Saturday, June 13, 2009

The Greening of Australia

Fifty thousand years ago, Australia had interior forests. Then along came man who burned down the interior forests. Because the interior forests were gone, the annual monsoon retreated north. Had this not happened, there might be grassland where there is now the Great Outback. But with the monsoon's retreat, there wasn't enough water even for grasses to grow. There are two ways to restore the interior forests, though both ways are expensive in time and labor. The cheapest method is to plant trees from the southernmost edge of the current monsoon and work one's way down south planting trees as you go. Alternatively, aquifers could be used for irrigation and whole forests grown around those water sources. Botanists and paleobotanists could be called in to tell us which trees need to be planted where to bring the interior forests back. This effort could take at a minimum 100 years and runs the risk of not having enough water for both the reforestation and private agricultural. It would depend upon how quickly the monsoon migrates south as well. A possible solution is to extract water from the air. With these systems around the trees, one could have a recycling water loop. It wouldn't be perfect, but it would help minimize the water losses to transpiration and evaporation. The second method is to create an inland sea by constructing a north-south canal from Northen Australia through the Great Outback. The microclimate created may would allow reforestation, increased crop production, plus revenues from tourism and canal fees for shipping. However, it would take several decades to build such a canal and inland sea. Something on that scale has never been done, and doing it conventionally would be very expensive. I suggested the use of nuclear explosives to speed up construction and decrease costs. Either project would be a great investment and public works project. Likely either project would pay for itself. With the return of the monsoon to the interior, agriculture would be easier, and what is now desert would once again bloom with life.

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