The Last Continent

(No, this is not about Terry Pratchett’s wonderfully humorous book.)

I saw a meme at the beginning of the year which went something like this:

January 1, 2020; first day of New Year, so far so good.
January 2, 2020; Australia seems to be on fire.
January 3, 2020; World War Three announced.

It was meant to be funny, but its humour is dark because it’s true.

I don’t actually know anyone in Australia, but I have a lot of friends there. This seeming paradox can be explained by the fact that when British Columbia was burning in 2017 and 2018 dozens of Aussies came to our aid. Right now firefighters from BC & Alberta are down under trying to return the favour.

Their fires are worse than ours. We burned out 2 million acres each year. They have lost 3 times that total so far. The topography is different between our two lands; they don’t have our great mountains which act as both a fire break and a royal pain for fighting the flames. I fear Australia will be devastated irrevocably from this disaster. Whole species unique to the continent may go extinct. Areas of it may become uninhabitable; that’s how bad it is.

We were warned to expect 3-5 years of such fire activity here, and it seems to have declined already as last year was ‘nothing’ compared to the years prior. But the cycle will return and it will lengthen and worsen. The main thing people do not understand about climate change is that the initial effect is greater swings of ever-more extreme weather, such as droughts or hurricanes. I did a brief and overly simplified explanation of how it works here.

Anyway the point is I know about wildfires close up and personal. I’m too old and decrepit to fight them myself now (I got admonished by a doctor for even breathing the air during the fires; I guess I was supposed to go to another country or hold my breath), but I know what they look like up close and personal:


And I know what it looked like while we were trapped at the cabin in 2017:

While the ash rained down and burned through leaves and I made repeated mad trips to the house in town to try to save whatever I could because the fire was on the hill 3 miles behind it. That’s when the 4Runner broke:


Oh well at least I’m not having to explain how wildfires are fought and the why of the methods used. I wasted a lot of time trying to enlighten morons about that back when we were burning. People who have never dealt with a problem invariably have an overly simplistic understanding of it. “Just fly the Martin Mars!” was their usual “solution”. Good thing those people weren’t in charge of the actual firefighting efforts!

By the way, there are certain similarities between Mr. Pratchett’s book and the situation in the real Australia now. Although I doubt Rincewind would be of any help to them. He’d doubt it too.

Now, I do have a friend who lives in Puerto Rico. He’s been hammered by hurricanes every year, and this year Earthquakes have hit and once again the island is without power. We have quakes here too; a week or so ago we got nine of them measuring up to 6.3. If they hadn’t told us, we’d not have known. Meanwhile the same size disturbance has turned his island into a disaster area. Again.

Next week our forecast calls for temperatures of -24°C for a high on Tuesday, and similar cold the rest of the week. My wife leaves for England on Monday to deal with her demented sister again. I will be spending the week inside watching movies I guess (certainly not going out to do any photography), but at least I won’t be watching fires or earthquakes bringing my world down around my ears.

And let us not forget it’s the little critters who suffer the most from these disasters. We humans are fairly resilient; wildlife not so much so. Our huge brains give us this advantage. It’s a pity we don’t use them beforehand so that the disasters aren’t so bad. But alas we insist on creating artificial problems of religion and politics and borders because we, for all our immense brain power, can not see the real troubles all around us.

Until it’s too late.



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