By Renfrey Clarke
July 20, 2009 -- From desert-fringe villages and drowning atolls, global warming is predicted before long to set climate refugees on the move. But arguably, the first climate refugees to reach Australia’s major cities are arriving already. And the places from which they have come are not exotic — rural towns like Mildura, Renmark and Griffith in Australia’s south-east.
In settlements throughout the Murray-Darling, residents are quietly deciding the irrigation-based economy has no future. For many orchardists and viticulturalists, allocations of water in recent years have been too low to keep plantings alive.
When barely a trickle is coming down the rivers, farmers are concluding it’s best to sell the next-to-meaningless water rights, accept a government exit package, bulldoze the trees and vines, and walk away.