Drought has been no stranger to the resilient population of rural and remote Queensland. Throughout 2018, we saw social media explode over the topic, educating our city cousins on the hardships involved in producing food and fibre.
Photos of starved cattle, bare landscapes and teary farmers filled our newsfeeds, tugging on heartstrings across the country. This resulted in an incredible body of support with urban viewers eager to get on board; donating generously to various charities and organisations.
Social media had a positive impact on a disastrous situation. While it could not break the drought, it did make people’s lives that little bit easier.
While social media can be incredibly beneficial, it can also be quite detrimental.
Recently, the Murray-Darling Basin experienced tragedy with a mass loss of fish. This sparked a heated debate to decide “whose fault” it is.
The Murray-Darling Basin Authority has advised that these deaths are due to a bloom in blue-green algae (caused by rises in water temperature, available nutrients, still water). Blue-green algae depletes oxygen levels in water, suffocating fish.
It is no surprise that stretches of the Murray-Darling throughout NSW are susceptible to this situation with dropping water levels, lack of flow and relentless hot, sunny days after such a long, severe drought.
Suddenly, newsfeeds are again filled with drought photos. This time it’s hundreds of dead fish, and fingers are pointing at up-stream irrigated agriculture, mostly cotton farming. Understandably, people want answers, however, it is greatly important to have genuine facts to develop opinions on.
Many posts circling around social media depict photos of irrigated cotton farms “stealing” water from the river system.
By selecting strategic placement photos, taken years ago when the storages were full of water (during a period of time of which the area was not suffering from drought), these posts are believable to the unknowing reader.
For these storages to look like this, my community of Dirranbandi and local district would be thrilled with the job opportunities that our local cotton farms would be able to offer.
Unfortunately, these photos are inaccurate and no water means no crops, which ultimately means no job opportunities. The sharing of misleading posts means more poor opinions are generated, resulting in an unnecessary debate, of which consumes time and energy and ultimately achieves little.
Cotton Australia released an informative article outlining the legislation surrounding cotton irrigation, giving social media an opportunity to prove its worth by providing an avenue for constructive conversation and education.
It is so easy to hit “share” on an article that seems informative, however, it is immensely important to thoroughly read the article, look into who published it and analyse the facts. Social media is a powerful tool and can offer great benefits when used with care and consideration.
- Georgia Hoolihan, 2018 Miss Showgirl runner-up