Here is a combination of blog topics. Mad Genius Club touches on the Australian fires as a topic. https://madgeniusclub.com/2020/01/16/of-departing-kansas/ It’s an OK piece by Kate Paulk about fire seasons and flood seasons in Australia. However, it ends with a truism:
“When I was growing up, it was common knowledge that there should be regular controlled burns in the off-season. Every time the environmentalist lobby forces a stop, there are catastrophic fires, and every time once the fires die down there’s a new resurgence of locally extinct plants coming back. I’ve seen the cycle a few times now – it’s way past time everyone realized that nature is not tame and nature is not a mother (except in a rather specialized sense that involves rather nasty language). It’s also time we remembered that we can, for the most part, live with nature. We just need to remember that there will be no mercy and every mistake can be fatal.”
Paulk really is repeating “common knowledge” but it is “common knowledge” that I’ve discussed before [https://camestrosfelapton.wordpress.com/2019/12/05/how-denial-of-global-warming-kills/ ] Yes, hazard reduction burns are an important part of managing the risks of fire. Yes, people know that. No, they aren’t a panacea and no the “environmentalist lobby” isn’t stopping them. Aside from anything else why on earth would the “environmentalist lobby” want to stop something if it was such a part of the natural cycle? The idea doesn’t make sense on its own merits. It also has little connection with the reality on the ground. No major environmental group is lobbying against hazard reduction burns in general. Here is what I said last time:
“The real reason why there aren’t more hazard reduction burns in Australia during winter is that they are difficult to do right, dangerous and require lots of expertise and people…all of which costs money…which the two fire services don’t have…because of limits on public spending…by conservatives.”
I should also add, that climate change has resulted in longer fire seasons which has reduced the window within which hazard reduction burns can be conducted safely.
However, it’s also worth noting that additional hazard reduction burns in national parks wouldn’t have stopped the scale of the fires this season. Fires ripped through areas of bush that had had hazard reduction burns or had had relatively recent major fires. For example, consider the 2013 Blue Mountains bush fires [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2013_New_South_Wales_bushfires ] which prior to 2019 were probably the biggest fires this century to impact the greater Sydney region. Those fires consumed, among other areas, a large region running from Lithgow in the west, past Mount Victoria and into a section of the Blue Mountains called the Grose Valley.
2019? Again, among many other fires there was a major fire covering nearly 20 thousand hectares officially designated as the Grose Valley fire running from Lithgow, past Mount Victoria (damaging the train line) and flowing further east through the Grose Valley. Only 6 years later and an area that had experienced massive fires (international headline generating fires) was burning again.
And that is just one example. The 2019/2020 fires have burnt through a huge variety of territory, including farm land, including places that had recent significant fires, including places that had strategic burning back. Hazard reduction is “reduction” and not elimination. If there is bush then there is fire. Combine that with periodic drought and increased temperatures then you get worse fires more often. The NSW RFS, fire brigade and the National Parks service aren’t ignorant fools who somehow don’t know the “common knowledge” of the internet experts or Murdoch journalists nor are “greenies” or whoever the scapegoat-du-jour is. The obstacle to hazard reduction is time, money and resources but even then it’s not a panacea.
Of course, I’ve seen some even dafter people suggest getting rid of the bush altogether — that it is the very existence of the national parks that is the problem. That’s even more ignorant and specifically forgets the other species of disaster that regularly befalls Australia: floods.