Preparing For The Next Fires

Many have since argued that climate change has had a significant impact on the increased intensity of the “Black Summer” bush fires. That as the years have progressed so has the intensity of the fires. Bush fires are no strangers to Australia. They have continued to destroy land for thousands of years. Ash Wednesday – 1983 and Black Saturday – 2009 have been considered to be the worst bush fires that Australia has faced. Now, it seems as though that the Black Summer bushfires can be added to that list. Despite facing disaster after disaster during 2020, the disaster that Australia must prepare for, are the next fires.

What impact has the Black Summer bush fires had on the land?

The Black Summer bush fires have had a ‘devastating’ and ‘crippling’ impact on the ecosystem (00:00 – 00:30). During Ash Wednesday, “approximately 210,000 hectares of land” was burnt. During Black Saturday, more than 1 million wild and domesticated animals were lost and 450,000 hectares of land was burnt”. During Black Summer, it has been reported that “over 1 billion animals were killed and 434 million tonnes of CO2 has been emitted” and  “more than 12.6 million hectares burned”.

Black Summer has had an undeniably significant impact on the land, ecosystems and atmosphere. The land has lost entire ecosystems due to being hit by fires again and again. A specific outcome of the impact of these fires, may be that the ecosystems including all the nature, wildlife and vegetation will not be the same again; evolving differently in the attempt to adjust to the results of the fires. This may have a negative impact on the current ecosystems and biodiversity’s, as they may be harmed due to the different and evolved ecosystems. Moreover, due to the fires over the years, that the land has faced and may continue to face; the land will suffer, as it may lose certain ecosystems, nature and wildlife, as well as, plants and trees that are vital to the climate.

Will the rise in climate temperatures mean more unpredictable and raging fires in the future?

Fire seasons will start earlier and end slightly later and generally be more intense. This affect increases over time but should be directly observable by 2020” – Ross Garnaut. Ross Garnaut’s report seemed to have foreshadowed the state in which bush fires will eventually reach, due to the climate. An assessment to determine the role of climate change on Black Summer bush fires, has stated that global warming has increase the risk of hot, dry weather – that played a role in the intensity of the bush fires – by 30%.

It comes as no surprise that the global climate has had a significant effect on the increased intensity of bush fires. The climate has significantly changed in the last few decades, in such a drastic and alarming manner, that it seemed it was only a short matter of time before its effects will show. Since the change and rise in climate temperatures, climate change has been affecting areas such as moist rainforests – that were once fire retardant – to dry out due to heat and drought; causing them to burn quickly and intensely. These fires have grown to become so intense and frequent that they have created their own weather patterns. If climate change continues to increase, so will the fires. Moreover, it seems as though climate change has not been an issue that has been addressed correctly or in significant detail. During Scott Morison’s announcement of Royal Commission into fires, the focus was merely on “disaster response”. Climate was least acknowledged. If climate change is not acknowledged and prepared for or changed, it will continue to wreak havoc on land.

What measures can be placed to improve current methods and prevent and prepare for the next fires and why is Indigenous knowledge so significant to fire management?

Currently, standard hazard reduction is implemented, with a focus on burning large areas of land by stripping the bottom level of the forest, to limit fuel for intense fires.

There are a few methods that can be implemented to improve current procedures, as well as, prevent and prepare for the next fires. Cultural Burning creates diversity in burning land. Cultural Burning is a landscape aspect, informing current practices and people about the lands of higher risk; focusing on burning the right places, at the right time. Moreover, Green Fire Breaks determine which flora species are more flammable. The process involves planting low flammable flora and vegetation across the landscape, to stop or slow down bush fires. It is much more manageable and has been done by Indigenous people for thousands of years. It relies on factors such as ignitability, sustainability and combustibility.

Fire management is the preparation and prevention of possible fires. It requires certain knowledge and skill to be able to construct a fire management regime that protects the land and the people. Placing Indigenous people in the roles of fire management, allows people with more understanding and knowledge of the land, to improve modern methods to prepare and prevent intense fires.

Listen to the episode of Think Sustainability: Preparing for the Next Fire here.

Friday 9th of October, 2020

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