“So where’s home for you?” is a question we get a lot and one we don’t have a simple answer to. Home is where the heart is of course and in our lifetime we have shared our hearts out to a few places, but Australia is special. We settled right in, in our 20’s when we first came to live and work there for the first time. As my initial contract expired and we wanted to start a family close to parent and sibling support, we came to sell our few possessions before moving. The person who came to buy our trusty Corolla in which we had had so many adventures, remarked “this will make a good shopping trolley for my wife, but I’ll first have to clean out the half of New South Wales you have accumulated in the back!” I winked at the car, “Sorry” I said “it could be worse and at least they will take better care of you”.
‘Half of NSW’, well we had certainly seen a lot of the beautiful country, camping and walking in many remote spots amongst the big trees and the somewhat ungainly wildlife that moved deceptively quickly. We loved the open spaces, the fresh air, and the beautiful vistas set to a unique cacophony of the raucous and hysterical calls from the native wildlife. The obvious age of the landscape that had somehow largely escaped the ravages of mankind beyond the cities, reminded us of our own temporary spans as fortunate spectators.
Fire is an untrustworthy friend, beautiful and warm in a confined space, its potential for destruction is evident from watching it consume a single sheet of paper on setting one corner alight. All turns to ash. So while the pictures of the fires consuming the country vividly portray the horror of the friend unchecked, the effect on the parched landscape is as it is on the sheet of paper where one has the perspective of being a mere dot on the page. In that ash, are all our memories, the shaded places, the sparkling vistas and the abundant animal life. Gone. And much worse for so many, their friends, their partners and their loved ones, people of course, but also their pets, their animals and their homes that represent where their hearts are. Burned. And it is far from over yet.
Sorry doesn’t cut it, of course, and anger swells in my own chest at the seemingly wanton destruction. Arsonists may light fires directly but the question is, how are we all culpable by profiting from piling up the fuel and creating the conditions that unleash that beguiling friend into the monster that obliterates all in its path?
My heart goes out to all Australians whose country burns. This will be a time when your generosity shines through and you face difficult decisions about priorities and life consequences. Those fighting to save what they can against all odds have shown extraordinary heroism to the world. If any good is to come eventually, from this disaster, may we heed the warnings spoken by these fires, that the consequences of our inaction hurt the most vulnerable first. Surely we have a custodial responsibility to remember what we value most, to change how we live, and to act for the benefit of the ecosystems that we are such an important part of, and yet are critical to our own survival.
Keep safe Australia, from all of us at SeeBeyondBorders.