I posted a familiar looking photo in “Post-Apocalyptic Fiction has been moved to Current Affairs” that I have now replaced with one of the current situation. It reminded me of scenes I had seen in another bushfire year and I thought, “Here we go again” – but no, I have learned that that photo was recycled from a 2013 bushfire in Tasmania.
And now there is this infographic circulating on Twitter, Reddit and everywhere else, I guess. Infographic.tv awarded it one of “the best”. The critical comment comes from cupboard.com.
Here is my own “infographic” based on the same data. Bear in mind I am no mathematician so more mathematically endowed readers are welcome to offer corrections:
Certain maps hit home as definitely misleading from the moment I saw them. They do not represent what is happening now. They “point” to areas where we have had bushfires since September 1919, and the “pinpointing” is with a thick marker pen rather than a precision pen.
Here’s a more realistic satellite image of where the most serious threats are at the moment:
There are other more informative maps for residents, too, on the various state fire service sites. These are bad enough:
I can see the climate change deniers (who include our current political leaders in the pockets of the coal industry and Pentecostal faith) eventually standing up for Murdoch’s media coverage as some more “realistic” perspective:
Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen.
The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.
The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres — an area almost as large as West Virginia, more than triple the area destroyed by the 2018 fires in California and six times the size of the 2019 fires in Amazonia. Canberra’s air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world partly because of a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe.
Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely. Surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.” At least 18 people are dead and grave fears are held about many more.
All this, and peak fire season is only just beginning.
And our faith-infused prime minister, Scott Morrison, as per one of the videos posted in the previous post, tells us that we have always had to face disasters and challenges of one kind or another, and this is no different, and we will, as we have beaten other challenges, likewise rise up and beat this one. He is not talking about climate change. He is talking about the historic catastrophic fire season in Australia as if its a one-off.
After yesterday’s post another video emerged that shows the PM getting a bit of humiliating flack for a change.
In my previous post I dwelt on the PM’s faith perspective. I think it’s fair to say he does not believe in evolution nor that the Bible has anything to say about climate change. Richard Flanagan’s article reminded me of another more material factor that attracted an inordinate amount of attention in the last election:
In no small part Mr. Morrison owes his narrow election victory last year to the coal-mining oligarch Clive Palmer, who formed a puppet party to keep the Labor Party — which had been committed to limited but real climate-change action — out of government. Mr. Palmer’s advertising budget for the campaign was more than double that of the two major parties combined. Mr. Palmer subsequently announced plans to build the biggest coal mine in Australia.
Clive Palmer has a deep record of dishonesty in business and with clients that surely rivals Donald Trump’s. The poster above shows how attached he was to imitating his U.S. alter ego in that election campaign.
Palmer himself had no chance of becoming PM but his votes lent support to the Scott Morrison government. Who is Scott Morrison? He is acceptable to many Australians as a PM because he is said to be “authentic”. Yes, he’s a “daggy dad” and even a pentecostal, but Australians are a tolerant lot and can accept neighbours down the street who are like that. We have proven we are just as likely to vote for atheists and, god-forbid, unmarried women, as prime ministers. What is Morrison’s political background? I have never liked him for the reason given by Flanagan:
Mr. Morrison made his name as immigration minister, perfecting the cruelty of a policy that interns refugees in hellish Pacific-island camps, and seems indifferent to human suffering. Now his government has taken a disturbing authoritarian turn, cracking down on unions, civic organizations and journalists. Under legislation pending in Tasmania, and expected to be copied across Australia, environmental protesters now face up to 21 years in jail for demonstrating.
“Australia is a burning nation led by cowards,” wrote the leading broadcaster Hugh Riminton, speaking for many. To which he might have added “idiots,” after Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack blamed the fires on exploding horse manure.
Such are those who would open the gates of hell and lead a nation to commit climate suicide.
Most Australians want serious action on climate change. I’m keeping a close eye on Extinction Rebellion (Australian branch) with a view to contributing actively to that movement — I took special notice of them at the same time as Morrison who wanted to limit their ability to make a public impact with their activism. Scott Morrison and his party appear to be firmly indebted to contributions from the coal industry. I understand that the opposition party has also begun taking significant donations from that industry.
The situation is eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, when the ruling apparatchiks were all-powerful but losing the fundamental, moral legitimacy to govern. In Australia today, a political establishment, grown sclerotic and demented on its own fantasies, is facing a monstrous reality which it has neither the ability nor the will to confront.
Mr. Morrison may have a massive propaganda machine in the Murdoch press and no opposition, but his moral authority is bleeding away by the hour. On Thursday, after walking away from a pregnant woman asking for help, he was forced to flee the angry, heckling residents of a burned-out town. A local conservative politician described his own leader’s humiliation as “the welcome he probably deserved.”
As Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, once observed, the collapse of the Soviet Union began with the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. In the wake of that catastrophe, “the system as we knew it became untenable,” he wrote in 2006. Could it be that the immense, still-unfolding tragedy of the Australian fires may yet prove to be the Chernobyl of climate crisis?
P.S. I recall the days when an election was about advancing a more humane, just and sustainable society. Today, the debates seem to have very little imagination beyond the theme of “economic growth”, led, of course, by mining giants et al.
I’m wondering if any Australians who comment here from time to time have been affected by the bushfires that seem to have been with us and only getting worse for months now. What’s happening now is horrendous and unlike anything else I’ve ever heard of, and I know Indonesia, the Amazon, Africa, the United States Arctic regions and god knows where else have been experiencing similar. I am finding it hard to get my head to imagine the following scenario in which a young firefighter was killed. No-one would think this possible . . .
A young volunteer firefighter and soon-to-be father was killed when a “freakish weather event” lifted his fire truck off the ground, the NSW Rural Fire Service (RFS) says.
Samuel McPaul, 28, died yesterday after his truck flipped in the Green Valley blaze in Jingellic, 70 kilometres east of Albury near the NSW-Victoria border.
NSW RFS district manager Superintendent Patrick Westwood said Mr McPaul was “doing everything right” when tragedy struck.
He and two others had been mustering cattle caught in a paddock on flat ground.
“The crew decided to move away from that area and, quite unexpectedly, very suddenly, they experienced extreme winds and what could only be described as a fire tornado that lifted the back of the truck, fully inverted it and landed it on its roof, trapping three people, three crew that is, and unfortunately, one of them fatally,” Superintendent Westwood said.
“The driver was a veteran captain of 35 years-plus experience.
“He thought he was in the right spot — as he was, from what I can understand — and just this freakish weather event that would have to be seen to be believed. Even then, other veteran firefighters don’t believe what they saw, [it] engulfed that vehicle with flame, fire, and strong winds and literally picked up an 8-tonne truck and flipped it over.“
Many readers have probably already seen the horrific scenes of apocalyptic-like doom, the navy rescuing people stranded on the beach as their town was being destroyed, and no doubt similar scenes elsewhere in the world.
A few weeks ago fires several kilometres away were causing our view across town to be hazed out by smoke. To go outside was to breathe smoke and return inside smelling strongly of smoke. A few days later I thought it was clearing and went outside at twilight and saw what looked for all the world like a “glorious red sunset” — but not where the sun sets in the west; it was in the south! Reflections of the fire in the clouds. An apocalyptic poet would find words to depict something like the sun being thrown out of its orbit.
Brian Houston, Pentecostal Hillsong Pastor, is a potential liability publicity wise given coming under a cloud for failing to report to police evidence that his father had been guilty of child sex abuse in his church. (And one more about the Devil and Scott Morrison.)
But there’s an underbelly. A cruel and creepy world where it’s apparently perfectly fine — nay, encouraged — for adults, generally but not exclusively male adults, to shred a 16-year-old to pieces.
Greta ticks all the boxes — triggers the troglodytes amongst us — in some wholly predictable ways.
She’s a girl. To say our culture hates girls is, of course, an overstatement. Afterall, we enjoy looking at girls and having them sing and shimmy for us.
If a book, a band, a film, a foodstuff has a disproportionate teen-girl following — think Twilight, think Taylor Swift, think Billie Eilish — it’s rendered culturally unimportant at best and as vacuous crap at worst.
The moment girls scream and cry over something is the moment our culture has decided it’s wholly unimportant.
She’s not just a girl — she’s a girl with Asperger’s
She’s not just a girl though.
We like certain 16-year-olds. Ideally, ones that look like they’re on the cusp of blossoming womanhood. Barely legal in porn parlance.
If we’re going to pay her any attention, the least she can do is offer us something enticing to look at. To smile for us. To not be too strident. To play nice.
Greta Thunberg isn’t a 16-year-old doing sexiness for us. She’s not performing femininity, she’s not exchanging eroticism for a platform to talk about the environment.
She’s a soft-spoken girl with bare skin and pigtails. And because this packaging is so unfamiliar on the world stage — because we have no real track record of paying attention to girls who look like this — it’s acceptable to ignore her.
They’re naive, and their words — their wants, their hopes — get discounted.
But she’s not just a girl. She’s a girl with Asperger’s. And Asperger’s is commonly perceived as a disability.
Now this was brilliant news. Before we heard about anything else coming from New Zealand we were hearing of students striking to call on governments to take more serious action on climate change. Now that’s what education is supposed to be about. Educator John Dewey would have been thrilled. The education of the school kids would have been advanced further when they heard later government ministers expressing horror at what the students were doing, predicting the end of an educated society and consequent ruin of the nation if school children just decided to go out on strike every time they disliked something they thought the government was doing! What a laugh it was to listen to such nonsense from “responsible adults”.
People on the Internet who like to style themselves as rational, worldly, and clever members of the intelligentsia enjoy poking fun at people for their irrational beliefs. The usual targets of their (our) jabs are fish in a barrel: creationism (young Earth and old Earth), homeopathy, climate-change denial, and so on.
We see, for example, groups of people dedicated to poking fun at those who are supposedly afraid of chemicals by calling water by its unfamiliar sciency name: dihydrogen monoxide. I’m not necessarily opposed to poking fun at people for their ignorance, but I can’t really support the DHMO thing, because it’s a one-joke wonder that’s too clever and far too satisfied with itself.
There’s a sociological reason why it provokes a smug smile, but not actual laughter. It breaks one of the few rules of comedy — punching up is funny; punching down is not. We should try not to make fun of people who cannot understand science (the dumb) while we’re justifiably ridiculing those who refuse to understand science (the deliberately ignorant) or who exploit the ignorance of others for their own gain (the malicious).
On social media rational people enjoy posting on subjects like the anti-vaccine movement and the rejection of anthropogenic global warming. And that’s good; these are threats to human survival. However, I’ve noticed a trend in the past few years in which the proponents of the nuclear power industry have successfully made supporting “green nuclear energy” one of our merit badges.
Many conservatives reject the science of man-made climate change, just as many liberals reject the science that shows nuclear energy can safely combat it. The views we express signal which political group we belong to. The gap between what science shows and what people believe, sociologists say, is about our identity.
Do some liberals oppose nuclear power for unscientific, political reasons? Probably. Ignorance exists in all quarters. Some social liberals believe in healing crystals. Others may fear vaccines. Conservatives and liberals have irrational beliefs.