Canberra Report: Prime agricultural land must be preserved

THERE was time when our food was largely grown in our backyards.


The extent to which that is true depends on where one lived. But certainly, most of us drew our sustenance from a farm nearby.

Interestingly, we also produced our electricity close to the point of consumption.

In other words, on the edge of our capital cities. Then came the industrial and technological revolutions which changed just about everything. Urban expansion pushed the production of our food well beyond where the majority of us eat.

Electricity transmission technology allowed us to build power generators hundreds of miles from where the bulk of household energy consumption occurs.

In this 21st century, two further revolutions are emerging. Electricity generation is making its way back to the point of consumption. In other words, new technologies are allowing us to generate power on the roofs of our homes. It won't be long before every home or nearby open space will be generating power which in turn will be stored in a local battery.

Our food production is also coming home.

In our capital cities residents are growing vegetables, herbs and spices on the roof tops of office blocks and apartment buildings alike. Furthermore, scientists and town planners are now realising (many always did) that in a rush to house ourselves in the most attractive spots, we've locked up or built upon our best food-producing land.

I predict that more and more people will come to conclude that we must be more thoughtful about preserving our prime agricultural land for food and fibre production purposes. I also predict growing acceptance that drought is "the new normal" and a changing climate will further focus our minds.

Soil and water security was once a concept confined to Mad Max-type movie productions. But it could become more of a reality if we don't start giving it more thought and attention. Worse - if not taken more seriously - as we move towards a global population of nine billion, food security could be the source of strategic tensions and even war between nation states.

Sadly, our food needs appear to have fallen off the political agenda of late. But if the current and protracted drought and its effect on our farmers doesn't bring us back to reality, I don't know what will? It's time for a rethink.

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