Today’s leading headlines from Australia’s four major dailies. “Pray for Rain.” “Prime Minister’s Dire Warning on Water.” “Howard Threat to Cut Farm Water.” And “Murray Running on Empty,” referring to the Murray-Darling Basin, the country’s most critical source of water by a long shot. Australia, if you hadn’t heard, is in the midst of a catastrophic drought—not good at all for the already-absurdly-dry continent. The longer-term fear is that climate change will exacerbate drought conditions. More immediately, if the rains don’t come within weeks, farmers will lose most of their allocation for irrigation so that cities can continue getting their water, and in turn visitors like me can keep taking carefree-long showers. But what goes around comes around, at least a little. The price of fruits, nuts, dairy, cereals, and wine are expected to soar as a result of failed production on parched farms. The water controls in some parts of Australia are more strict than anywhere on the planet (are you listening Las Vegas?) and one can’t help but wonder whether the drought and subsequent rationing here are harbingers of things to come for other parts of the world. Meanwhile, I learned yesterday that it takes an average of 360 liters of water to produce 1 liter of wine. I tried pitching a story or two on this but didn’t get much traction. The reply in so many or not so many words: Australia is far away from the U.S. and only has 20 million people. A similar thing happened to a pitch about Africa and biotech crops a few months ago. The message from the top editor: “I want stories about Indiana, not India.”

On a separate note: Today, 4 days after the Virginia Tech tragedy, I made the mistake of watching Larry King on CNN, asking students with now-dead friends about whether or not the shooter's photos and videos should have been aired by the media. The whole thing was nauseating. Cut to commercial break, where I was treated to yet another ad for the special program “celebrating Larry King’s 50 years in showbiz” (my emphasis). How fitting.

AuthorDavid Wolman