‘In time and with water, everything changes,’ according to Leonardo da Vinci, who worked with Machiavelli on a strategic and ultimately doomed attempt to channel the flow of the Arno. Large-scale water management has had some notable successes in parts of Australia, but as poor practices and climate change put river systems under near-terminal stress, we face irreversible and potentially catastrophic ecological failures. Michael Cathcart, in The Water Dreamers (2009), provides an account of this. Attempts to rectify the ecological degradation of our rivers involve expensive and possibly futile federal policies, opportunism, and the potential for suffering in farming communities. Everything may indeed change in time and with water, but changes in water practices in Australia are particularly fraught.
Brenda Walker reviews 'The Year of the Farmer' by Rosalie Ham
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Brenda Walker has written essays, short fiction, four novels and a memoir, Reading by Moonlight. Her books have won numerous Australian awards, including the Victorian Premier’s Award for Nonfiction. Her story 'The Houses that are Left Behind' won the O. Henry Prize in 2018, and will be published in Australia in Best Summer Stories in October. She is Emeritus Professor of English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia.
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