Quite a heavy week this week in terms of posts. I must bring some levity to the blog tomorrow but Theme Thursday beckons today and the topic is – Earth. What better opportunity to talk about the largest island continent on our little blue marble of a planet. And for the record, we're on the top of the globe!
Australia is the world’s largest island continent .. the sun shines differently down here. The ozone layer is thin and you burn to a crisp in an instant. . It occupies 7.7 million square kilometres and is the flattest and driest of continents (with the exception of Antarctica) anyone flying north to south from Darwin to Sydney will see little more than “Red shit!” and mulga brush. I swear we have more ‘red earth’ than the rest of earth!
There are rainforests . . .
. . . and vast plains . . .
. . . snowfields . . .
. . . desert in the centre . . .
. . .and fertile croplands . . .well when they're not beseiged by drought . .
. . . and about one third of the country lies in the tropics . . .
Australia has a coastline of 36,735km - if it were possible to drive non-stop along the entire coast at 60 km/h it would take about 24 days to complete the trip.
The continent is one of the oldest land masses - continental bedrock exposed by erosion is more than 3,000 million years old - and is the flattest of the continents because it lies near the centre of a tectonic plate. The average elevation is less than 300 metres, compared with the world’s mean of about 700 metres. The Australian Alps in the south east contain Australia’s highest ground, the highest point being Mount Kosciusko (2,228 metres). More than one-fifth of its land area is desert, more than two-thirds being classified as arid or semi-arid, unsuitable for settlement. The coldest regions are in the highlands and tablelands of Tasmania and the south-eastern corner of the mainland. The hottest temperature recorded was 53°C (127°F)at Cloncurry in Queensland in 1889. Australia is the only continent without current volcanic activity - the last eruption took place 1400 years ago at Mt. Gambier.
Our largest slice of the world economy is made through delving into the earth. We hold the largest demonstrated resources of lead, mineral sands, nickel, tantalum, uranium and zinc and are sixth in the world for cobalt, copper, gold, iron ore, lithium, manganese ore, rare earth oxides and gem/near gem diamonds.
The fruit of the earth has provided $500 billion to the Australian economy over the past 20 years (and Kevin Rudd has managed to spend it inside a year but that’s neither here nor there). The mining / mineral industry supports over 310,000 Australians. Farming the earth is another very important economic aspect of Australia. We are our own breadbasket and thanks to a diverse and varied climate, we can grow just about everything. The early colony was built on the sheep’s back and to this day farming of cattle, sheep and the growing of grain crops is an important part of the economy.
There are 154,472 farms in Australia - including those for whom farming is not their primary business. However, there are 137,969 farms solely dedicated to agricultural production. The gross value of Australian farm production (at farm-gate) totals $35.6 billion-a-year. The top three agricultural commodities produced nationally (ranked by gross $ value) are: Cattle and calves $8.0 billion Milk $3.2 billion Wheat $2.5 billion. We even export rice to land poor Japan!
That’s probably enough on the facts and figures but as you can see, so much of our GDP depends upon management of the earth and I use that term very loosely.
Whilst we should be eating kangaroos, emus and crocodiles (well some of us do) who are native, endemic and friendly to the ecosystems in which they live, we insist on digging, planting and introducing damaging cloven hoofed competitors to the natural landscape.
We open cut mine and are careless with regeneration after the mining’s done. We fell old growth forest to make wood chips for paper manufacture. We shift our beaches to unclog estuaries and we divert water to provide irrigation to crops.
We have forgotten the art of bush tucker although it is becoming more popular in kitchens over here and it’s not unusual to see three or four native ingredients blended in lieu of more traditional ones. quandong, kutjera, muntries, riberry, Davidson's plum, and finger lime. Native spices include lemon myrtle, mountain pepper, and aniseed myrtle and the most identifiable bushfood plant harvested and sold in large scale commercial quantities is the macadamia nut.
We look at this wide brown land and it's rich and fertile, mineral rich earth as a bottomless pit of opportunity . . . it’s not . . .and just wait until you get me started on ‘water' when that comes up as a theme!
Apologies to some. Slow download speed and a few busy evenings have kept me away from some blogs but I will catch up on the weekend . .promise!