Volume. XXXIV, No. 37
Sunday, 15 March 2020

From the Pastor’s Heart: Learn from Australia

While I was reading Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed, I began to learn much about Australia, our country.  Though this book is a bit outdated (published in 2005, and revised in 2011), it has some valuable information that I had not thought of before.  I’d like to share with you some of the facts and lessons I learnt from it through this article.  I am sure that you will enjoy it.


A key to Australia’s economy today is mining.  Probably, all of us have heard about mining, mining companies, coal and ore prices, and many terminologies related to the mining industry.  It is an important industry to Australia, and at the same time it should be a matter for our concern, too.  It is because “the essence of mining is to exploit resources that do not renew themselves with time, and hence to deplete those resources” (p. 378).  It is not too hard to understand it.  For example, there is a diamond mining company in Australia.  Once diamonds are extracted and removed from the diamond lode, they do not reproduce again and again.  In my previous house in Highbury, I was sometimes amazed that lettuce grew back year after year, though no one sowed new lettuce seeds.  They not only reproduce themselves but also are even multiplied year after year.  However, mining is different.  It is not a renewable industry.  Once mining resources are depleted, that is the end, and extinction happens. 


Surprisingly, it is suggested that “Australia’s forests and fisheries will disappear long before its coal and iron reserves” (Ibid), though forests and fisheries are renewable, while mineral mines are not.  It is because of the fragile ecology in Australia due to “overgrazing, salinization, soil erosion, introduced species, water shortages, and man-made droughts” (Ibid.) I wonder if you are surprised as much as I am?  In order to understand it, we should look into the three features of  Australia’s fragile environment: (1) Australian soils, especially their nutrient and salt levels, (2) Availability of fresh water, and distances, both within Australia and also between Australia and its overseas trading partners and potential enemies (Ibid.)


Let me begin to talk about Australia’s soils.  In fact, the book argues that soils cause bigger problems than water availability, which is a surprise to most of us.  The Australian continent is huge, and though there are some deserts in the middle of it, how could it affect us in any tangible way?  A problem lies in its nutrient level.  Australian soils have “on the average the lowest nutrient levels, the lowest plant growth rates, and the lowest productivity” (p. 380).  The soils’ nutrient levels can be renewed by three major processes: (1) “volcanic eruptions” spew fresh material to the earth's surface (think of Java, Japan, and Hawaii), (2) “advances and retreats of glaciers - strip, dig up, grind up, and redeposit the earth’s crust,” and (3) slow uplift of crust (which benefits a small area around Adelaide) (Ibid.) Australia does not receive such renewal of its soils.  This low average productivity of Australian soils has made “major economic consequences for Australian agriculture, forestry, and fisheries” (p. 381).  “Low soil productivity” has caused some adverse effects including, “low growth rates and low average yields of crops” (Ibid.) In order to increase production, farmers have to buy fertilizers to supply the needed nutrients to the soils.  Also, a larger piece of land is required to produce the same crop yields as land in other countries do, which means that farmers have to work more and use agricultural machines more.  It means that their running costs are higher than farming industries in other countries.  Thus, if Australian farmers produce the same kind of crops as overseas growers produce, they cannot compete with them, both in the local and international markets. 


The low productivity of Australian soils affects tree growth rates.  Apparently, “Australia’s leading native timber tree (the blue gum of Tasmania) is now being grown more cheaply in many overseas countries than in Australia itself” (Ibid.)  The low productivity of Australian soils also affects fisheries.  It is because the soils of the land go into rivers, and then to the ocean near the coastline.  The unproductive soils also cause chain reactions in the waters.  Thus, “Today, out of the nearly 200 countries in the world, Australia has the third-largest exclusive marine zone surrounding it, but it ranks only 55th among the world’s countries in the value of its marine fisheries, while the value of its freshwater fisheries is now negligible” (p. 382).  In many areas of Australia, soils are high in salt.  “Some Australian soils contain more than 200 pounds of salt per square yard of surface area” (p. 383).  We all know that rainfall is usually low, and it is also unpredictable.  In some agricultural areas, rainfall is good enough for farmlands only for 2 out of 10 years.  Such a condition makes Australian agriculture very expensive and uneconomical.  Now we can probably understand why Australian products are more expensive than overseas products.  Hopefully, we can understand the challenges our farmers are facing. 


Though I have not written much about salinization of the soils, it is an ongoing problem, which is also related to irrigation systems, which I am not going to talk about.  The distance we have to overcome is unique too.  The population of Australia is only 1/14 of America, but it is scattered over an area equal to the 48 states of America.  Transportation is expensive.  That’s why there are not too many medium size towns in Australia, because they are not sustainable.  Clearing the land, effectively removes existing vegetation, causing scarce regrowth of vegetation, except for weeds which spread quickly and widely.  Erosion of top soil by water and wind increases when the cover of vegetation becomes thin or cleared. 


Rabbits and foxes are problems too.  “Farmer Bill McIntosh … makes a map of his property to mark the locations of every one of its thousands of rabbit burrows, which he destroys individually with a bulldozer.  He then returns to a burrow later, and if it shows any fresh sign of rabbit activity, he drops dynamite down the burrow to kill the rabbits and then seals up the burrow.  In this laborious way he has destroyed 3,000 rabbit burrows” (p. 392). 


While I was reading all these statistics and explanations of the problems of soils, salinization, and water issues in Australia…. My mind was busily finding their parallels in the spiritual world, not even consciously but subconsciously, because there are really lots of similarities between the problems of Australia and the problems of Christian churches and the Christians themselves.  For example, one of the parables Jesus gave is a parable of four soils (Matthew 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-9, 13-20; Luke 8:4-15).  Do the seeds of God’s Word take their roots deeply into our hearts, neither to be taken away by the wicked one, nor to be stumbled over, nor to be choked, but to bring forth fruit, thirty fold, sixty fold, or an hundred fold?  As soils with few nutrients can produce only a few crops, so hearts and minds of shallow spirituality will produce only shallow Christian living and a shallow relationship with the Lord.  As once soil is salinized, it is hard to reverse it, so once we lose our hearts by not guarding them, we lose our spiritual vitality and joy in the Lord.  In particular, there is a layer of salt underneath the ground, waiting to be soaked with water again before coming to the surface of the ground.  Likewise, our sinful nature is underneath our consciousness, waiting to effectively work in our flesh.  By being imitators of Christ, we ought to mortify the members of our flesh and to sanctify ourselves.  How about rabbit burrows?  There are countless numbers of such sin burrows that destroy us through our desires, inclinations, hobbies, or habits.  Are we ready to destroy them one by one?  Some of us may depend on mining, mining the lessons we received in the past, without renewing them, which will dry up our spiritual life.  There is so much to learn from Australia!  How is your spiritual productivity? 



Your Pastor


More Lively Hope



  • Deepest condolences to Sis Mary Green & family on the homegoing of Bro Darryl Green.
  • Easter Family Bible Camp registration forms available in the Foyer. Early Bird Special ends today. Final registration 29 Mar. Please submit forms & payment to Sisters Jasmine Tanuwijaya or Sherilyn Wong at the registration table set up in the Fellowship Hall.
  • Basic Bible Knowledge (Eng) class will start soon. Those looking for baptism or membership transfer are required to complete the class. Please contact Dn Kevin Low for details.
  • The planned Seniors’ Fellowship meeting & Auscare (Unley) Visitation have been postponed until further notice.
  • Lunch Duty: Today: Next week: AFG.


Looking Ahead

  • Easter Family Bible Camp, 10 – 13 Apr.


Praise & Thanksgiving

  • God’s daily guidance, protection & providence.
  • Church visitors & activities in the past week.
  • Negative COVID-19 testing results for Sis Ang Liang Phoa & family in Batam.
  • Journey mercies: Those who have travelled.



  • Healing: Rev George van Buuren; Rev Pong Sen Yiew (S’pore); and others who are sick.
  • Missions – IBPFM missionaries worldwide.
  • COVID-19 virus – those afflicted & affected.
  • Journey mercies: Those who are travelling.



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