The bushfires and climate action

You know that there are mega-fires burning in Australia.

You know that fires have been burning for months now.

You know that lives have been lost, many houses burnt and huge areas of bush land scorched. If you would like to read more depth about the fires, including the background to the extended fire season and the extent of the fires and scary videos, read this article and/or this one. My heart goes out to those who have lost their loved ones and their worlds. And a huge amount of gratitude to the fire fighters who have done such an incredible job, sometimes sacrificing their lives.

You know too that the generosity of people from around the world has been overwhelming. More about donations later.

So, read elsewhere for the facts and figures; I want to give you my opinions.

There have been horrifying images of injured and dead wild life. Many of them are our iconic koalas, whose population is already stressed by land clearing and disease. The fires on Kangaroo Island have torn through a koala population that was healthier than many others on the mainland. It is tragic.

Australian flora has evolved with fire and many species need it to set seed and germinate. Once the fires are out it will not be long before we see the new growth sprouting out of the epicormic buds of the eucalypts. That will give us hope in the areas of East Gippsland and the Alps, home to the majestic mountain ash gums.

But these fires have been so intense and the land so dry  that they have burnt areas considered to be ‘unburnable’ ~ rainforests of Queensland, bogs in the Alpine areas. These habitats have not evolved with fire, and do not rely on it. It is quite possible that they will not regenerate.

We need to think beyond the fauna and the large swathes of flora. Let me give you two examples of how disrupted the environment will be.

There has been research into the amazing Mycorrhizal network under the forrest floor. It has been dubbed the Wood Wide Web, because it is thought to be, at the very basic level, a fungal system that allows the transference of nutrients, minerals, water etc between trees. It may be a system that is so much more than this. There is a short video here, or this TED talk.

Could that Mycorrhizal network have survived? I doubt it, and yet it is vital for the health of our forests.

The second example concerns orchids. Research by the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne has shown that our native orchids need two things to be successful ~ a specific pollinator, often a wasp, and the right fungi in the ground (yep fungi again). Again, I doubt whether these would have survived the fires.

It is important to care for our marsupials, our birds, our reptiles, but it is just as important to create an environment for the less glamorous, the unknown like  pollinators and fungi.

I started the post with things that we know. Here’s another one….we know that, while there are a number of factors contributing to this fire storm, the underlying one is climate inaction. Climate change is not something that will happen in 10, 20 years. It is happening now. A resident of the little coastal town of Mallacoota, which was cut off by the fires said it best ~ “Climate change, we are standing in it.”

However our Liberal government, especially our Prime Minister, Scott Morrison, is wilfully ignoring the issue. Just a couple of examples:

  • Our previous Prime Minister, Malcom Turnbull, was deposed because he tried to get a National Energy Guarantee. Scott Morrison became the Prime Minister.
  • Morrison brought a lump of coal into the Parliament, waving it about, saying “It’s only coal, it’s nothing to be frightened of”. His government has always been a strong advocate for the Carmichael Mine, also infamously known as Adani, which will be one of the country’s largest thermal coal mines. The Coal Industry is a very powerful lobby group.
  • At the recent Paris meeting Australia argued that we should be able to use carry-over credits from over-achievement on the Kyoto Protocol as part of our emission reductions. This sleight of hand accountancy means the government can say “We are reducing emissions” while doing nothing of the sort. In fact our emission will probably increase.
  • While the country is burning, and in severe drought, we are told that now is not the time to talk about climate change. If not now, when?

This is Morrison’s statement today

“In the years ahead we are going to continue to evolve our policy in this area to reduce emissions even further and we’re going to do it without a carbon tax, without putting up electricity prices, and without shutting down traditional industries upon which regional Australians depend for their very livelihood,” he said.

In the years ahead? What? We don’t have years. But let’s leave that aside, because I want to give you an analogy that seems to make sense to me.

The economy changed drastically at the beginning of World War Two. What’s more it changed because of Government intervention. Manufacturing was turned from domestic to military armaments; fuel was rationed to make sure the bulk was available for the armed forces; clothing was in short supply as the industry turned to making uniforms; food was rationed. The British economy had an even shorter turn-around period.

If changing the economy can be vital to the war effort, why can’t it be vital to mobilise all necessary resources to prevent more global warming? Well the answer is because it is not seen to be in the national interest. As Morrison said above, traditional industries (ie coal) are far more important than the health of the planet.

With the right political will we could become a leader in renewable technologies, electric vehicles, habitat regeneration, innovative solutions to world problems. So, if we can’t rely on our ‘leaders’, we have to look for leadership elsewhere, to look for those willing to be innovative and be change makers.

We also have to listen to our Indigenous Elders. Aboriginal and Torres Straight Islanders People have been caring for our land for tens of thousands of years. They used fire to manage the land, not burn it to a crisp. Their grief at the harm done to Country is immense. We must listen and learn from them.

I mentioned above about the generosity of so many people around the world. It is truly moving to know that there is so much support and care. There are many worthy organisations to donate to ~ but be very wary of scammers ~ as money is what is needed now. The ABC, our national broadcaster, has an excellent list of links. As you can appreciate, my heart is looking to the environmental future, so I would add these organisations:

But your support doesn’t need to be here in Australia. Climate change is global, and needs a global response. Maybe the best international help is to focus on climate change action wherever you are. Whatever you can do ~ from contacting your local representative to planting more trees to attending rallies ~ helps. If our ‘leaders’ are talking about vague action in the years ahead, we need to take action now.

(BTW, the photo was taken from my local park. If you look closely you can just see a 30 story apartment block behind the spires of the church.)

 

 

 

36 thoughts on “The bushfires and climate action

  1. It’s just such a bl**dy “flaming” mess this whole “burning it to a crisp and beyond” and when the Sunday arvo here (Auckland, NZ), over 2000km away from Australia turned my sky and surroundings into an eerie orange it was just a little too much! Since then there has been no more true “orange days” but often the clouds are tinged with grey suggesting that smoke is still drifting faraway…
    I really don’t know what to say/comment, either…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The satellite images of the smoke streaming across the Tasman Sea towards you were quite an eye opener. To think that the smoke had such an impact on you. It shows that we live in a global environment, which means that we need a global response to the environmental problems.

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks for the link Kate. The removal of Newstart payments from firefighters is something I hadn’t thought about.
      For someone who prides himself as being a daggy dad and one of the people, Morrison has been very inept over this, with quite a few missteps. I meant to mention in the article how he refused to see the fire chiefs back in April, when they wanted to warn him about the devastation to come.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. They have been turning a blind eye for decades now. I happened to see a letter written in 1986 to Nature journal warning of rising sea temperatures. Imagine if we had started to act way back then. Thanks for the love!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s so heartbreaking to hear of the damage caused by these fires. I despair of so many of our politicians today and the hold that big business or other powerful groups have over some of them is scary.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The NRA in the US is the shining example, isn’t it? If shooting toddlers at Sandy Hook didn’t change gun laws then what will it take? The Coal lobby here is similar. If these fires don’t make us take action on climate change then what will?

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    2. big businesses do not like change – their profits mostly likely will “go up in smoke” (excuse the pun) – or they might even have close down, because they don’t want to spend the top$ to fix… And far as they are concerned, the end product must be “presented properly” – it reminds me of a “circle” or a “graph” showing the rise of whatever…everyone in the profit-margin wants a WIN…

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Brilliant post, Anne, and goes to the very heart of what’s happening, or not happening here in Australia. I pray that all those holiday makers who experienced the awfulness first hand, I pray they remember. I pray they tip the scales in favour of survival instead of the status quo. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The political fall out will be fascinating. Morrison has been dealt a blow by the many missteps he has taken. However, I hope that there is much more serious ramifications than just further squabbling in the the Liberal Party ~ fiddling while Rome (or this case, Australia) burns?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. After party heavy weights like Craig Kelly have the gall to say climate change had nothing to do with these fires, on UK TV no less, I don’t hold out much hope from the LNP itself. Morrison will ‘spin’ like crazy trying to pacify both sides, but there won’t be any action. Meanwhile, the Murdoch press is whipping a frenzy of disinformation about ‘back burning’ hah! They don’t even understand that they’ve got the wrong term. Oh and arsonists. So easy to blame arsonists…

        Sorry for sounding so bitter but I see most Aussies settling back into comfortable apathy once the air quality improves and pictures of evacuees and dying animals stop getting in the way of their normal lives. God I hope I’m wrong. 😦

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        1. I am not sure that I am feeling so negative. Sure lots of people will sink back to the old ways, but I think many others will see it as a wake up call. Maybe the barrier will be the “What can I do?” cry, as in I am only one person and it needs everyone on board to make a change.

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    1. big business and politicians – do not like that idea Emma – so what they do is they tax the manufacturer so much that he has to pass on that to the customer, who then weighs up the costs and sticks with some other source which in turn is supported by big/bus and polis…

      Liked by 1 person

    2. That’s a great question, Emma! And wind. There have ben many discussions about whether renewables can cope with peak load times, with many conservative politicians refusing to believe that they can. Or that there are solutions to the problems about the issue. Our state government has a home solar panel rebate scheme that is very popular and some small towns are setting up their own energy grids. There are solutions, we just need to be creative to find them.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I am not looking forward to returning to the smoke. NOW is the time to talk about climate change and make our leaders address the issues. Five years ago would have been better. Oh wait! We did have a carbon tax.

    While almost everyone except China is abandoning coal as the source of power, we are going to face not only climate change issues, but s big economic fall when we are left with a product no one wants. We will be like Kodak – hanging onto a product that doesn’t sell and going bankrupt.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. So true, and it makes going ahead with the Adani mine even more outrageous. Oh yes, the carbon tax. I think we have the dubious distinction of being the only country to have repealed one.
      Enjoy that clean Californian air while you can!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. A beautifully written post Anne and I agree with every word. I notice the effect of Climate change here in West Wales, UK – snowdrops and primroses already out after a very mild and wt winter so far as just one example. Our politicians pay lip service to reducing carbon emmissions but do very little. I think you are right that change will have to come from ordinary people like us making the changes we can do in our own lives and thinking hard about where we spend our money.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh yes, we are all standing in climate change, from huge fires to small primroses flowering early. Those little things can be equally disturbing because you know the enormity of what they represent. I think the other aspect of what we can do is to make our leaders change their ways thoughts and policies. I feel myself building up a head of steam to write to Morrison, our prime minister!

      Like

      1. Good for you. If you do I hope you will publish it as a blog post – it might inspire the rest of us to do something similar. I have just requested a book from the library written by the founder of the Transition Towns movement about local esponses to the climate emergency and am hoping it will show me other things I can do as well as what needs national and international action.

        Like

  6. Even though I agree with trying to make a difference via my “one small drop in the ocean” there are times, when I just cannot make any difference…and then I look around when I’m out, maybe it’s sale time and all I see is a sea of paper carrier bags with the brand names glaring at me….OR something else similar.

    An recent example for me is to do with “time” – I’ve a set a daily challenge for approx 6 weeks, which I might extend. I takes me around 2 hours to accomplish – event though the actual event is only around 40mins. A friend said “that seems odd…” What the other “minutes” relate to is at least 20 mins each way by bus/walk to/from home – the rest of the time is “missed the connection by 5mins…”

    My friend hadn’t factored in “bus-wait-time” which he doesn’t have because he’s got a car!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s not easy when we have to change the way that is convenient (and I am thinking of your friend who can just hop in the car, rather than you). I try to not buy things in plastic, but my desire for strawberries outweighs the damage that their plastic box may do.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I don’t even know what to say to this except for “hear hear!!”

    It’s absolutely terrible thinking of the pure destruction of all manner of wildlife (even to the microscopic level) that these fires and pure greed across the globe are causing.

    It’s frustrating that no matter what individuals do, it almost feels undone by unresponsive governments and corrupt business practices (often with the two gleefully marching along hand in hand to the death of this planet). My own state has recently banned plastic shopping bags, and while this is a nice gesture, it’s like a freaking band-aid on a gaping arterial wound.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I completely understand, Tammie. Any serious, lasting change has to come from leadership at the top. Unfortunately our governments are in thrall to powerful lobbies, like our coal industry. Although I hear on the news that Germany is fazing out coal and nuclear power….it will take a decade or so, which I don’t think we have.

      Like

  8. Your post was an excellent read and I have been so down about these fires and the loss to human and wildlife. Your post did remind me that nature goes on and I remember learning years ago that some trees only seed after a fire (or something like that). I love your reminder that the support needs to be global. Excellent post Anne.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Tierney. Much of our flora have evolved with fire, and need it to regenerate and seed. However, these have been so intensely hot that much of the seed bank will be lost. I have been reading about indigenous practices, and they were able to create cooler fires that really did allow for regeneration. There is much to be learnt from those fire management strategies.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. I continue to be blown away by the level of support from around the world — even to knitting pouches for kangaroos! I just hope we can galvanise that support into something more than donations….which are great, but we need more.

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  9. Anne … this is such an informative post, especially with all the links … would you mind if I re-blog it later today? My heart is breaking for all that is lost, especially the wildlife, and I fear this is our new “normal”. I read an article in The Guardian earlier today about all the conspiracy theories that are floating about, including Trump’s son, Junior, and I was so furious! Thank you so much for this very informative post … I learned quite a bit that I hadn’t known before. Hugs, my friend. Keep safe.

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    1. You are more than welcome to repost it Jill, because the need for action on all levels is so important. Reading about climate change conspiracies makes me want to bang my head against the wall! I too fear that this is the new normal. While the fires in Australia are overwhelming, there are so many other environmental disasters around the world, including the awful fires in California in the middle of last year.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thank you so much, Anne! I will repost it this evening. Yes, the fires are tragic, and only the beginning if we don’t begin to take climate change seriously, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to preserve the planet. Whatever we can do to increase awareness, I think we must do! I’m with you regarding the climate change deniers and conspiracy theories … it makes me want to throw something. Thanks a million, Anne, for this post and your generosity!

        Like

  10. Reblogged this on Filosofa's Word and commented:
    The Australian bushfires continue to burn. Last I heard, some 14 million acres had burned or were burning. The devastation and loss of wildlife are simply heartbreaking. Our friend Anne Lawson has written a highly informative post about it that I ask you to take a look at. There are several links to additional information, as well. Thank you, Anne, for this excellent post and for all the information. Keep safe, my friend.

    Like

  11. I’m sitting here horrified Anne. Will share. The media coverage in the UK of the full scale of this has been minimal and I have been very conscious of that, so i’ve learned more through your post and the links. There is the sense that powers who could help, refuse to see what is so blindingly obvious, and it is feeling too late, no matter what we are told, for us to work globally together and turn climate change around. Thank you for writing the post, Ann

    Like

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