Opinion

When to watch, when to act is the burning question

By John Lewis

It's been a slow week in Lawnmower Land watching rain clouds gather and blow away after a spatter of the promised gold.

The world right now seems full of omens.

Three snakes have wandered into our patch so far.

Magpies are visiting like never before to steal dog food, and a kookaburra has taken up residence in a big gum opposite the kitchen, patiently watching.

Yesterday a huge gum tree branch crashed to earth in nearby bushland. It sounded like an exploding chandelier.

Piles of leaf litter and twigs I have spent the past fortnight gathering ahead of summer sit glowering in the backyard dirt.

All this, and it is only November.

This week's television and social media feeds showing NSW and Queensland on fire have only added to the sense of approaching catastrophe.

The word "catastrophic" to describe fire danger levels has been used since the 2009 Black Saturday Fires.

Then, it was a new description and it seemed apt considering the loss of 173 lives over that terrible weekend in February. But now, with increasing use, catastrophic seems almost banal. We need a new category, perhaps along the lines of apocalyptic.

Here in the Goulburn Valley we are probably more prone to fast-running grass fires than month-long forest blazes, but either way, this summer looks set to be fierce and hot.

I have lived with a glorious bush backdrop for 25 years, but now for the first time, I stare out my kitchen window and I feel a prickle of dread on the back of my neck.

While actual fires for the moment are confined to the north-eastern seaboard, metaphoric blazes are burning across the country. Who or what is responsible for this situation? What can we do about it? Will we become totally helpless in the face of these disasters? Is it really climate change?

Any reasonable observer would listen to the advice of 11,000 scientists across the world who say we are now facing the real consequences of climate change.

Or they would shake their heads in disbelief when former Australian fire chiefs say their warnings about the worsening situation were ignored by conservative politicians because of ideology.

How to deal with the fuel that is driving this approaching global blaze is just too much to contemplate. It means changing the way we live.

Anyway, it's not the time to talk about it now. Look over there — look at those "woke Greenies" and "raving inner city lunatics". It's their fault because they won't allow back-burning.

To the ordinary bloke in his backyard staring at a wall of gum trees, it looks like those in power are now rabbits caught in the glare of an approaching firestorm.

Thoughts and prayers go out to them.