“This is the age of the megafire – and it’s being fuelled by our leaders”, The Guardian
Tim Flannery, Opinion, Australia News, 7 Feb 2020
In the face of the climate disaster it helped create, the Australian government has given us only lies and denial
Unprecedented wildfires have recently devastated California, the Amazon, southern Europe, Siberia and Australia. It’s safe to say that we’ve entered the era of the climate-fuelled megafire. But because fire conditions depend on local vegetation, topography and climate, each of these great conflagrations is different.
Australia’s bushfires of the last four months have been true megafires, creating their own weather and becoming so vast in their impact that more than half of all Australians have been directly affected by them. As I write, fires continue to burn around Canberra, and though rain has begun to fall in northern New South Wales, 17 are “yet to be contained” according to the fire service. Meanwhile, what is traditionally the worst part of the fire season for Victoria and South Australia is just commencing. Conditions have been so severe that firefighters have often been unable to stop fires joining up, generating massive dry thunderstorms that spread fire with thousands of lightning strikes.
So far the fires have burned an area around the size of England, killed more than 30 people and destroyed about 6,000 buildings. They have left deep psychological scars, and while it seems impossible to shift the government’s disastrous climate policies, the fires will alter the way that Australians view themselves and their country.
There’s a British saying that fire is a good servant but a bad master. But in Australia, with its unique vegetation and climate, fire can also be a terrifying predator. Like all good predators, it remains hidden until it’s ready to strike, so even in this fire-plagued year, most Australians have not seen the flames that lurk in the forest, taking life seemingly at random. But many have smelt its stench. Sometimes we wake at night to thickening smoke, and lie there wondering where the beast is prowling. Some mornings we peer out the window and decide that it is not a safe day to be outside.