This has been the toughest summer ever here. But I daren't whinge too much, knowing how much worse it is for others who have been stoically dealing with the unbelievably harsh drought for many years already, or have lost everything in horrific fires.
In an effort to stay sane, sanguine and serene, I have come up with some pathetic shreds of optimism from the Black Summer of 2019/20.
Reasons To Be Cheerful (with apologies to the late, lamented Ian Dury):
Millpost has not burned yet.
The relentless drought, and resulting fires, represent a huge, cruel environmental experiment. From the ashes and smoke and mayhem there is much to learn, for example:
What burned and what didn't, and why? Which buildings survived? Which trees and other plants stayed green when all around was grey and charred? Which fire prevention measures, such as Indigenous Cool Burns or Hazard Reduction Burns, worked best? When to stay and defend, and when to flee? How fast has recovery been in native forests and grasslands? Which of our native fauna survived and how? Is there an optimum distance between human settlements and large areas of native forest? Are trees always a danger to human life or do they actually help to protect us from fires? How can we best design our farms so that stock have the best chance of escaping fire if we can't be there to protect them?
Many many of these topics have already been studied in the past and predictions made, strategies and policies outlined. I'm thinking of Joan Webster's “Australian Bushfire Book” and the writings of CSIRO scientist Phil Cheney and the work of Professor David Lindenmayer, especially his longitudinal study of the impacts of fire on the Booderee National Park, “Jervis Bay Long-term Monitoring Fire Response Study”.
Because of the scale and intensity of pain, loss, suffering and shock the drought and fires have caused, perhaps the penny has finally started to drop. Perhaps the person in the street, or in the paddock, or even in parliament, is connecting the dots and comprehending that every action they take - from the moment they awake till they drift off to sleep again - needs to be assessed for its impact on the precious natural environment that we are dependent upon for our survival.
It's about personal carbon footprint, and it's called self-auditing. David Holmgren wrote in Permaculture Principles and Pathways: “....basic personal habits and behaviours are some of the most difficult and sensitive to deal with, and yet they are at the heart of the ecologically dysfunctional nature of modern society.”
Hot weather makes the washing dry very quickly.
The mozzies aren't half as bad as last summer.