These fires are unprecedented. Nationwide. Creating their own weather like some Marvel Movie. a political shitstorm. Extraordinary generosity. And no end in sight. There are a number of intersections we’ve not really seen before, and this is provoking a collective anxiety. It almost fits what we call a collective trauma event, where the very foundations of what we hold onto are shaken.
These are existential question being posed. The fires are so big, and cannot be put out by our actions. We expect to be able control and deal with crises. A fire happens, we call the fire service, and they put the fire out. The fire services can just manage this, and try to direct the fire away from harm. The rest, we have to wait for nature to do its bit.
The number of people I have seen sharing orange filled sky or smoke filled cityscape photos is massive. A lot of them are tagged post apocalyptic or end of days, and being a bit a fan of JG Ballard, this does have a Ballardian feel to it. The recent Bladerunner 2049 was not too far removed from scenes many places have experienced.
The imagery is exhausting and persistent. I written previously on the importance of limiting exposure.
The massive loss of animals and landscape is unfathomable. The images of the koala in pain, the kookaburra surveying the damage, and the kangaroo in front of the burning property are defining images. I find them hard to get out of my head. This points to Koyaanisqatsi, life out of kilter.
Days of heat and wind fill us with dread. Smoke filled air stops us from going outside. These fires have impacted over 10 million people in some way or another. Summer, and the living is easy is no longer the Gershwin song. Harry Manx’s recent weary blues version might be more appropriate. Sun, surf, cricket on the radio might not be the same again. My mother, a survivor of the 1939 Black Friday fires always hated hot northerly winds. I understand this now.
This has been the intersection of something that we have been building to for decades. Those of us with science backgrounds have know that these days would come. Climate change has manifested itself in these fires, and the tired denials ring hollow in the stories of horror and loss. The world has been watching and commenting, and the commentary is not favourable. We’ve always been a nation that has turned up, right or wrong, punched above our weight. The Mayor of Glen Innes, Carol Sparks plaintive cry from two months ago for politicians to take action continues to fall on tin ears. The deniers continue to deny, the animals, trees, people and communities continue to die.
Ecoanxiety is real and challenging. My colleague Mel Taylor writes so eloquently about this new challenge.We talk about it at our dinner table. Some of our friends kids don’t want to have kids.
This is a bleak picture, I know. The future is in our hands. But there are things that we can do. The journey of a thousand miles starts with one step, said Lao Tzu. We can start to change our ways, little by little. My first steps are going to be pointed questions to my super and my bank. Live more simply.
Get organised. Turn up to rallies. 77% of the population believe that climate change is happening. After the last federal election in Australia, we need to convince just 2-3 of this 77% that climate change is the issue to change your vote over.
Get informed about climate change to tackle the misinformation. There isn’t a ice age on the way, yes bushfires have always been around, but not like this, and fuel reduction burning, while a good tool, doesn’t solve everything. Here’s some sources. NASA, Australian Academy of Science, CSIRO. I find The Conversation is an excellent source, and picks up some of the more detailed arguments. For information on the link between the bushfires and climate change, this article by my old school mate Peter Hannam is worth reading.
Take hope in the actions already being taken. State governments and local governments, and businesses are making huge efforts. There is reason for the massive uptake in solar energy. INdia and China are starting to transition their energy
Also, take hope in all the amazing efforts at managing these bushfires, the incredible human spirit comes through.
Take joy in the little things. Be grateful. Gratitude is a positive thing, and it only makes you feel better. This week our whole family went along to see the most joyful band in the world, Of Monsters and Men