of care or concern. “Go and get stuffed” – stronger than get lost but not as strong as get f….. “That is stuffed” – ruined, wrecked or not good. Again I digress so let’s get back to the garden…..

Six weeks ago we were moving plants around that had been put in the wrong spot. Read planted with no real plan. All were local, native plants that don’t take too kindly to being moved once established in a spot. Autumn, however, is the best time to move them as the soil is still warm and there is reliable (ish) rainfall. So off we went with fingers crossed. Okay, I’ll be honest here – on this occasion, I did alot of pointing and my husband did the ‘heavy lifting’. We were fortunate that all transplants but one survived. We knew that moving the little acacia was going to be risky because it was a finicky plant.

dead-twig.jpg

From this picture you can tell that the plant is stuffed. A clear stuff up. So what is there to learn? In realizing that it was possible that the plant may not make it, some cuttings should have been taken and propagated, so that we would have back up plants. ( Hmmm – came to that one late! ) We could have left it there, despite it not fitting with our new plans or perhaps we should have avoided the initial rush to plant without even a vague plan. Lots of options, if observation and thought are or had been applied.

However, it had crossed my mind that I could adopt the approach to error that is espoused by our federal government. I’ll use the crisis of the Murray-Darling Rivers as an example. These rivers are stuffed. 40% of Australia’s food is grown in this river basin and many towns and cities rely on the rivers for their drinking water. Now given the importance of this resource, how has the situation become so dire? Well, not many people paid enough attention to the plethora of signs that the environment was giving out, to actually change the way things were being done. I’m calling this the ‘stuff it’ approach.

Recently, the PM announced that if it didn’t rain enough all irrigation would have to cease. Maybe before it got to this, the question of how much water was being used for irrigation should have been addressed. To remedy this situation, a plan to drain wetlands to increase flows to the rivers has been announced. The fact that some of these wetlands are endangered environments seems to matter little. Biodiversity – get stuffed.

All this after, the $10 billion dollar funding announcement to ‘fix’ the problem– and the resulting PR exercise that was the recent Murray Darling Summit. PM + federal minister met with the State Premiers of the catchment States and smiled for the cameras….well, not quite. Three of the four States ceded rights to the Commonwealth to manage this part of their water resources, all in exchange for a variety of financial and political reasons. The Victorian Premier (Bracks) held out, as the deal was not so good for his downstream state and farmers. The money was not enough to sign off on legislative changes that were not completed….yes there were blank pages in the documents! The PR exercise didn’t play out as successfully for the PM as he may have hoped. It didn’t take the sting out of having to announce, weeks later, the true and dire consequences of what years of in action actually meant.

What is most galling, is that nothing has been learnt from the above situation – interest will not rise, neither will inflation, mining companies will be compensated for having their water supply limited. Priorities are in order – oh lordy! The Federal government policies for managing climate change are still a joke. Put simply, they still do not understand that without an environment, there is no economy.

Politicians- the only NFL they understand is the one when voters tell them to get stuffed.

I live in hope.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. May 7, 2007 9:19 pm

    All Governments have known about this for a long time but no-one expected this to happen on ‘their watch’. It’s EVERYONE’S short term thinking that’s lead to the biggest “stuff up” of all time. Even the people who care haven’t agitated loudly enough … until now. We know that food security will be a problem so why aren’t councils planting nut trees instead of ornamentals; putting in bike tracks instead of building more 8 lane highways like they’re doing in America? I hope that we have more options than taking cuttings to preserve life if the rest of it stuffs up. Nature is an angry beast and we’re poking it with a stick. It’s what you’re doing Nada, day by day, and the principles of permaculture, that seem to offer the most hope for the future. Keep up the inspiration – we adore you for it.

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