In the Aftermath…

The feature photo – Children’s play equipment stands in a burnt-out yard on Bullocky Way, Possum Brush, south of Taree in the Mid North Coast region of NSW. Image: AAP

I was looking for a suitable photo for the feature. I don’t like putting up photos of animals suffering – and there is plenty of those – but this photo reminded me of the scene in the Terminator movie where the playground is on fire, depicting the end of the world.

It is now Friday – three days after the critical fire day – and a week since the initial panic set in. I was going to talk about other things, but I want to talk about how the whole episode has affected me. I almost feel like I don’t deserve to feel like I do as nothing has been lost, however I’ve read enough on the effects of a traumatic event to know that while some people sail through very well, others do not .

On the day after the critical day, I was exhausted. When we could finally relax, I slept on and off all day while watching fire updates. Yesterday I had things to do – I had to go out to an appointment – and we needed groceries. While at the shopping centre I saw they were asking for food items to be donated – so I bought extra and put it in the donation trolleys – a very small thing I could do to help the less fortunate. By the time I got home and fed the horses, I’d had enough. I was in bed early and slept soundly all night.

Today I felt worse. I felt a bit faint, sick in the stomach – which then changes to feeling so hungry I can barely wait to eat. My jaw and body are still aching – my left foot has started to get sore – and I have this light headed feeling.  I feel mentally fragile. I look at the chaos in the house and can’t pick up one thing!

I don’t say this to gain sympathy – I’m merely giving a personal account of how this event has affected me. I know this will pass. I think to myself – if this is how I feel, how must the front line workers and volunteers feel? How do the people who have lost everything feel?

So for now we are safe, but our fire risk isn’t over. This dry spell will continue with no rain in sight for some time. We are lucky to have a good water supply, but if it goes on, we will also be short of water.

In social media, the blame game has started. One group argues that ‘the greenies’ are at fault. If they didn’t oppose hazard reduction burning we would have been safe. Others say that cutbacks in the staff who manage forests have accounted for the increase in fires. Many of the state forests have become national parks in the last few decades – and since then fire management operations haven’t been as consistent.

But has this large fire just resulted because of poor or non existent management or is it more complex?  Doug and I have talked at length about the current fire crisis. He spent most of his working life employed by Forestry – most of it was spent managing endangered plant species and studying the effects of fire and logging on vegetation – so even though he doesn’t know all the details – he has a better knowledge than many of how fires move and what happens to forests after fire.

As he said, fires are a natural part of a forest cycle. All these areas would have been burnt before. Before we inhabited Australia, fires would have started from lightning strikes and burnt uncontrollably.  Eucalypt trees regenerate after fire, as do many other plant species in eucalypt forests.  If there were no fires, over a period of several hundred years or more,   the vegetation in many parts of the north coast would become  rainforest  – and eucalypts  would gradually disappear in those areas.  Other plants that require fires to regenerate would also disappear in the long term and some animal species would also be lost.

But because we are humans who care about what happens, we don’t want any fires – and certainly don’t want them threatening us.  We operate on much shorter time scales. We won’t be here in 100 years to see a forest regrow. We want to do everything we can to protect them!

Fires like this have not happened in our region in living memory – so therefore can we attribute this as a symptom of climate change? I think so. And in my opinion, instead of arguing about whether climate change is really occurring, let’s just say it is, and start to take action – even with the smallest change.

While we are waiting for governments to catch up – what can we do?  Even changing something is a start.   We are vegetarian – originally because I couldn’t stand animals dying just so I could eat them, but now of course it’s a factor in the whole climate change war.  So even just having one extra vegetarian day is a start for meat eaters.

But I think truly appreciating the natural world, treating it like gold – and waging war on anything that threatens it is what everyone needs to do.  Politicians need to realise that we are in a warlike situation and throw every resource they have at protecting our environment.

A day doesn’t go past when I don’t marvel at our forest.  I breathe it in.  I look at the tall trees – there is a magical world in there.  When I was young, I felt just the same.  I’ve talked previously about my time in our bushwalking club in my twenties.  I know we all felt the same way.  Some of the places we visited were amazing.  I wrote about it in this post Part 123 – The Power of Memories and in this one Part 127 – The Reunion.



All the above photos were taken in the late 70s and early 80s.  The final photo in this series was about 1979 – that’s me on the right on the rock – enjoying our lunch break.  I hope that future generations get the chance to explore what we have and to truly appreciate all that nature can offer.

And so ends my blog series on this week’s fire crisis.  If there is any more changes, I will keep you informed.

Thanks to all the well wishers from near and far – and from my far away clicker friends to show such concern.  It means a lot.

In the next post I will return to my time at Anja Beran’s!