After the Fires

[All fires are now under control. It has finally cooled off and been raining significantly. Normalisation is both necessary and dangerous. Lest we forget. The photo was recently taken here in Bundanoon about 4 km south of us, our nearest bushland, immediately adjoining many houses.]

After the Fires

Oracle. Another flight, early this time. Will we return to our house, or to smoking ruins? Once the gods, then God, now wind directions, humidity levels and firies will decide. The app is our Oracle.

New Markets. Will Australia’s mass housing market now offer spacious, solar-powered five star fire-bunkers? After our few hundred thousand years of expansion and environmental exploitation, we so-called Homo sapiens have to return to the caves, this time with WiFi.

Climate Justice. Is it a kind of impertinent, know-all schadenfreude to suggest there might be a certain painful collective justice in the fire inferno? Per capita Australia has one of the highest carbon footprints in the world. We have disproportionately contributed to the climate emergency. Having now ourselves experienced some of the dire repercussions in the fire tsunamis of this summer, can we rich consumers everywhere now perhaps feel a greater sense of solidarity with our human family in poor countries bearing the brunt of the climate emergency which our historical emissions have caused? As some of us have opened our homes to our own fire refugees, will we open our gates in solidarity when increasing numbers of the world’s poor become climate refugees and are forced to flee the ecological and social devastations of drought, famine, flooding, war?

Climate Injustice. Of course, although fire does not discriminate, the much less culpable poor who tend to live in the hardest hit, cheap bush-block areas lose and suffer much more than the much more culpable rich. This exactly mirrors the global situation between rich and poor countries.

Roosting Chickens. The high-energy chickens of Growth, Development and Prosperity, the religion of Capitalism and Progress, have finally come home to roost. And they are fried chickens.

The Elephant. The very large monster elephant now in the room: not only is the 200 year-old white European, American and Australian Dream of fossil-fuelled eternal growth, extractivist development and prosperity coming to its bitter end in complete ecological devastation and smoking ruins, but also the radical question of whether much of Australia may in fact no longer be livable.

Ash Summer. The great national psyche-defining Australian sense of summer – lazy days by the beach or pool, clear azure skies and waters, tennis and cricket, BBQs, beer and carefree holidays – all shattered, reduced to ashes, perhaps irrevocably. This is perhaps the most immediate level of the Great FireTrauma, Australia’s own Chernobyl moment.

Gimme that ole time music. The old faux-nostalgic popular song ‘Give me a home among the gum trees’ will probably lose a little of its popularity.

Animal Refugees. We’ve got heaps of echidna and blue-tongue lizards coming into our garden now. They’re thirsty.

Janus Humanity. Like many catastrophes, Climate Chaos both creates community and further divides it. Heroes and arsonists, helpers and looters, system changers and system denialists: humanity’s wonderful old self-conflict and diversity. For the moment, and hopefully in the future, the good by far outweighs the bad.

The Usual Reactionaries. Now, as to be expected, there are new reactionary memes of distraction and denial: forest fuel loads, ‘Green’ regulations, national parks, arsonists, Chinese agents, even ‘trees’ as such. The coal-fondling, marketing-man PM the majority voted for reframes ‘hazard reduction’ to mean wholesale deforestation. This coal fossil Primate Minister is having problems joining humanity.

All such mental toxins are further amplified and spread by the extremist Murdoch media, the right-wing shock jocks, and their reciprocal echo chambers in anti-social media.

All these media and discourses seem to maintain a vice-like grip when it comes to widespread manipulation, mind control or mental hegemony among much of the working class and extremist neoliberals (so-called ‘conservatives’) of all classes.

Climate emergency is the final nail in their mental coffiin, their lifelong meaning-making system. They must do everything to ward it off, distract, deny, scapegoat. For them this is not a crisis of mere ‘facts out there’ but a crisis of identity. This is why they are so very loud, angry and aggressive. They are deeply afraid.

Fire PTSD. Some of the symptoms I’ve heard in conversations:

‘My sense of time has changed. I can’t remember exactly when something happened. When the fire front is there everything seems to be in slo-mo.’

‘I keep forgetting things.’

‘I was watching the tennis and when I looked out the window I saw flames.’

‘When I look out the window now all is just ashes. There are no more birds waking me in the morning.’

‘I now look at the Bush differently. I don’t think I want to live near the Bush again.
Maybe I’ll move to the city. But who would buy my house now?’

‘I feel so powerless. I know all the background, was in Friends of the Earth for years, but I feel so powerless. I have no control over anything.’

‘Oh listen to those helicopters! I know they’re doing a good job, but…’ (tears, facial expression of pain).

‘This is like a last straw that has broken the camels back.’

‘Maybe these fires are not unprecedented. [Right wing Murdoch media pundit] Peta Credlin says the 1974 fires burnt ten times more land.’

The New Ten Commandments. On Mount Sinai Moses heard the voice of God and his ten commandments coming from the Burning Bush. Are we now listening to our own burning bush? What new Ten Commandments do we need to now heed? Here’s a start for further discussion:

(1) Thou shalt leave all fossil fuels in the ground.
(2) Thou shalt live more simply and frugally within the planet’s means.
(3) Thou shalt share everything more equally among yourselves.
(4) Thou shalt own in common the global commons of water, air, soil, ocean and forest.
(5) Thou shalt drive the greedy money-men from the temple of life.
(6) Thou shalt decide all important matters together as active citizens in democratic self-management.
(7) Thou shalt learn the basic rules of ecology and live by them.
(8) Thou shalt not commit ecocide.
(9) Thou shalt not worship the false idols of money, state or ego.
(10) Thou shalt take charge of thine own evolution in wisdom and humility.

~ by Peter Lach-Newinsky on February 8, 2020.

2 Responses to “After the Fires”

  1. Thanx for your insights Peter…
    The new “commandments” are worth living by…

  2. Thanx Kristi. Hope all well in Florida, weather and all-wise.

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