Its a Total Fire Ban and I'm tense

As I type this I'm thinking about the fires in NSW and Qld and the 6 RFS members in hospital right now and the 2 RFS members killed. As far as I'm aware they were all volunteers. Like me. I'm also thinking about the fact it is a Total Fire Ban (TFB) day, the temperature expected to get to 46 (it is 44 now) and the wind is picking up. Dry thunderstorms are predicted later this afternoon. I'm tense. Waiting for the inevitable pager that calls me out onto a tanker and out to fight an implacable, relentless and completely indiscriminate enemy.

I live in a relatively safe part of Victoria as far as fires go. It is mainly grass fire risk, and the majority of fires are started by lightning strikes, machinery malfunction or misuse, or embers from other fires. Even so, the risk is real, and ever present at this time of the year. This is the time of year that normal farming activities become risks of starting fires. A harvester hitting a rock can produce enough sparks to set fire to the tinder-dry crop, and it may not be immediately obvious to the operator. While we hope that farmers don't engage in risky activity during a TFB, at some stage they have to harvest or lose the crop.

I'm also a contractor. That means that if I am not at the computer, I am not doing billable work, and I don't get paid. I'm not pointing this out to seek pity. It is just a fact of life. A data point. As a contractor working in the computer industry I'm probably luckier than others. I can at least do some work outside normal working hours. Others are not so fortunate.

I also live on acreage and have animals and poultry. My wife and I are getting outside every half hour or so to water down pens and check on the animals. I know I'll have to bury some birds this year that will have died from heat stress, despite all of our precautions. It happened last year, and will continue to happen in the coming years.

A lot has been said about this fire season, which has really only just begun, and climate change and politicians and getting the ADF to help out. A lot has been well meaning, a lot scathing, and a lot misinformed. Let me give my take on it.

We are currently in an existential crisis. The climate emergency is not waiting for politicians to make up their mind. It is here, it is now. If you still believe that climate change is a hoax then fuck off now. You are just making it easier for politicians to put their heads in the sand. There is no credible scientific evidence of your claim - the climate is getting hotter, it is caused primarily by burning fossil fuels. Get over it and deal with it. I have no sympathy for your position. Even the oil companies have known what they were doing for more than 30 years, and like the tobacco companies before them they have spent billions in trying to undermine the science and get politicians to sit on their hands. Unlike tobacco, the climate is completely non-selective when it comes to its victims. Nobody is immune to the effects, no matter how much you might like to think otherwise. Stop enabling them.

Politicians like to say we need to go slowly or we might hurt the economy. Sorry, that one doesn't wash either. Investment in renewables, and in the grid to enable renewables to take a bigger role, is going to bolster the economy. Even now renewables are cheaper than fossil fuels in energy generation - one of the largest contributors to CO2. They say that we have to be mindful not to hurt the coal industry because it is a money earner and if we don't dig it up someone else will. Why don't we take the $2 billion or so that we currently give to the mining industry to prop it up and instead spend it on bolstering renewables? That would pay dividends beyond the surplus-fanatics dreams. But no, somehow coal mining is sacred. The car industry was left to die on the vine, and that employed something like 3 times what coal mining does. Automation is seeing less jobs in coal. On any purely free market view, renewables is where the action is. Coal mining is on life support.

The finger is often pointed to India and China as building new coal-fired power stations so what we do doesn't matter. I don't know about China, but I do know that in India many of the proposed coal generators are unlikely ever to be built due to water stress and air quality. Even now two of the largest are 7 and 9 years behind schedule with not even a sod turned in the latter case. In India there are something like 17 provinces that are now declared as "eternally in drought". There is intense pressure in India to cut coal. They are facing similar issues to us - politicians unwilling to wean themselves from the teat of the fossil fuel lobby. But action is happening, and things are moving quickly. Watch this space...

How do I know this? As I said I work in the computer industry. One of the companies I work with is a non-profit that is already achieving greenhouse gas reductions with innovative solutions. They work with electricity grids worldwide, and with governments and other stakeholders. Their system is already legislated to be used to make energy storage systems throughout California carbon negative. I.e. they will be removing CO2 from the Californian grid by clever algorithms to ensure they don't charge when the grid is powered by coal or gas. I've seen the data. They are now working with Google to extend that coverage worldwide using satellite imaging to detect emissions. This is just a tip of the iceberg. There are hundreds of groups actively working out how to reduce carbon in a way that is compatible with a free-market economy. It is possible, it is happening, and it will only accelerate.

Back to politicians. Well one in particular. Scott Morrison. Our Prime Minister. The guy who touted a piece of coal through parliament. The guy who was missing in action and only returned when fire fighters died. The guy who thinks that coming back the day he was expected is cutting short his holiday. The guy who won't talk about climate change. The guy who thinks saying sorry for people taking offence is anything other than passive aggressive insult. The guy who doesn't understand that leadership isn't just having the title and saying you are on top of things while sipping a mai tai. That guy. I think I'm done there.

What can ScoMo do? A lot. I can't think of another PM that has been as cavalier in his duty than ScoMo. You are there to govern for all, not just the chosen. You could, for instance, show up on a fireground and hand water bottles out. Sure, it doesn't do anything, but it does show that you are interested in "the quiet Australians" you so often go on about. You could have made a few quick calls and got some food and water supplies to the firegrounds. You could have declared a climate emergency, as well as a national emergency and all that that entails. You could have given a damn. But you didn't. You don't. You can't.

Meawhile the chatter on the CFA radio is now almost constant. Fires in multiple areas in our region. I'm still tense, still waiting, still haven't had to turn out - yet.

1 comment

Comment from: Michael Todd [Visitor]
Michael Todd

Big respect to you Adam and thank you for giving your unique perspective.
Is over 45 years I have speaking publicly about this and I am stepping up efforts now

01/01/20 @ 19:51

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