February 9, 2009
So Australia burns
What is the auto-ignition temperature of a landscape? As Victoria wilts under its highest ever recorded temperature after an incredible string of superheated days. Now walls of flame march across the landscape like something out of a nightmare heavy on the helplessness and death, and anyone even passingly familiar with the area can only watch aghast. Australia’s greatest natural disaster has the inevitability of heartache. Some of the fires were started by arsonists (some of them firefighters themselves, if history is any guide), but even the lightning strikes or sparks from exhaust-pipes or accidental glass lenses lying in the hot sun were just grist to the mill of chance.
Of course I am now distant from these events (which allows me to ignore the concurrent floods in Queensland), but I still feel an emotional impact from them. What do you do when the desert continent turns its dragon breath onto you, other than run away? The hot interior fascinated me when I lived in Oz. The outback itself very nearly fulfills the role of Australia’s subconscious, mythologised and demonised to the point of being unrecognisable, it makes its presence felt in a spell of conditions and weather changes that could only result in tragedy. My heart goes out to everyone involved.