I am officially angry now. The climate emergency has suddenly become personal. My ancient protective reflex has kicked in so that I can no longer ignore the threat to my little ones and the little ones they might bear in the future.
The gorgeous home of our daughter-in-law’s parents in a sleepy hideaway called Rosedale on the NSW south coast is gone, a ubiquitous pile of twisted metal on a heap of white ash on a blackened slope. This is one story of what happened at Malua Bay on Tuesday, New Year’s Eve, published on 1 January 2020 in The Guardian.
We left on Sunday at lunchtime after spending an hour strolling through the little village of Mogo. Such an interesting little village. We bought some pottery and a luminescent still life from Vanessa Williams. The bush loomed across the back of the village and, overheard, some one opined that it was only a matter of time before the village came under threat from the fires. Two days later Mogo was burning, the gallery was gone.
The only road open to us was south. We decided not to travel south along the Victorian coast because of the possibility of becoming cut off or even trapped by fires. We’d be just two more tourists in danger where we didn’t have to be. We took alternative south to Bega then up to Cooma. Cobargo looked a nice little place. On Tuesday its main street went up in flames and people died.
We stayed Sunday night with relatives at Adelong. The husband, Scott, got home about 9 o’clock from fighting a fire in a pine plantation at Ellerslie. He thought that, with luck and the back burning that would go in overnight, it would be contained. There were another couple of fires off the road we travelled on Monday down to Kinglake West where our daughter and her husband live.
There was smoke every inch of the way, even when it showered around Adaminaby. Sometimes it was thick, brown and tasted acrid, though we kept the aircon on recirculation. My lungs aren’t coping with it. I feel such a woose. Kinglake felt like a haven. Despite the towering gums and the history, there is a comforting green tinge in the grass.
On Monday night my son and his wife were out to dinner, no doubt the grandies were minding the two littlies, when they received a Leave Now alert. They ditched dinner, packed in half an hour, vainly exhorted her parents to come with them, and left, travelling more than four hours up through Kangaroo Valley.
On Tuesday at 6.00 am, another Leave Alert was issued for south coast residents and visitors, including Rosedale. The road from Bega up to the high country was cut. They headed north but were trapped in Ulladulla until Thursday. All the roads we drove on Sunday and Monday were cut on Tuesday, Bega to Cooma to Tumut to Holbrook. The Ellerslie fire is now the Dunns Road fire and jumped every effort at containment, running past Batlow and Tumbarumba almost to Cabramurra. As at the time of writing it has consumed 130,000 hectares. I wonder how much sleep Scott has had.
Batlow is now evacuated. My inlaws’ home town is now considered ‘indefensible’ and the population has been directed to leave en masse. Buses took people down to Wagga where folk have offered beds for refugees and refuge for pets, among other things. People are good, mostly. Disaster has a tendency to strip us back. I am proud of what this disaster is showing me about ourselves. It’s not these people I am angry at.
Put an advertising exec in charge of fronting a vested interest like the Federal Government and this is what you get: the cunning threading of hidden appeals to a sense of belonging, to a desire to contribute and to be acknowledged, for instance; of mythologies, tropes and symbols drawn from good bloke culture; and all neatly wrapped in slippery wording to deflect opprobrium, censure and the reckoning. The layer of sunny optimism is particularly galling. This guy could find a silver lining on a nuclear cloud. Is it meant to help ‘us’ see through the trials to the Promised Land or is it intended to cast the dissenters as Nellie Naysayers who nothing of import to contribute?
The blinkered, binary thinking evident underlying commentary on these catastrophes shows the shallowness of the leadership and authority employed. It is of the position, the role, the robe, and is certainly not derived from the person. It is divisive, not leadership. It speaks of the ‘we who know and everyone else who doesn’t’, of Us (the righteous) and the Others (the deluded, the gullible, the wrong), of the virtuous and trustworthy who are in charge and the ideologues who would destroy all that is good in pursuit of their fatal agendas. This person in the leader’s robes calls on us to unite in this time of tragedy. He envisions a unity in which those who have different viewpoints forsake their errors and join him and his ilk in the One True Way.
I have had enough of ‘leaders’ whose hands are sticky with power, bogging down like wheels in wet black soil. This war-game is being fought for control, dominance, for the rush of seeing one’s footsteps setting like concrete in the landscape – and to keep the other bastards away from the machinery of influence. It is not for the common good of the common people: these people are so far separated from anything tarred as ‘common’ that they may as well exist in a different society. Perhaps they do, with their ilk.
Patronising exhortations to remain clam, to be patient and kind fuel my ire. I am irate. How dare he? How dare he present himself and his rule as being in control and doing all that is reasonable to address the issues, including the warming of the planet? How dare he presume to understand my ‘fear’ when he obviously has no idea of the nightmares I foresee in the flames? Does he not consider what our world will be like if this summer is to become the norm in the future? Who does he listen to? Who in their right mind thinks that the chance of repeated catastrophes is worth the royalties, is worth appeasing the vested corporates with shareholders to appease at any cost?
Fuck you. You haven’t listened to the scientific warnings dating back into at least the 1970s, even as they have become increasingly blunt and the models increasingly refined and accurate. You deal in spin, half-truths and deliberate deception in response to logical concerns. You have fobbed off my letters with platitudes. You are willing to dice with the future of my grandchildren, and for what? You risk catastrophic social disintegration, and for what? There will be nothing artificial or divine about the Armageddon that is beginning to bleed this world. Present tense – in the Now.
Enough of being polite. It is said that politics is played hard in Australia, perhaps by way of excusing the savagery that breaks into the public view now and again. Why not also the democracy of free speech, public action and protest?
If there were a modicum of leadership, even compassion, there would be Listening not deflecting, serious action rather than defensiveness. Energy would be put into confronting the causes not defending their position. It would be characterised by flexibility not defensiveness. The group of emergency ex-chiefs would have been given an audience when they asked, six months ago. Current actions, criticised roundly around the globe, would not be touted as being better than reasonable. There would be an admission that more needs to be done, that what is proposed will not avoid perennial disaster, that we are currently bludging on others.