Tarago Diaries #8 – Dead Fish Don’t Lie

Mark Seymour on the state of the Murray-Darling River system.

Author:  Mark Seymour.

Date: 16 January 2019.

Original URL: https://www.facebook.com/MarkSeymourOfficial/posts/1766346236805041?tn=K-R

Article Text

(Special thanks to Rob McBride and Dick Arnold)

The largest fish kill in Australian history you say? Up north on the great brown Darling. Putrid with the stench of cod. You could smell it almost to the border. Bigger than a biblical famine and it happened suddenly. Locals woke up to it, like some Netflix end-of-days outrage.

Hard river men spat venom, holding up massive Murray Cod for the cameras. The huge muscular beasts, eyes bulging, slug like, that normally lurk in the bottom mud, quietly sifting nourishment from the silt of the ancient river, floated to the surface. Suddenly dead. Some near a hundred years old they said.

There have been ‘fish kills’ before but none like this. This was catastrophic. Millions they said, lining the muddy banks. And there are more to come.

So how does a fish kill get political? The smell? The embarrassment? Lifestyle discomfort? Thing is, you can’t hide lots of dead fish quickly, if quickly they come..

Weight of numbers. Critical mass. We’re passed that now.

Raise the flag of blame. A lack of water. Lack of oxygen. Algal bloom. Bad management. Water theft. Buy backs at inflated prices. (you paid.)
Cotton farming.. unsuited to climate.

Many fingers pointing.

When means votes. Which means the game has changed.

How to massage the problem?

Talk the numbers down fast. Not a million surely? Nah. Barely that. A hundred thousand maybe. And there’s the drought mate. Oh. Right. The bloody weather.

That old chesnut.

Nature.

Blame forces beyond our control. It’s ‘the hand of God’ right? It’s been used before. To good effect. Works for climate change, right?

As long as there are enough Flat-Earthers in the food chain to maintain the argument.

And there are plenty in the National Party.

For some reason I’m reminded of the Irish potato famine. The potatoes rotted in the ground. Some shitty disease. Thousand of Irish died. Oh, but there was only one catch. Most of them were already on the bones of their collective arses. In numbers. The least able. Ground into poverty through exploitative land use. So, whose fault was that? God’s?

Whatever. You can’t get ’round a lack of water.

Australia is dry. Murray cod can live through dry. Have done for a friggin’ long time. So why now?

Someone’s been taking too much.

There’s this water management theory. Runs something like this:

Syphon off the surplus before the sun gets to it and it evaporates. So it ‘isn’t wasted.’ Feed the cotton. Leaving even less to evaporate.

Sort of like compound interest in reverse. Sounds rational right? Definitely NOT the hand of god.

Still, there they are. Lining the banks.

Dead fish don’t lie.

But you know what? Forget the politics. There’s this one tell that can’t be ignored.

If the great Murray Cod can live for one hundred years, that kind of puts it’s birth somewhere just short of the Gallipoli landing right?

So how many droughts was that?

How many elections?

How many hick political careers outlived?

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