Notes from the Fire Siege 3

•January 23, 2020 • 3 Comments

[After some cooling and rain things have calmed down in general. But today is another heatwave day with strong winds, raised dust and red-level fire emergencies have broken out again. Here we are still on yellow level of ‘Watch and Act’ at the moment, waiting if this will change to emergency, too-late-to-leave red level, in which case it’s pack the bags again and evacuate early. The choppers are flying overhead as I write. The photo, by Ben Esposito, is from the nearby Buddhist Sunnataram Forest Monastery, about 8 km from us. The monastery itself was saved by the valiant local volunteer firies, the true selfless Boddhisattvas, as the monks themselves noted.]

Notes from the Fire Siege 3

Now even weather poses unsolvable moral dilemmas: wishing the wind to blow another way is wishing someone else cops it.

General excellence of the combination of grassroots voluntarism and the state’s organisation of its fire-fighting response.

Is this excellence perhaps also a practical demonstration of the realistic feasibility of a rational, planned, organised response to our total climate and eco-emergency, i.e. as energy descent and participatory eco-socialism?

We are all responsible for climate crisis, but some infinitely much more than others: economic and political order-givers, marketing mind-manipulators, corporate media obfuscators and the global mega-rich. Consumerism, Capitalism, ‘Communism’, all kill.

Fossil-fuel, mining companies, enabling banks have donated risible amounts of their blood money to recovery. Ultimately most responsible, they should be massively levied for billions.

With a few laudable exceptions, almost all state recovery monies are to smooth the way back to the very fossil-fuelled business-as-usual that led to the disaster.

Even pacifists can now be happy: deployed, finally the army is doing something useful and life-enhancing.

The forty billion dollar defence budget could buy an awful lot of water bombers.

In this new war, how quickly one becomes used to the sound of water-bombing helicopters overhead, that rare breed of bomber one feels like waving to.

The catastrophe as a failure, and de-masking, of both ‘democracy’ and capitalist business-as-usual. Can such a narrative framing now convince larger numbers than before? Unlikely, but who knows.

This may be Australia’s Chernobyl moment. Will we now push for our own perestroika and glasnost, then stop the tanks of the fossil fool reactionaries from rolling back our revolution?

Weather and fire apps are our new oracles in this end-time Ragnarök. When blue shifts to yellow, time to get nervous, yellow to red, time to leave.

Looking out of the window during 35 degree heat: is that dust or smoke or just my cataracts getting worse?

Oz Ragnarok

•January 16, 2020 • 2 Comments

[Recent pyropoem referencing ‘Ragnarok’, the End Times in Norse Mythology, as well as the Norse myth of the god Odin’s shamanic self-sacrifice on the tree of life/knowledge. Many Australians speak of Australia as ‘Oz’. Photo on the main highway NSW south coast about 80-100 km from our home in the southern highlands. We have now had to self-evacuate twice from approaching firefronts, but so far our property itself in Bundanoon has not been burnt, while parts of Bundanoon have, with four houses lost, and more in nearby Wingello.]

Oz Ragnarök

The great Wolf Fenrir, with fire blazing from his eyes and nostrils, will run across the earth, with his lower jaw on the ground and his upper jaw against the top of the sky, devouring everything in his path. The great dragon Jormungand will spit his venom over all the world, poisoning land, water, and air alike. The dome of the sky will be split, and from the crack shall emerge the fire-giants from Muspelheim. (‘Ragnarök’/ End Times, Norse Mythology for Smart People website)

Yesterday’s fire attack doused 100 m from home,
you walk your paddocks leavened with gum leaves
in new guise: it seems Odin’s corpse-hungry ravens
have left their feathers, curved black scimitars
of microwaved elegance, smooth as Afro-baby skin,
dully shiny, they snap like brittle people or futures.

Burning for enlightenment, Odin hung on the tree
for nine days, sacrificing himself to himself,
a news-collecting raven on each shoulder,
at wit’s end, the longed-for runes finally
flowing like dreams in the waters below.

Stunned, fire app our oracle, ignoring enlightenment,
we hang outwitted on the sky dome-splitting rage
and fickle fate of exploding trees, poisonous air
now six months of sad new summer, their burning
jaws devouring metal, minds, not yet our separation
from ourselves the world, old knowledge never lost.

Notes from the Fire Siege 2

•January 8, 2020 • 1 Comment

[Continues on from last post, like the megafires. We have now ourselves directly experienced fire/ember attack and have fled to safety, and now returned home, as yet unburned.]

Notes from the Fire Siege 2

Fires on TV screen, unscarily real/unreal. Suddenly a talking head in uniform says: your village is burning. Is that real?

Fleeing, through our car window screen, grass fires on either roadside are scarily real/unreal, orange adrenaline pumps, as untelevisable as a spiritual revolution.

Towards your car long advancing grass fires are lines of prettily flaring Christmas lights on one side, on the other its already leaping up, licking its bling-orange lips at your car doors.

The flames are alive with the sublime of terror and beauty, like Rilke’s terrible angel.

Ember attacks are mad hornets whirling the night dizzy.

These flames are air-lava eruptions leaping from desiccated plants, soils, forgetful hearts.

These raging fires seem enraged with someone or something. What is their thunderous roar screaming?

We deeply fear and admire this, perhaps in secret resonance with something similarly volcanic and forgotten inside us.

Afterwards, returning to the charcoal paddocks around us, it is yellow murk mask weather.

Everywhere scattered black eucalyptus leaves, microwaved, elegantly shiny-smooth, brittle; fierce, wise Odin’s fleeing ravens may have lost their feathers in this Ragnarök.

Pyro-nimbo-cumulus clouds tower as beautiful, serene, pure-white, angelic Everests above their roiling red progenitors destroying all below. Like humans, nature seems to love paradox.

There will no doubt soon be more new Pyro vocabulary. Pyro-politics, pyro-poetry, pyro-anxiety and –depression.

Chaos creates community. Never so much solidarity and public love. Why not always?

These fires are both expressions and subversive of capitalist competitiveness and consumer values.

Yet we continue to allow our order-givers to extract and export coal and gas at world record rates.

Now we too have thousands of megafirewar-traumatised children.

Notes from the Fire Siege

•January 4, 2020 • 1 Comment

[Just a few random, fleeting notes from the ongoing fire catastrophe here in Australia, east coast, a complex product of climate chaos, drought, two centuries of white land mismanagment (agribiz) and the consumer growth-economy of industrial capitalism. How many catastrophes do we need, I still wonder, before we connect the dots, and act together to change the system leading us to the abyss. Photo by Adam Stevenson.]

Notes from the Fire Siege (New Year-January 2019-20)

Can’t walk the dog. Refuses to wear a mask.

Now even the air and sunlight are man-made, and very ugly.

It’s a clear day: I can see 100 metres.

The smoke prefers three colours: office-grey, sulphur-orange, despair-black.

The megafire makes its own weather. It dry-thunders and prefers its raindrops black.

We’re having a catastrophe, but are we getting its meaning?

How many catastrophes do we need?

Every morning you’re a sailor: checking wind direction.

On the news an atheist firemen says he is now praying.

Will these megafires only be our Hell, or could they be our Purgatory?

The siege has its flirtatious rhythms of approach and stall. No retreat, because fires can’t.

Before an approach a dream: embers under our trees, sudden beauty of a sky-high fire column.

How surprisingly easy to let go of a lifetime’s collection of things: books, artworks, furniture.

Choosing which few paperbacks to pack. Two small piles: a few favourite poets, a few favourite mystics.

Then packing up documents, photos, hard drive. They’ll go later. With the name they gave you.

Should I take, for my son and grandsons, some practical DIY books: farming, energy, building?

37, one son, at my first catastrophe (Chernobyl). Then: rage at the order-givers, centering, liberation to act.

70, two grandsons, at my second catastrophe. Now: lack of interest in the order-givers, complicity, equanimity to act.

As with the Chernobyl Cloud, again material proof of One World: our smoke in NZ, our ash coating the Andes.

‘If your life is at risk, call Triple Zero.’ Or help organize a revolution.

In the waiting fire bucket: a drowned mouse.

‘Prepare for the emotional, mental and physical impact of defending…’ ecocidal capitalism.

‘It is too late to leave.’ But never the System.

The new utopia: clean air, blue skies, expanding forests, sound of water, stillness, slowness, silence.

Another dream: met Greta, organised meeting, got on like a house on fire.

Columns of fleeing fire refugees kindly helped, welcomed. Will we do the same for the refugees on Manus and Nauru, from Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, from drowning islands?

Updating Beckett: Godot is a fire tsunami.

Over 500 m wild animals, whole species lost. The evolved Australian ecosphere has collapsed. What will replace it?

Consumerism = conflagration. Ever more ends in ever less, right down to the smoking ruins.

The violence of this disaster is the violence hidden in the luxury good and elite policy.

Beforehand, in some: complicity guilt.

Afterwards, in all: survivor guilt.

In destroyed Cobargo for his photo op, the PM is called an idiot, told to piss off. At last, vox populi, vox dei.

These fires’ carbon will breed more fires, another vicious demonic circle like arctic melting.

And now in heat and smoke the angophora is blooming its big, white, bee-intoxicating bouquets!

At the town meeting to discuss survival plans. Looking for jokes and cold water.

At least Nero stuck around to watch

•December 26, 2019 • Leave a Comment

[Recent poem, of the ‘found poem’ genre. Background: People will know that most of NSW Australia, parts of Queensland, Victoria and South Australia, are now burning in huge megafires or firestorms. Over 5 million hectares of bush have been burnt in NSW so far and there have been huge wildlife impacts. Over 800 houses have been destroyed so far. Most days a thick and toxic smoke-haze covers the sun and makes the air almost unbreathable. On the worst days, Sydney hospital emergency wards are being overloaded with people experiencing breathing difficulties. The mid- to long-term health impacts of breathing ultra-fine particles are dire. Our rainfall has been half our usual average this year and it hasn’t rained at all for many weeks, so we are in serious drought, probably Australia’s worst on record. Agriculture is slowly collapsing through lack of water and feed. Main roads have been closed due to the fires. We have had two officially declared ‘state emergency weeks’ so far.

The poem is referencing the following facts. In the last emergency, with the capital Canberra covered in thick toxic smoke, Prime Minister Morrison chose to escape to Hawaii for a holiday with his wife and two young daughters. Morrison is a so-called populist ‘conservative’ (called Liberals here), an ex-marketing executive, refugee hardliner, keen fan of coal extraction and so-called evangelical Christian. Having surprisingly won the last election in May, his key victory night comment was ‘How good is Australia!’. (The so-called ‘opposition’, the Labor Party, also strongly backs coal mining and exports.) The other lines are all taken from Sydney Morning Herald reports about the fires. Nero was of course the famous Roman Emperor who played his violin as Rome burned.

The photo above is from the NSW south coast where we have spent many a holiday, and which is now suffering economically as now holiday-makers are not going there because of the fires and raod closures. The mural at the bottom referencing Prime MInister Scott Morrision is by Scott Marsh.

This catastrophic fire season and drought are having a deep effect on public mood and psyche here with respect to the stark reality of the climate emergency and future liveability of most parts of Australia. Hopefully more and more will now join mass civil disobedience movements like Extinction Rebellion to drive the needed process of deep, citizen-led, social and political change. We need REAL, bottom-up democracy now to survive.]

At least Nero stuck around to watch

The smell of burnt plastic and wood hangs in the air
How good is Hawaii

Next door the bones of a melted aluminium dinghy
How good is Hawaii

They jumped into the car but were stopped by walls of fire
How good is Hawaii

What was once a festive outdoor fire-pit beneath burnt-out Christmas fairy lights still hanging from a gum tree
How good is Hawaii

RFS volunteer John’s been working a night shift, he needs a break
How good is Hawaii

he’s 74, got two replacement hips, knees, a shoulder
How good is Hawaii

Among homes lost was that of the local RFS brigade captain
How good is Hawaii

whose home was destroyed as he fought to protect the homes of others
How good is Hawaii

Greta’s Great Speech (with singer Megan Washington)

•December 22, 2019 • 2 Comments

[Greta Thunberg’s great How Dare You speech, here in version with singer Megan Washington and musician Robert Davidson. Powerful, a fitting end to another missed decade for turning around the Titanic of Business-As-Usual before it takes us all over the cliff of ecological and social collapse. This new decade will be the decade of decision. As Greta says here: change will be coming whether you like it or not. If we want to like that change, it seems it’s time to self-organise and rebel against potential extinction and for a livable future for all. Happy Xmas and New Year to you all. Peter]

Action in the Anthropocene

•December 15, 2019 • Leave a Comment

[From culture hackers The Rules, a summative video of global actions, assemblies, hopes of the world’s peoples since the global financial crisis of 2008, Arab Spring, Occupy Movement, Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, Indigenous anti-extractivism, ending with Extinction Rebellion now. Inspiring. ‘Humanity I Love You, Let’s Figure This Shit Out Together’… The Spiritual revolution towards One World Consciousness, a slow emerging, as we know we don’t have much time left to turn it around and stop the absolute worst world-destroying outcomes of capitalist Business As Usual…Linking up our many stories, finding a common vision with many diverse strands… Happy Christmas/New Year etc to all]