Australia, Lucky Country or Climate Change Canary: What Future for Her Rural Children? (pp. 501-512)
Authors: Elizabeth G. Hanna, Jo McCubbin, Lyndall Strazdins, and Graeme Horton
Abstract: Human health is a function of multiple determinants. Whilst bio-genetics may be somewhat immutable, we can influence social and environmental conditions. This paper examines the impacts of climate change super-imposed upon decades of rural neglect, upon rural living in a naturally difficult environment. The demonstrated manifestations are poor health outcomes. Rural children in Australia are especially vulnerable to climate change. Here we propose to consider the specific features behind this vulnerability. Agriculture in Australia has long been challenging due the extreme variability in existing climate. International commodity markets and economic rationalism have created a rural disadvantage, and driven many farmers off the land. Climate change is predicted to further exacerbate this trend by increasing the frequency and intensity of heat waves, droughts, fires and floods. Recent weather patterns indicate that climate science predictions are already emerging. Survival of many rural communities depends upon local agricultural prosperity, such that downturns reverberate throughout regions. Despite the charm of country living, rurality has become an un- healthy determinant in Australia, across multiple parameters. Concerns over future viability of farming are generating physical and mental health problems among farming families. Such a scenario places Rural Australia is in real peril, and rural children are especially vulnerable to becoming despondent about their future. Options exist to not only salvage Australia’s rural future, but to engage rural communities in mitigation; however this requires commitment to pro-active climate change polices.