Monday, February 9, 2009

Australian bushfires ... changing the face of the nation

The news from Victoria continued to intensify as the afternoon and night wore away ... it's official: this is the worst firestorm in the country's history -- and we've had some bad ones. You might have heard of the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983, which affected both South Australia and Victoria; and before that, Black Friday, in 1939 (before my time, but I know the stories). The death toll right now is quoted as 109, but you know it's going to be worse; and I don't think the cost of suffering can ever be counted. Emergency services are so far stretched, you'd think this country was at war.

1983 -- Ash Wednesday -- is "loud in my head." This season is worse, but '83 was so close to home, I could still cough on the smoke. What concerns many of us is that 11 of the 12 hottest summers on record have fallen in the last 12 years ... and there is no reason to suppose this trend won't continue. There's the dreadful feeling in the pit of the belly, that heatwaves and fires which used to be the event of the decade, or quarter-century, will become commonplace.

The cool change came through SA without rain, and have a look at the forecast for the coming weekend:

(Here's the whole page at Bureau of Meteorology, if you're interested...).

Back up into the heat at the weekend; next week? There's cause for concern, because SA is already so dry, we're like a stack of tinder, kindling ... and traditionally, historically, our bad, bad bushfires are usually in late February or March. In other words, we're not out of any wood yet.

Check out the FireMap which is being constantly updated:">

What the above map doesn't reflect is that there are 46 fires burning in New South Wales:

At this point, South Australia is getting off lightly (this being a relative term). We've had numerous fires, but they've all been contained. We have another four or six weeks to get through before bushfire season is over for 2009, and the fingers, toes and eyes are crossed. Memories of 1983 are haunting me: don't want to go there. I could swear that every summer is hotter and dryer than the last one ... and I find it so hard to believe that we have a Labor government that's shilly shallying, playing silly buggers with its policies as per carbon reduction.

Or was that last week? PM Kevin Rudd looks like the proverbial stunned mullet at this point. Perhaps he just had his personal epiphany? We can hope.

Mr Rudd: get your head out of the Internet, drop the whole stupid nonsense about Internet filtering, worry less about what a handful of precocious, badly brought-up children might be seeing on the WWW if they deliberately go hunting for p*rn ... and worry more (a lot more) about what real, live kids (and their parents) are suffering in the real world, where the country's emergency services and infrastructure will need to be strengthened -- a lot -- if the local climate is going to go on getting hotter, dryer, every year.

More later --


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