Not only for the spectacular drama and big bangs, but for the delicate finesse of artistic creativity, researching our environments to ascertain their health, delving into cancer cells and DNA, learning from the stars, or working out how many people particular regions can sustain. I don't pretend to understand it all, but I love that there are people working in all these (and more) areas to better understand the complexities of our world and beyond.
National Science Week is a celebration of science, and the opening today in Brisbane's Queen Street Mall went off with a dramatic bang! Students, researchers and assorted scientists were scattered around the mall sharing insights and enthusiasm.
I learnt that listening to the bush is not only delightful, but a valid way to ascertain the health (or otherwise) of environments. Scientists record the sounds, remove the extraneous "noise" then analyse the results. By doing this, (which is a rather complex business) it's possible to discover such things as the infiltration of cane toads to the west and south of the country (seriously not good for native animals of any size), the range and health of particular communities of animals, birds or frogs and how the populations are coping with assorted environmental factors.
You can listen to some of the sounds of the Australian bush and learn a bit more at www.bush.fm
I'm looking forward to having time to explore the Carrying Capacity Dashboard which "is an online application that estimates the resources needed to support a human population" given particular lifestyle choices. You can explore what happens when there are changes in such things as diet, energy usage, agricultural techniques and recycling practices. Adapting our lifestyles has a dramatic effect on the estimated number of people that different areas in Australia can carry sustainably. Given what I learnt today, it's clear some areas are already well beyond their ability to be sustainable.
Australia faces huge challenges with our changing climate. We already have divisive and competing land use demands - farming versus mining, agriculture versus housing development subdivisions.
Communities and states are at loggerheads about fair and equitable use of water - should it be used for farming, irrigation, mining? How much for manufacturing? Which areas get how much? Who decides? What proportion should be left in the environment for healthy rivers and groundwater? What about contaminants? How do we rationalise the use of this impermanent, precious natural resource?
It's vital that our policy makers address these issues with a deep understanding of the ramifications of their decisions and not make decisions as a knee-jerk response or for short term electoral gains or to satisfy the most strident lobbyists. Carrying Capacity Dashboard is, I suspect, going to provoke a lot of discussion, and hopefully some deep reflection on the sort of society we hope to become.
National Science Week is just beginning! To find out what's on near you, go to http://www.scienceweek.net.au/ it's not just big bangs to entertain the kid in us all, there's also challenging, entertaining, creative, welcoming sessions around the country for people from all walks of life.