Keynote speaker at the XXIV FIG Conference in Sydney was Tim Flannery, writer, professor and conservationist and “one of the great explorers of modern time” according to Sir David Attenborough. Expanding on the conference theme “Facing the challenges, building the capacity” Flannery, who is chairman of the International Climate Change Council, homed in on the role of surveyors and land professionals in both contributing to solutions for climate change and convincing the public to take it seriously.
Australia is expected to be hardest hit amongst developed nations by climate change because we are already living on the edge, in an extremely harsh environment. In this most ancient of lands, soils are impoverished, water holes are far apart and nutrients scarce.
This is why kangaroos hop. It is by the far the most efficient way of travelling because each bounce – like a pogo stick - gives impetus for the next. It is also why gum trees don’t drop their leaves because it takes too much effort to grow new ones.
It is also why koalas have a vacant expression and sleep a lot. The gum trees they feed on release toxins to discourage them from eating the leaves. Koalas have to expend a lot of energy getting rid of these toxins and so, since the brain demands a lot of energy, they have made the evolutionary choice to have small brains.
Over the next century the water in the oceans will get warmer and will expand. Sea levels will rise by 3mm per year around the world, but around Australia they are expected to rise by 8mm. Over the next century this means a rise of 1.1 meters, inundating or endangering over a quarter of a million homes. Schools, ports, hospitals and airports will be impacted.
Yet Australians, most of whom live in the more comfortable coastal fringe, are resistant to the concept of climate change. 8mm a year is still too small to be felt. Which brings us to Surveyors and land professionals because of our ability to measure and locate.
“You are custodians of enabling technology that can explain the consequences of these changes such as bio-diversity loss, the impact on food production and national boundaries”. Surveyors played a defining role in exploring and building modern Australia. Now, we must take on a new and equally active role. “We must start investing money and time now, so that we don’t leave our children with so big a problem that they don’t have the capacity to deal with it” said Flannery.
But his parting message was upbeat. “Go away energised and full of optimism for what you can deliver for a sustainable future”.
Jose Diacono is a columnist for Asian Surveying and Mapping based in Australia and works for Communica Marketing. www.communica.com.au