Wednesday, February 11, 2009


Australians are as durable and thus as prone to cliche as any people on earth, but suddenly it feels like we are set adrift in the old wry latitudes. Perhaps our entire colourful lexicon will seem a little blanched after the white heat of this summer. Nothing seems to fit anymore. Even here in my cosy mountain hideaway shrouded in mist everything seems rent with an awful light. This too is fire territory, and in the rumble of the passing coal trains I can hear a pale echo of the fury of those Victorian fires. "Like every jumbo on the planet was revving up its engines" was how one firefighter put it.

The fronts are staggeringly wide - the Churchill front alone extends 125kms, only 20kms of which is under any sort of control. As we all know by now, hundreds of Victorians have lost their lives. The body count will continue to rise inexorably, pathologically as the ruins are sifted and the remains discerned that had been fused together by the colossal heat - husbands from wives, mothers from children. Spare a thought, won't you, wherever you are, for us rendered helpless down here.

Fox News did, and in their own inimitable way, managed to link this tragedy to al-Qaeda. Wilson "Iron Bar" Tuckey MP (so-called because as a publican he once took to a recalcitrant patron with said implement) stated in parliament that the fires were the fault of the Greens and their cohorts for "trapping" so much of the country in nature reserves.

That scientists have been warning all and sundry about such extreme events as a consequence of climate change for some years now has not, of course, escaped the attention of either "Iron Bar" Tuckey or Fox News. But even in such dark times the practised tentacles of the neo-cons are feeling their way.

February 7th 2009, needless to say, will be a day forever etched in this island's memory. Perhaps all right-thinking citizens of the world should also mark it down in their calendars.