Sunday, 22 February 2009

global warming's gonna get you

When it rains here, the house sings with the sound of cicadas, as if they are in the room with me. Standing on the verandah, I you can hear its approach up the valley, and its arrival slugs the roof with rain-shot. Imagine that rain as a hail of embers. What must it have been like - cowering, choking black smoke with that roaring, pounding fury outside? It is shocking in every sense. The tragedy has made us feel their loss deeply, empathy valves seeping. But there is something else at work too - the spectre of mortality has entered out thoughts, jolting us out of complacency.

I don't know about you, but I was glued to the coverage. I wanted every word, every gesture, every scrap of information I could glean from it - I am of the forest folk now. That could happen to me out here in the bush. It did happen 20 years ago, over our western ridge, only back then there was only one farm house - now there are thirty ponderosas clinging to the ridge. I wanted all the information - every single story of escape, every dreadful death, and slowly gained the terrifying knowledge that nothing but sheer luck could save you. It brought with it the sick feeling that no amount of technology or guts is a match for a wildfire - you're an animal, nothing more. The whole society is now fully engaged again, having half-forgotten the fires of 1939, in how to respond to this irresistible force of nature.

Now the authorities look for cause and effect and so begin the recriminations, as if a rogue human is any more predictable than a lightening bolt. 'It's the greenies', it's the local council', they bleat, pointing fingers and apportioning guilt, and its bullshit. Thing is, in spite of all the mod cons, forest dwellers are no different from the white settlers a hundred and fifty years ago. The further away from the social group you go, the more isolated and helpless you become. This has not changed since we crawled down from the trees. 

Oh, and of course, the big one - it's climate change what done it. No - it was fire. And who's calculating the detrimental CO2 emissions by acts of God? Perhaps the Pope should step up to the plate on that one. This whole notion of human induced climate change is a crock of shit, I reckon, being advertised on high rotation to convince us that we need to switch from a petro to carbon economy. We sense that we've got enough stuff, that perhaps the paddock is getting over grazed, and we're looking around for new pasture.

I don't dispute the science, such as it is, but we've only had the technology for such minute measurement for a couple of decades, and only a hundred or so years of accurate data collection on weather patterns. So what the hell use is this information in the bigger scheme of things?These recent measurements aren't really worth anything without something to compare them with, so we look to the nineteenth century, when men started looking back in time and recorded their observations and measurements in minute detail; geologists found that there had been many ice ages, natural historians and paleontologists discovered fossils in the Earth's crust that suggested cataclismic mass extinctions. I don't know about you, but I'm starting to see a pattern here.

Then further back, with the invention of recorded writing, parchments and tablets told ancient oral tales common to most cultures across the globe; the story of an immense flood that wiped out all of creation, save for the chosen few - pockets of human spore that grew into cultures. All we can do is look back into our past, because the future is merely the impending moment. All we have to go on are our senses and our memory.

Since the Black Saturday tragedy, we've all come a bit closer to the reality of what mass extinction in that part of Australia might look like if the climate does get more extreme. The extensive flooding in the north might become the norm if the monsoon moves south, bringing with it the attendant tropical scourge of dengi and malaria; and as the red center further desertifies, even more prolonged droughts.

Is this our fault? Maybe, but I doubt it. In fact I think it is downright anthropocentric to assume that humans can make the slightest impression on the earth. If the global climate is in a process of cyclic change, no amount or recs or carbon credits is going to ward it off, because it seems to me that the process has been going on since the last time the ice melted. 

And why prey tell are we only concerned with the gasses we emit into the atmosphere? There seems to be a large thing that science is leaving out of the equation, carefully ignoring the fact that we are clinging to the surface of a giant ball of molten rock hurtling through a vacuum of cold space.  That's got to be giving off a fair bit of heat all by itself. The atmosphere (including life) is really just a big slimy lather of condensation if you look at it that way.

The best we can do is what all forms of life have ever done on the planet under the same eternal circumstances: adapt. We have to stop understanding sustainability to mean business as usual. If this imaginary climate change does manifest, we will have to think in terms of sustainability of the species. If ours is to be the civilisation that must face dramatic climate change, then let's hope it is the best of our species that adapts and is able to carry the best of it in their minds into a time when again it will flourish in a new season. As above, so below, said the old alchemists, so if we observe 4 seasons in the course of a revolution round the sun, why should there not be seasons of the entire solar system - perhaps we have been living in a global spring, now summer approaches.


  1. Yeah, I have no doubt, we as a race have significantly impacted on the planet. BUT, I do also believe that this is part of a cycle, maybe slightly more extreme, thanks to our footprint, but cyclical none the less.

  2. I also could not drag myself away. It still leaves me cold. Maggs

  3. hughsey, people just can't the long look. yes we have screwed up the planet but also, life goes on. There have been a number of mass extinctions before and they'll happen again and again until the sun goes Nova.

    What mankind is worried about is mankind, how this is going to effect them. We're a selfish lot really.