13 February, 2009

A fiery blame game

The bushfires that have ravaged the state of Victoria are all the news here. Everyone is struck by the sheer magnitude of the loss: the loss of perhaps hundreds of innocent lives, the loss of some 1800 homes and families literally left with nothing, and the loss of huge parts of our beautiful countryside. It is hard to believe that entire towns have been wiped out. This is surely the greatest single loss we have suffered in decades.

While the danger is still not over, in the aftermath the community has rallied to help. The cost to rebuild would surely run to hundreds of millions of dollars, and everyone from corporates to organizations to individuals have gladly put up their hands to help in any way they can. There is huge resolve from government and others to rebuild, and to do so with a greater emphasis on learning from this experience. Let's hope people will remember and learn for years to come!

And amongst all of that, the ugly blame game has started. There are many facets to this side of things, with strong feelings on each side as claims and counter-claims are made.

The leader of the totally inappropriately named Catch the Fire ministry blames our sins for this catastrophe. Where he has the gall to second-guess G-d, and the stupidity to insult the victims in this way defies logic. The only fire stoked with silliness like this is from the atheists, who use it to prove there is no G-d, because their only understanding of a deity is one who doesn't let bad things happen.

Of course there is blame and intense anger directed at an arsonists who deliberately lit some of these fires. While most people would like them charged with mass murder, someone from the bleeding left feels obliged to talk about how these people are themselves victims, and need our pity and help more than anything. Don't we have enough victims already?

But the loudest blame game has been towards that terrible modern affliction, climate change. It is this scourge that is at the heart of the fires. Climate change is why it was so hot (in what is usually the hottest time of the year). Climate change is why there were such strong winds that made the fires even more severe. Climate change is why we didn't back burn and tend to our forests so as to reduce load and minimize the damage from fires that inevitably occur. Oops. Might be pushing things on that last one.

The counter-blame to this one comes from people who probably care as much about the environment as the climate change advocates and Greenies, but have a slightly more pragmatic and real-world approach to dealing with the issue. Like the smart fellow who was fined for illegally clearing trees on his property, and now still actually has a house. Or the bushfire experts who blame poor forest management. And how about the indigenous community who have lived here for far longer than us white folk, and who have developed expertise in managing the large forests and weather conditions that have both been with us for centuries? They don't throw their arms up and blame something that they can't understand, can't prove, and can't do anything about anyway.

There is certainly polarisation on the issue of how to respond to the bushfires, whether through building fire-proof houses, controlled burning, and evacuation policies. Anyone who has a memory that goes back more than a few years, or has the desire to look at history and learn from it will know that bushfires happen. They happen everywhere in the world where there is hot weather and forests, and in Australia, we have plenty of hot weather and plenty of forests. They happen in cycles, just like weather patterns happen in cycles. Bushfires are just as much a part of nature as the bush itself. Civilisation, in its various forms over time, have learnt to deal with them.

So instead of playing the blame and counter-blame game, the better option is to work within our circle of influence on this problem. There is sufficient experience and expertise around who have successfully dealt with bushfires in the past that there is no need to invent new ways to 'save the trees' and new monsters like climate change to blame for everything that ever goes wrong.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah, but the 'true' religion (Climate change) demands that every natural calamity that befalls humanity is humanity's fault for not taking care of the environment. Katrina, bush fires, tsunamis, Mumbai (well it could be linked) are all our fault. After all, a tree is nature. A human being isn't.

freeda said...

Those are come very grand statements.
Save for arson, bush fires are absolutely not our fault, nor is there any solid scientific proof that links tsunamis and cyclones to our actions. Had you said these 'may be' our fault, i was save you some criticism, but because you talk with such certainty, it is obvious you have no idea what you are talking about.
As for the Mumbai statement: this is mildly amusing to me, not worth justifying with a response.
This is fun. Bring it on, anonymous commenters.