Sunday, February 08, 2009

Nature retaliates

Hard times in Victoria. Bush fires yesterday killed more than 35 people and for us came closest to home via Bill's sister, Monica and her family at Healesville. The temperature yesterday reached its highest in recorded history. In this instance the pundits were right. They knew it would be a bad day. Monica rang at 8.30 this morning to tell us about their struggle. The fire reached the back paddock behind their house. Others nearby lost their homes. At least theirs is now safe.

Yesterday’s heat was frightening, not simply unpleasant. The wind burned your skin. And eyes. It was like stepping too close to a fire - all you could do was get yourself out of it, if only into the shade. Trees have lost their leaves, not just the crisp dry leaves of autumn, leaves that fray around the edges. These leaves have been cooked. They drop off the trees in the winds that gust them to the ground and they are rough and crinkled, as if they have been seized by fire suddenly. Gardens everywhere are brown in patches, the grass on every nature strip is yellow. The earth is dry. The fish pond in the front of our house is down to its last few inches of water and the few fish that have survived are swimming around in a weed infested muddy soup.

These are horror times, while on the other side of the world people freeze and everywhere people keep telling us that it is our own fault - we have abused the planet and now nature is retaliating. The Gaia hypothesis. I am sensitive to the accusation, the truth of it perhaps, the absoluteness of it.

I can separate my rubbish, I can refuse plastic bags at the supermarket, minimise my water consumption, but there’s little else I can do, alone. We need to work on this one together.

The trivia of my daily life pales into insignificance in the face of all this loss.