Thomas Keneally: ‘These fires have changed us’

The swamp near my home has been dry for two years, and fires burn down to the beaches.

‘We’ve pissed mother nature off, big time’: the people coming home after Australia’s fires.

Last Australian autumn, and all through winter, a group of retired fire chiefs wanted to meet with prime minister Scott Morrison, and warn him that Australia had passed, as if through a gate, to a new level of combustibility, and that the fire peril for the coming summer would be unprecedented in length and ferocity.

For fear that the group might link this menace with the forbidden term “climate change”, the leader Australians now call “Scotty from marketing” refused to meet them, though in good faith they kept on trying to arrange a session with him into the spring.

As they pointed out, Morrison took considerably less time before meeting church leaders who wanted to be exempt from anti-discrimination laws involving the employment of gay staff and similar “freedom of religion” matters.

The fire chiefs worried that we share our combustibility with the Pacific coast of the United States, and that given the overlapping North American and Australian fire seasons, the hiring of air tankers was going to get more and more difficult.

Above all, they were concerned that this summer’s fires would take on a new scale and not surrender to normal firefighting. They felt they had begun to see abnormal symptoms in the 1990s.The New South Wales coast is a place of childhood vacations and dreams, with beaches that stretch for miles  … Read More

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