The fires

Jann Gilbert, marine biologist, lost her home in the Mallacoota fires in eastern Victoria. In the Australian newspaper today, she was reported to have said: “The intensity of the fire was astounding. The ferocity of it has everything to do with climate change. I have lost everything. I just have the clothes on my back.”

Reports from Cobargo, southern New South Wales: “Residents have told of the devastation and terror they felt as fire roared through the village on the NSW south coast, claiming the lives of two people, destroying dozens of homes and leaving about 10 key businesses in ruins. Matthew Elmslie woke at 3.30am on Tuesday to see a 100m-wide fire charging towards his cattle farm in the historic town. By sunset, all he had left was the clothes on his back and a torch.”

Credit: David Caird, The Australian

The time and locations change, but the bushfire experience does not. 36 years ago, the Canberra Times was reporting details of the Ash Wednesday fires in February 1983: “Victoria was in chaos yesterday. Today, it will be in mourning. […] Emergency-service officials, when asked yesterday to assess the numbers of deaths and injuries and damage, said, “We can’t. It’s just chaotic.” That was the story everywhere as frantic relatives and friends tried to check on people living or on holiday in the worst-hit areas. At least 24 people died in the Cockatoo-Beaconsfield area in the Dandenongs. A young engaged couple died as they huddled together in a stormwater gutter. An elderly man died in his front yard trying to save his house from the flames. […] In the same area 12 volunteer firefighters died (and one is still missing) when two tankers were engulfed by the flames. Two more firemen died at Nar-Nar-Goon. On the coast west of Melbourne, almost the entire population of popular seaside town Lorne huddled on the pier as the fire swept through. At nearby Fairhaven, an elderly pensioner refused to leave his house and died. At Lorne, 50 houses were destroyed. At quiet Airey’s Inlet, 300 houses are gone. In rural Upper Beaconsfield, all that was left was a milk bar. One resident estimated the fire had come through at 120 km/h; another said, “This is the end of the world.” In Melbourne, it took several hours for the full horror to sink in as Wednesday ended with 40 degree-plus temperatures. […] Witnesses tell their stories to the media in a mixture of understatement and shocked awe. […] Survivors were stunned: “All I’ve got is what I’m wearing,” said one sobbing woman at Belgrave. “It was just so quick I couldn’t do a thing.” “I’ve never seen anything so frightening in all my life,” said another woman. “Really, you would have had just as much hope spitting on it, but you had to try anyway.” […] The confirmed death toll in the Victorian and South Australian bushfires stood at 69 last night. […] The South Australian toll stood at 26. […] The Prime Minister, Mr Fraser, visited fire-devastated areas yesterday. […]Yesterday, despite a hot beginning to the day, the maximum temperature was only 33 degrees. A cool change caused the temperature to drop after midday. Today would continue to be cooler, with a maximum temperature of 26. The weekend was expected to be fine and warm with a gradual increase in the maximum temperature. There was little prospect of rain.”

Blackshirts, brownshirts and hair shirts

I listened to a BBC Hard Talk interview of Roger Hallam this weekend, he being the founder of Extinction Rebellion. The ER group comprises the type of people who glue themselves to streets and footpaths because of climate change. No, it’s not clear why being glued to the road will change the climate, but it takes all sorts.

It is worth listening to Roger to understand the depth of his paranoia. In his mind, human civilisation is about to collapse. Within 50 years, he says the planet’s population will have dropped to 1 billion. That is, 6 billion people (give or take a few) will die. Primarily, this will be due to starvation. Roger believes that ‘the elites’ and the politicians know this but have been lying to the people about efforts being made to combat climate change. In his view, a critical mass of ‘ordinary’ people have realised this and now it is time for mass civil disobedience. He has studied theories of establishing revolution. At least in this regard, he knows his stuff.

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Western Civilisation

It’s over 30 years since the beneficial partnership of Thatcher and Reagan. 40 years earlier, Churchill and Roosevelt formed a partnership in the face of a potentially catastrophic enemy, with a little spice added by Stalin clinging on. These great Atlanticist partnerships are few and far between. They seem to emerge only when times are truly difficult. They are rooted in the fundamentals of western civilisation, freedom and responsibility of the individual, they hold the family as the unit of society and deem constraints on the size of Government as essential. Well, times are difficult now. I wonder if there is a new partnership ready to form between Boris Johnson and Donald Trump. I’m hopeful.

Rainbow Lorikeets

Noisy little birds. They chew through the apples on my apple trees. But their pairing and concerns for each other are endearing. They witter away to each other as if discussing today’s letters to the editor. This chap was photographed in the Melbourne autumn on Kodak Ektachrome 100 film, 100mm lens.

Bob Hawke

Bob Hawke, former Australian Prime Minister, died today. Bob was a larrikin and a stalwart of the Australian Labor Party. His partnership in government during the 1980s with Treasurer Paul Keating was a genuine advantage for this country and set in place many reforms that added to our fortunes, for the nation as a whole.

Bob was a Labor PM unlike those before and after him. A Rhodes scholar, a firebrand, a union leader, a heavy drinker and guilty of certain other alleged character flaws not for me to air, he came to the leadership of the ALP at the exact time the election was called in February 1983. The election date itself was March 5, 1983 and the ALP with Bob at the helm, won. Malcolm Fraser’s prime ministerial career was over, the Liberal/Country Party coalition government was over and, amazingly, Labor was back in power federally only 8 years after the previous disastrous Labor government under Gough Whitlam had been thumped at the ballot box and kicked out in disgrace.

Bob was cut from a different cloth than was Gough. Bob was economically literate. He served his country very well.

The Spanish Elections

Spain is following exactly the same pattern that all other western countries are going through.  The political divide is no longer between left and right, the continuum that was formed in the French Revolution and has lasted over 200 years. The divide is now between insiders and outsiders. Insiders include all mainstream political parties, all government civil servants, the institutions of state, education and church, and big business. Centre right parties are being decimated everywhere, and rightly so. The outsiders are labelled far-right or populists or deplorables etc by the insiders. The outsiders confuse and scare the insiders. They are actually made up of people that have, under the old left/right divide, a range of political views. This is behind Trump, Brexit,  gilet jaunes, Hungary, Italy, Alternative for Deutschland and now, the so-called far right extremist party in Spain. The story in Spain is not so much the socialist win, as that was expected, it is the weakness of it in the face of the rise of the ‘far-right extremists.’

From the end is nigh, file.

The Economist newspaper this week reported that the findings of an academic study of insects in a forest in Puerto Rico have “triggered alarm, almost panic.” The piece introduces the term “insectageddon” and ponders the chance of an “insect apocalypse.” The issue is that if the insect world is decimated, plant pollination would be too, the food chain would collapse and all animal life would disappear.

It’s always useful to have another looming global catastrophe theory, especially if 97% of scientists agree with it, in case the current looming global catastrophe theory turns out to be wrong.