I am Australian-born, and although I have lived away from Oz for many years, I still regard myself as Australian. My home is in Victoria where the recent bushfires have done so much terrible damage. So many people have died--we do not yet know how many--and there are many fire victims in hospitals fighting for life. Like Americans, we like to see ourselves as living in a community of order, of laws and organization, where things like wildfires are dealt with quickly and without really serious consequences. My heart goes out to the fallen, to their families and friends, their neighbours, and to the incredibly brave firefighters who have worked to exhaustion this past week. Thank you and God bless you.
The bush animals -- as my daughter used to say when she was a little girl, it hurts my heart so much. Koalas can't run, and on the ground they are slow and awkward. Wombats probably hunkered down in their burrows, and I hope the fires passed over them without harm. Bandicoots and wallabies and possums both ring- and brushy-tailed, flying squirrels and kangaroos, goannas and flying foxes, and the birds! How do we count the birds? The lyrebirds don't fly, and many of these fires were in their dancing grounds; bellbirds and butcherbirds and rosellas and king parrots and sulphur-crested cockies and wattlebirds and honeyeaters -- where are they? How many have perished? How will we count this? And how do we estimate the forward loss?
The vegetation will re-generate because it has evolved over millenia to do just that; the eucalyptus regnans will regrow, albeit slowly because they don't regenerate from root and branch but only from burned-over seeds; it will take many many years for them to attain their mature height of more than 90 meters,but there are still some remaining forests where one can see them in their splendour, but can we depend on the next generation of Australians being able to see them, being able to listen to the kookaburras' dawn and dusk celebrations, to watch a lyrebird as he dances and sings and courts his lady with all the calls of the bushland? And what if they can't? Does that lack somehow detract from their Australian-ness, from the shared experience and love of the things that make our country unique?
Truly, this hurts my heart.