56 mins, 2008
FILM 1: THE BIG DRY
Parts of Australia are suffering their worst drought in living memory. Is this down to global warming? Opinions are divided. This film follows the experiences of farmers in the Mallee district of Victoria in south-east Australia.
The farmers and townsfolk of Birchip, Victoria, have seen little of the rains that have flooded other parts of Australia. It's likely to stay that way. For Birchip is bang in the middle of the swathe of southern Australia that is forecast to dry out as temperatures rise, cutting farm production by as much as 10 per cent in the next 20 years.
Some farms in productive areas may become marginal; small farms on marginal lands could become unviable, eventually being swallowed up by bigger operators or abandoned to nature.
Farmers go to their bank managers, digging deeper into debt, hoping that the next hand deals them a good season. "You just get sick of borrowing, borrowing, borrowing," says one.
It's a question of adapt or go bust. But are the farmers' problems a result of natural climate variation - or of catastrophic climate change?
FILM 2: THE SALT PROBLEM
"We're trying to run a first world economy in what you might call a third world environment."
Australians are among the world's biggest consumers of water - but they live in the driest continent on earth at a time of global warming. And if this wasn't enough, they face another major environmental problem: salt.
White settlers tried to tame Australia and turn the land into something green like Europe. But when they irrigated, they lifted buried salt - instead of greening the interior, they turned it white. Previous government policies, and giant river diversion projects like the Snowy Mountains Scheme, have all made matters worse, encouraging an attitude that water is a free resource to be used or lost to the sea.
Now attitudes are changing and many communities are facing difficult choices. Some farmers are tackling the water crisis by embracing radical change, adopting new methods unthinkable in the past. But will Australians learn by past mistakes? A great challenge lies ahead.