Of mobs and heroes…Australia’s trial by fire

A little context. My home is right now sitting not far away from a massive fire front, its ragged fingers like outstretched talons reaching towards my little rural community. I’ve evacuated, temporarily. Better off than some – whose houses are now ash and rubble. Better off than those who have died, and better off than the millions of animals with nowhere to run, no cars to jump into.

Naturally I spend a lot of time on Facebook, anxiously trawling for news – is it here yet? are my friends and neighbours safe? Do I still have a home to go back to? Facebook, the Great Satan, is proving the Great Connector. And yet.

It’s here that you find the best, and the worst. The people who make your heart swell with pride to be Aussie, or even human, and the people who…well, don’t. Our village fire coordinator, who finds time to make jokes about weird designer clothes for men in the direst of times. The firies who come from the north coast – recently beset by fire – to help us here in our little hamlet. The neighbour who pops around to check someone’s gutters because they can’t climb a ladder, who lends a generator, brings fresh water, cooks a quiche. The truckies who deliver free hay and water, the Sikhs and Moslem convoys who bring food to country towns. The people whose loungerooms are now full of burnt native animals in pillow case pouches. It makes me cry. Kindness, cooperation, stoicism, bravery. The best of us.

And then. The armchair experts who overflow with vitriol and sheer stupidity ‘It’s all the greenies’ fault’, ‘You never see a fire on a concrete footpath’, ‘These fires are nothing unusual’. The ‘string ’em up’ brigade, ‘99% of Aussie fires caused by arsonists’, ‘Looters run amuck in fire evacuated towns’, ‘We need more logging!’.  There’s a tendency for some of us to turn on each other in these awful times. In my own village, thoughtless kids started a blaze which was soon put out; naturally, they got a severe talking to. The single individual who started a hate rant about it on the local Facebook group was quickly shut down – and it’s this which makes me proud of my home. Others have not been so chilled, choosing to maintain old feuds while the fires rage around us, and that’s disappointing.

Opinions are one thing. Mobs are another, very much more dangerous phenomenon that we need to avoid at all costs in these testing times.

And well, like a lot of evacuees, I’m missing my home…

 

26 Comments

  1. Thinking of you, and so sorry it’s come to this. I kept thinking I’d ask you where you were after you said there was smoke in the sky and you ran out of water. I guessed it must be somewhere in the danger zone.

    We’ve been talking about some theoretical future tipping point for decades, and how long we might have to avert it, and doing nothing much about it. It’s difficult to believe it’s not too late. The situation in Australia is one of the starkest indicators, but it hardly matters where you look, the affects are ramping up. Yes, disaster brings out the neighbourly caring in us, as well as the denial, blaming the wrong thing, and happy fantasies about it all being a little glitch.

    I despair when I hear politicians talk about getting a good balance between mitigating global warming and protecting a vibrant economy, while they’re arguing for a new runway, coal mine or fracking site.

    Opinion has shifted a lot, and there are solutions that could be implemented, but we’re going to need to push like hell now. In the UK, there are schemes to plant large areas of forest, re-wild areas and radically change our agriculture and diets, but they’re blocked by farming and food lobbies, landowners with their grouse-shooting parties, and even “environmental” groups who are protecting “wild” areas (the moors, mainly) to save that ecosystem, when it’s not wild, it’s an artificial ecosystem created for sheep farming. I was, and should be, and could be, forest.

    1. Yeah… opinion is shifting a bit, but I worry people will forget. It’s funny, I spent more than a year in Ireland once and was struck by the fact that the place is practically all lawn.. so different from Australia. It’s so strange to be in a place that has so little wild that people have forgotten it ever had forest. And bears, and wolves, and even maybe lions. There’s a very strong link in Australia between population density and fire. Basically, the more people, the more bushfire, with the obvious exception of inner city areas. I like the idea that one day we’ll be able to exist on this planet without having such a destructive impact.

  2. Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. Actually, we’ve had some rain recently and that’s quieted the fire in my area a bit, and allowed them to do water bombing and various other things. So it’s still dangerous but not nearly as bad as it was. However, this is going to be the new normal, so we’re all going to have to adapt, as will the rest of the world to their own climate change challenges. It’s a wake-up call in my opinion.

    1. Thank goodness for the rain; that must be some relief. I saw on the news today there were storms too, though, floods and very big hailstones in some areas, enough to smash roofs. Crazy weather – we done broked it.

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