Some of Australia's noisier warmists — Clive Hamilton is an especially piercing example — pronounce the necessity of suspending democratic rights, so that citizens can be punished for sinning against Gaia. Flannery is less poisonous than that, but he was nevertheless running a business. The features pages loved his message about impending disaster. A real disaster, however, makes real news, and, dangerously for him, brings less servile commentators on the case, ready to quote poetry at him. He hasn't had to face that sort of thing before, but now he must, and so must all those who share his convictions, including, especially, the Greens. It was Green pressure that stymied the construction of dams. Probably, from now on, dams will come back into favour, in recognition of the fact that the climate of the sunburnt country, in all her beauty and her terror, is still the way it always was. After the First World War, the desirability of up-river flood control was already well understood. Indeed Australia pioneered such engineering, and the Tennessee Valley Authority borrowed the idea from Australia, not the other way about.
If, from now on, dams are built instead of desalination plants — which in recent years have been proved to yield a fraction of the water at a multiple of the cost — then we will be able to tell that sanity has returned to at least one section of the vast area covered by the pretensions of the climatologists. But it's quite likely that, in general, their view will continue to be dominant. Though the idea that there is consensus on the subject among climate scientists has become harder to push now that so many other scientists have joined the discussion, the media, on the whole, would probably rather stick with a high-concept drama than report a debate. So we can't tell yet whether common logic has prevailed. But we can be sure that poetry has benefited.
It might be said that "My Country" is not very good poetry, but it would be said in error. Dorothea Mackellar knew exactly what she was doing when she wrote it. Born in Sydney in 1885 and raised as a city dweller of fine family, she knew the inland only as a privileged young lady usually did, as a place for holidays. But on the family farms at Gunedah she took it all in, the terror along with the beauty. Indeed she might even have found the terror rather beautiful, as we Australians tend to do. At the age of 19, she wrote the poem when she was on a genteel tour of England. First published there in the Spectator in 1908, the poem is an address to the charms of the old country, telling it that although she appreciates its sylvan virtues, her soul is ruled by the new country's rough edges. The argument is carried out with a firm but subtle command of rhetoric and a sense of form unusual in a poet so young: it's one of those works that you wouldn't dream of calling mature until you found out it was precocious. Certainly, there is no reason for Australia's intellectuals of today to patronise her — she, after all, had by far the superior education.