The faces of climate change: Henry

Posted: 8 NOV 10 Written by: Cara Bevington

Oxfam’s third video in our ‘Faces of Climate Change’ video series is a story from closer to home. It’s the story of Henry Jones, a fisherman from Clayton, at the bottom end of the Murray Darling Basin in South Australia. Like Ursula and Martina before him, Henry wonders what kind of world will our actions today leave for future generations? Watch Henry’s story.

Henry has a long history with Clayton, South Australia – he and his wife were the first residents there. Over the past few decades they have watched the town grow up around them, but at the same time they have witnessed the effects as the river mouth has gradually dried up.

For Henry – a fourth generation commercial fisherman – this has affected his business. The same place where he had fishing nets in Lake Alexandrina four years ago is now dry and all across the lake water levels have dropped. A lack of water means that nutrients and salts have built up and now the highly valued native fish are much harder to come by, Henry says “they’re not in the area anymore, not because of us, but because of the condition of the water.”

Henry says that over extraction of water, during the worst drought he has seen, is the cause of the problem. For many years he has called on governments to “buy water and put it back in the environment… we’ve got to get the river flowing again. If the river doesn’t flow, it will die.”

Henry’s been raising alarm bells about this issue since 1981. Today, as the government continues community consultation around the recently released Murray Darling Basin Plan Henry is busy making trips to Canberra to speak to politicians of all stripes calling on them to take this opportunity to restore the Murray Darling back to health.

While solid rainfall in September of this year brought some relief to the area, Henry and the communities of the Murray know that the river and its wetlands need more than one decent drink every 20 years to survive.

As Henry’s story shows us the reasons to act on climate change are numerous – for the viability of our farming communities and to ensure Australia can grow enough food to feed our population; to ensure business, like the tourism industry, who rely upon the land don’t suffer; to protect the very ecosystems we all rely upon, and to ensure we leave a healthy planet for future generations.

It’s rather ironic, that although Australia is one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the impacts of climate change, that we have been so slow to take action. As Ross Garnaut, the eminent Australian climate change economist has said “of all developed countries, Australia probably has the most to lose from inaction and the most to gain from global mitigation.”

Around the world countries are investing in renewable energy technologies, are committing to reduce their emissions and take steps to protect forests and valuable ecosystems. By dragging our feet, Australia risks being left behind, damaging not only our environment but future economic competiveness.

Henry Jones wants to pass something on to his grandchildren and future generations.
Shouldn’t this also be Australia’s goal?

What you can do:

  • Watch: Henry’s story
  • Do: our climate change action poll
  • Act: become a UN Climate Tracker, and influence the international climate negotiations in Cancun
  • Give: to Oxfam’s Climate Change Campaign work

  • [poll id="5"]


      • Alice Beauchamp
      • Posted on 8 November 2010, 2:43 pm

      We should all be concerned not to leave an unliveable planet to the next generations, because of lethargy re taking the urgent action. The inundation of low-lying areas, & the likely lack of sufficient water are of major concern

      • Liz Hanna
      • Posted on 8 November 2010, 4:52 pm

      The compounding impacts of:
      heat, disasters, droughts becoming the new norm
      – major events coming so frequently that we will be unable to recover before the next unfolds , , ,
      … leading to a gradual decline in the ecosystem’s capacity to support life – inlcluding our own.
      It will start with the incomes of those most dependent upon the environment, fishign farming , tourism then impact the urban dwellers via food & water shrotages, heatwaves, neighbouring fires, service & uiin frastructure failures, economic downscaling as higher proportions of gdp are spent either repairing & tending the disasters stricken – by then it will be so far past the tipping point

      ??? a grizzly view – granted – but I work in climate change arena & spend all day pouring over the relentless bad news in the scietntific literature.

      What do we do when the Kids give up hope?? They’ll either go on a CO2 burning rampage – because everyone else has done so & they want their turn , or they’ll internalise & get depressed – maybe with self destructive tendances- or even outward violence.

      • CEEKAY
      • Posted on 8 November 2010, 5:42 pm

      It is now time for Australia to stand on it’s own two feet for a change. It’s amusing (not) how Australia always wants to lead the way and be a winner in sporting events etc. but when it comes to doing all it can to ensure our much desecrated planet survives for a little longer it hides behind countries such as the United States. Let’s lead by example – and let’s make it a positive example. Time to end our reliance on dirty resources and energy and harness the clean ones we have so readily available – i.e. wind, solar etc. As well as converting to users of cleaner energy we can all do our bit to reduce our carbon footprint by using energy more wisely.

      • Kerry Baker
      • Posted on 8 November 2010, 9:30 pm

      It is shameful that humans treat our native wildlife as vermin because basically they are on land that is targeted for further building. We need to wake up that we share this planet with a number of species, and just because we have the means to take away native habitat does not make it right. We have to recognise the planet as a living ecosystem and all species have rights to live naturally. Our survival is absolutely dependent on the survival of the ecosystem, and we have to stop the senseless slaughter of kangaroos and other sentient creatures. As they disappear so we drive another nail into our own coffin.

      • Gita Dunbar
      • Posted on 9 November 2010, 4:59 am

      The terrible legacy we WILL be leaving future generations. Not ‘could’. All of the above apply – except the tongue in cheek ‘fish fingers to Clayton’, although the effect of further depletion of fish stocks (along with the current pollution and overfishing problems) is part of what is/will be happening with global warming. We need a Solomon, and I don’t see any on any horizon I’m afraid. We breed to much, we think and plan too little, and us ordinary folk feel so helpless, we most often put it in the too hard basket … as do the politicians. God help my great grandkids!

      • Christine Bennett
      • Posted on 9 November 2010, 11:18 am

      Rising temperatures and pollution will cause major impacts upon O2 levels and water. Air and water are prerequisite … then, of course, there is that other basic: food. Ongoing survival of fish, bird, animal, and human species does not come with a gold-plated guarantee. We live in a changing world and there is no reversing the effects that have occurred already.

      This is immediately visible with regard to the Carteret Islands and other examples that make it clear we have changed the environment forever. Personally, I find it incredible that the population continues to expand. WHY? Why do we bring new life to a world that cannot sustain life for much longer … is this a choice based on lack of control, ignorance, or indifference? LET’S BE RESPONSIBLE.

      • Kim
      • Posted on 9 November 2010, 11:33 am

      The impact we will be causing to our eco-system. It is something that we are a part of, something that we admire, live in peace with. To see the diminishing affect on our natives and their habitat is heart wrenching, so I hope that people feel that by doing something, we are not only helping ourselves and our future generations, but the wellbeing of our animal friends and their families.

      • Susan
      • Posted on 9 November 2010, 1:35 pm

      What Henry fails to mention in this video is that 7 km of tidal barrages, built in the 1940′s, prevent seawater from entering Lake Alexandrina during times of drought. This was done mainly for the purpose of expanding the dairy industry. However, blocking out seawater and changing this ecosystem from estuarine to freshwater only, has made this area extremely vulnerable to changes in climate. Where Henry is standing would be covered with seawater, an estuary, if not for these tidal barrages.

      People should be asking, “Why has Australia built concrete dams through an estuary changing the ecosystem from estuarine to freshwater lakes?” And, should Australia try to repair the environmental damage done by well-meaning agriculturists from the 1900′s?

      There has been a major drought in the Murray Darling Basin region and the engineering project of the barrages in the 1940′s has made this problem in Clayton worse than it needs to be. My sympathy goes out to people like Henry who need to face up to change.

      Ask, “Where else on the planet is there a 7km stretch of concrete blocking the river from the sea?” has more information.

      • Eleanor
      • Posted on 9 November 2010, 2:58 pm

      My partner and I are seriously concerned about having children and what kind of world we will be bringing them in to. Climate Change has so far put a halt on us having kids. We will see if the ticking of the biological clock will outweigh our fears for the future. What scares me more than Climate Change itself is that politicians ignore the issue and will not act upon it. If they accepted it and worked on it I would feel much more at ease (and thing more of them also).

      • Marta Sandberg
      • Posted on 9 November 2010, 5:13 pm

      Over the last decade I have watched more and more bushfires devastate the rural area I live in. I also have the rainfall records that explain why we are in so much more danger now than previous.

      Last year it was my turn. My house and farm was burned to the ground in an out-of-control bushfire. All that was saved was my handbag and my cat. I don’t even have a photo of my husband left.

      I know that it is impossible to attribute a particular bushfire to global warming, but the trend tells a strong story. More people will lose all they have to fire, floods, droughts, storms, disappearing coastlines and all the rest. If we continue like this, the whole world will become less people-friendly.

      It doesn’t make sense when a politician says that we can’t do anything because it might cost us the taxpayers a few hundred dollars a year. The real consequences are already costing us more than that and it will only get worse.

      To me global warming is real. It is not a world I like to live in or pass on to my children.

      • paul
      • Posted on 13 November 2010, 11:10 am

      australia is slow to act on climate change because the resource companies have total support from the fourth estate ( the media ) and their parliamentary servants (the alp and the lib/nat coalition). the resource companies make huge profits from destroying the environment, their is nothing sustainable about their industry. the corporate run media as well as the government gelded abc continue to propogate the idea that it is because of the mining magnates ( who they wrongly call miners ) that we have avoided a recession, therefore it would be wrong and dangerous to challenge their practises. the media promote the ideas of the climate change skeptics (climate change flat earthers) as a legitimate challenge to the so called politically correct greenies. given that australia is so reliant on resource related industries it is at the forefront of denying climate change and seeking every avenue not to do anything about it. this business as usual approach is extremely dangerous.

      • paul
      • Posted on 13 November 2010, 11:12 am

      their is nothing sustainable about their industry (in my comment above) should read there is nothing sustainable about their industry.

      • Cassandra
      • Posted on 30 November 2010, 10:42 am

      The effect of climate change that most concerns me is the massive amounts of biodiversity we will lose. Plants and animals will become extinct and will upset the fragile balance of life we have at the moment leading to further extinctions. With a loss of plants we reduce the amount of carbon dioxide that is being drawn from the atmosphere which will reduce the chance of the planets recovery from climate change. I really hope we come to some international agreement on reducing our carbon footprint ASAP

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