Saturday, February 14, 2009

Contemplating relativity

Well .. um .. yes. I did have some local stuff to write and post, but the Bushfire disaster events near Melbourne in Victoria have sort of subdued any ebullience or excitement I might feel by being more or less re-connected to the internet.

Any smug satisfaction about merely getting through two weeks of 43C + temperatures has sort of dribbled away, pales into insignificance – replaced by sheer amazement, almost incredulity; at what happened in Victoria last Saturday. Whole towns wiped out, 1800+ homes vanished. 180+ lives lost. 7000 people homeless. All, mostly, in one day.

Some of the video footage that have seen of Marysville and Kinglake is reminiscent of Hiroshima. Not “burnt”, “charred” or even “smouldering” .. just .. melted flat.

Why, some might ask, how. We've experienced bushfires before; we've had Hot Spells before, and long dry spells, lost lives and property regularly in seasonal bushfires; but the weather conditions that day, according to accounts, were unique, unprecedented. Far beyond anything that had been “planned for”.

Even those who lived through the previous 1932 and 1983 “Black Friday” bushfire events were shaking their heads in astonishment by the speed, intensity and ferocity of the fire-fronts.

There are, now, many people thanking whatever providence they believe in that it all happened on a weekend. Not sure how many schools in the area vanished, but the mind boggles with the thought that they might have been full of children.

I don't live anywhere near Victoria so have no real idea of how long their “heat waves” generally last. Well, not quite. I did live in Melbourne for five years – 1983-1988. Back then the standing joke was - “if you don't like the weather, just wait half an hour”. Even so, can't remember it ever getting particularly “hot” for more than one day before a cool change, if not rain. Obviously, something has changed since then – though paradoxically, this time it was the approaching cool change that created the extreme conditions for the firestorms

Conversely, 1000 miles away, Ingham in North Queensland was flooded – twice .. Europe and North America have been experiencing unusual blizzards and snowstorms. Have been watching TV footage of the “snow storms” in Europe and looks like fun .. can say that I'd prefer to sit out two weeks of snow, than a fortnight of 40+ temperature – then have a fireball fanned by 50mph winds come through my house. Snow melts and trickles away, water recedes, homes (generally) remain intact.

There are now, of course, serious questions being asked about the increasing number of “tree changers” moving into the bush. The wisdom of “greenie” policies preventing natural, native vegetation clearance. There is a story somewhere about a household being fined $30,000 by “council planning authorities” for clearing a few acres around their premises, but ended up as the only house still standing in the vicinity. (a very expensive insurance policy, methinks .. heh). That debate will rage for some time, methinks. Did we learn anything from the Royal Commission enquiries into the 1932 and 1983 fires? Probably not. Not even, apparently, from the bushfire events of a couple of years ago.

The rest of the Nation has, and will continue to rally behind with support for those in Victoria. Will, however, reserve my utmost pride, applause, appreciation, admiration, commendation for the 3000 or more dedicated men and women of the Country Fire Services. Mostly entirely voluntary, mostly local mums and dads, some of whom were aware that they were losing their own houses, their own families – while they were out on the truck battling in extreme conditions to save someone else's home.


Caroline said...

Having nowt much else to do this week, I looked through every photograph available online about said disaster and I swear I could smell the unmistakable smell of doused, black after fire ash. Now wondering if there is anywhere left in our great brown/black land where houses sit cheek by jowl with bush? Blue Mountains I suppose. And no doubts at all, there will be a lot of clearing going on up there.

Furthermore FWIW, I think hyping up the residents of Marysville by taking them on a bus tour of what remains of their town but not letting them get off the bus, is cruel and ridiculous. What possible use could that serve other than to upset people even more?

hip said...

The wisdom of greenie policies preventing natural, native vegetation clearance.

Myth, put about by Andrew Bolt, Miranda Devine and other psyco-phantic denialists. Based on a 1998 press release about a Tassie backburn-gone-wrong. Greenies, in general, support control burning for pretty %#$#&% obvious reasons. Sheesh. (Pedantic point in a another fine post, Davo.)

The disaster is well covered by everybody, by all means feel free to cheer us up a little. :o[

Davo said...

Caroline, Marysville has been locked off, declared a "crime scene" for this past week. as far as am aware a "person of interest" has been apprehended. Charged with - among others "murder by arson". Whether there will be enough "evidence' to make that stick will be interesting, but he has been removed to melbourne lockup "for his own safety".

Davo said...

o piss orf Hip, haven't finished editing this post .. heh

Davo said...

.. but yup, hip. long story or discussion i guess.

Davo said...

and yes, hip, have to ask the question. Are you a volunteer with your local CFS?

hip said...

Davo, in short, no. We all pitch in when and as required, in the most effective way we can.

I'd be on a flogging from hell if I criticised the firies in any way after what's been happening, the majority of good men and women among 'em who are worthy of absolute praise and deserve my absolute support, but I am theHippy. My local fire militia and its quasi-military hierarchy are corrupt and, for the most part, psychotic. Their "turf war" with the pro firies, the pyros in their own ranks, their inability to engage with modern communications technology, their dependence on media coverage to attract enough donations just to keep the old pump trucks mobile, the meeja's obsession with ineffective helichoppers while the folks on the front line are left wandering about...

And, quite simply, they wouldn't take me, they truly believe that us hippies and greenies are the root cause of it all. I didn't sign up for the Army, either. They still blame us for loosing in Vietnam.

GreenSmile said...

I had CopperWitch spying on you so I gathered you were not in harms way...but had to ask.

Along with the enormous sadness of so many lives lost, and the admirable resilience with which so many Australians bear up under this harshest aspect of that land of mixed blessings, it has been morally instructive to witness some threads of the political response.

I believe it was Rudd whom I read quoted in Reuters in the first day of the fire before the casualties where known, saying that Australia would redouble its resolve to be as sparing as possible of carbon emissions [I paraphrase of course].

Scientists know Australia is the climatological canary in the coal mind as regards global warming. That is not news. But your politicians seem to know it too. That is a major improvement over what we have had for leadership in the US....and we are the ones whose redoubled efforts would actually make a difference.

Good on ya for picking Rudd.

Davo said...

Greensmile .. Kevin Rudd is just another cynical smarmy politician - quick on the scene with crocodile tears. Has recently been counter-attacked by Nick Xenophon (who apparently held the casting vote in the Senate to let the GFC "rescue package" through). Seems to have forced the Gummint into a specific commitment of finance for the Murray-Darling river system which was in danger of disappearing, forgotten into the backblocks of "new crisis headlines" .. heh.

hip said...

"Turf Wars in Victoria."