(New York Times)
As record fires rage, the country’s leaders seem intent on sending it to its doom.
By Richard Flanagan. – Mr. Flanagan is a novelist.
BRUNY ISLAND, Australia — Australia today is ground zero for the climate catastrophe. Its glorious Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world-heritage rain forests are burning, its giant kelp forests have largely vanished, numerous towns have run out of water or are about to, and now the vast continent is burning on a scale never before seen.
The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.
The fires have already burned about 14.5 million acres — an area almost as large as West Virginia, more than triple the area destroyed by the 2018 fires in California and six times the size of the 2019 fires in Amazonia. Canberra’s air on New Year’s Day was the most polluted in the world partly because of a plume of fire smoke as wide as Europe.
Scientists estimate that close to half a billion native animals have been killed and fear that some species of animals and plants may have been wiped out completely. Surviving animals are abandoning their young in what is described as mass “starvation events.” At least 18 people are dead and grave fears are held about many more.
All this, and peak fire season is only just beginning.
As I write, a state of emergency has been declared in New South Wales and a state of disaster in Victoria, mass evacuations are taking place, a humanitarian catastrophe is feared, and towns up and down the east coast are surrounded by fires, all transport and most communication links cut, their fate unknown.
An email that the retired engineer Ian Mitchell sent to friends on New Year’s Day from the small northern Victoria community of Gipsy Point speaks for countless Australians at this moment of catastrophe:
“All we and most of Gipsy Point houses still here as of now. We have 16 people in Gipsy pt.
No power, no phone no chance of anyone arriving for 4 days as all roads blocked. Only satellite email is working We have 2 bigger boats and might be able to get supplies ‘esp fuel at Coota.
We need more able people to defend the town as we are in for bad heat from Friday again. Tucks area will be a problem from today, but trees down on all tracks, and no one to fight it.
We are tired, but ok.
But we are here in 2020!
The bookstore in the fire-ravaged village of Cobargo, New South Wales, has a new sign outside: “Post-Apocalyptic Fiction has been moved to Current Affairs.”
And yet, incredibly, the response of Australia’s leaders to this unprecedented national crisis has been not to defend their country but to defend the fossil fuel industry, a big donor to both major parties — as if they were willing the country to its doom. While the fires were exploding in mid-December, the leader of the opposition Labor Party went on a tour of coal mining communities expressing his unequivocal support for coal exports. The prime minister, the conservative Scott Morrison, went on vacation to Hawaii.
Since 1996 successive conservative Australian governments have successfully fought to subvert international agreements on climate change in defense of the country’s fossil fuel industries. Today, Australia is the world’s largest exporter of both coal and gas. It recently was ranked 57th out of 57 countries on climate-change action.
In no small part Mr. Morrison owes his narrow election victory last year to the coal-mining oligarch Clive Palmer, who formed a puppet party to keep the Labor Party — which had been committed to limited but real climate-change action — out of government. Mr. Palmer’s advertising budget for the campaign was more than double that of the two major parties combined. Mr. Palmer subsequently announced plans to build the biggest coal mine in Australia.
Since Mr. Morrison, an ex-marketing man, was forced to return from his vacation and publicly apologize, he has chosen to spend his time creating feel-good images of himself, posing with cricketers or his family. He is seen far less often at the fires’ front lines, visiting ravaged communities or with survivors. Mr. Morrison has tried to present the fires as catastrophe-as-usual, nothing out of the ordinary.
This posture seems to be a chilling political calculation: With no effective opposition from a Labor Party reeling from its election loss and with media dominated by Rupert Murdoch — 58 percent of daily newspaper circulation — firmly behind his climate denialism, Mr. Morrison appears to hope that he will prevail as long as he doesn’t acknowledge the magnitude of the disaster engulfing Australia.
Mr. Morrison made his name as immigration minister, perfecting the cruelty of a policy that interns refugees in hellish Pacific-island camps, and seems indifferent to human suffering. Now his government has taken a disturbing authoritarian turn, cracking down on unions, civic organizations and journalists. Under legislation pending in Tasmania, and expected to be copied across Australia, environmental protesters now face up to 21 years in jail for demonstrating.
“Australia is a burning nation led by cowards,” wrote the leading broadcaster Hugh Riminton, speaking for many. To which he might have added “idiots,” after Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack blamed the fires on exploding horse manure.
Such are those who would open the gates of hell and lead a nation to commit climate suicide.
More than one-third of Australians are estimated to be affected by the fires. By a significant and increasing majority, Australians want action on climate change, and they are now asking questions about the growing gap between the Morrison government’s ideological fantasies and the reality of a dried-out, rapidly heating, burning Australia.
The situation is eerily reminiscent of the Soviet Union in the 1980s, when the ruling apparatchiks were all-powerful but losing the fundamental, moral legitimacy to govern. In Australia today, a political establishment, grown sclerotic and demented on its own fantasies, is facing a monstrous reality which it has neither the ability nor the will to confront.
Mr. Morrison may have a massive propaganda machine in the Murdoch press and no opposition, but his moral authority is bleeding away by the hour. On Thursday, after walking away from a pregnant woman asking for help, he was forced to flee the angry, heckling residents of a burned-out town. A local conservative politician described his own leader’s humiliation as “the welcome he probably deserved.”
As Mikhail Gorbachev, the last Soviet leader, once observed, the collapse of the Soviet Union began with the nuclear disaster at Chernobyl in 1986. In the wake of that catastrophe, “the system as we knew it became untenable,” he wrote in 2006. Could it be that the immense, still-unfolding tragedy of the Australian fires may yet prove to be the Chernobyl of climate crisis?
Richard Flanagan won the Man Booker Prize for “The Narrow Road to the Deep North” and is the author, most recently, of the novel “First Person.”
Correction: Jan. 3, 2020
An earlier version of this article misstated the year of Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s narrow election victory. It was in 2019, not this year.
2. Drought by Design: The Genociding of Australia (extract)
Well folks I just wanted to come on and give you a bit of an update on the situation here in Australia. And try to give you some kind of perspective on what the overall plan is here.
Where they’re going with this whole climate change thing, and the fires, and the situation that we’re facing here. It’s a very very serious situation folks, a lot more serious than a lot of people are realizing. I mean a few people are probably getting it, but not enough, and not enough are getting it quick enough.
As I showed you, last report that I brought you, which was called “Australia, wake up or die”, if you didn’t get to see that there’s a link below. As I showed you in that report, you know, the monsoon troughs we get up here fill the Great Artesian Basin and fill the aquifers and these river systems and all the East coast, everything runs off the aquifer system that we have in this country
You know there was some speculation on that show, that report that I put out. People were arguing whether the Great Artesian Basin actually fills the coastal aquifers or whatever. These are details, folks. The fact of the matter is that the country is drying up, and it’s being done deliberately. And it’s being done through water mismanagement and there’s a real overall plan going on here and not enough are getting it quick enough. And we are really facing a serious situation here, folks.
You know the fires are just out of control. You’ve got fire trucks being engulfed in flame. They’re really kind of selling it to the people. Heading for another major heatwave. This is today’s news. You know, it’s just a drastic situation that we’re facing here. We’ve got towns running out of water, you know emergency water rations. We’ve got our Prime Minister of course taking a holiday in the middle of it all if anyone thought that he did care. Of course he is back now and he is apologizing for running out on everybody and he’s admitting that it’s a little bit smoky in Sydney.
When you look at the Australian Government, the Australian Government is being presented to the world as a government which is ignoring the realities of climate change. It is being presented as a government of climate deniers. And you’ll find that a lot of people around the world are actually climate deniers if you want to label them as that. I mean even the word “denial” is a loaded term. But a lot of people don’t buy into the whole climate change thing. Even with Greta Thunberg, with what she’s done.
She’s actually done us a bit of a service because they’ve got to push things in the wrong way. You can see that she’s very controlled. She’s pushing a controlled narrative. She’s pushing an agenda, and it’s actually woken a lot of people up to start looking into climate change and a lot of them are realizing that this has been manufactured.
So they need an event. They need an event to push it to the world, to show what happens when you ignore climate change. So they’ve deliberately taken the water out of this country. They’ve deliberately withheld the water from the people. They’ve deliberately dried the country out.
There’s been an enormous amount of effort to prevent people from collecting old firewood and collecting dead trees from forests to make sure that they are tinder-dry and make sure that there’s plenty of fuel for the fires. All the burnoffs have been stopped as well for the last four years so we haven’t burnt off much of the scrub at all in the last four to five years so this has caused a huge problem.
They’re going through after the fires and they’re cutting down trees as well, saying that these trees are a fire hazard. They left all the fuel there to begin with to have the fire. And anything that has survived they are cutting down as being a fire hazard.
You know they want to devastate this country. They want to show the world what happens when you ignore climate change. Look what just happened to Australia. And they intend to genocide the people of this country to push their point. They don’t care about the people of this country.
You know, they’ve taken the water from the people of this country and as I said, all these wells are illegal. All these dams are illegal. All of this restriction of water is illegal. Selling water is illegal. Even paying your water rates is illegal because it says in the Constitution that “there shall be no trade or commerce on water”. That’s just the way it is.
But they need to set Australia up as an example to the rest of the world so they intend to genocide this country and the people of the country just don’t get it. They really don’t get it, but that’s what’s happening, folks. You know, they’ve dried the country out. They’ve manipulated the weather to push all the clouds away.
And you can talk to people in Tasmania as well. They will tell you that on the West coast of Tasmania it’s been hammering rain for the last few months. It just won’t stop. And that’s all the weather that they’re pushing down from Western Australia.
It doesn’t usually rain at this time of the year in Tasmania. It’s usually raining on the mainland. But now it’s not. It’s not raining on the mainland and it’s raining in Tasmania. Pushing all the weather away, everywhere else. Dried the country out. They’ve sprayed it with sparkler dust. And they’ve presented this government to the world as being a government of climate change deniers.
You know, so much in denial of it that the Prime Minister would even take a holiday to Hawaii in the middle of a firestorm. (snip)
They’re genociding this country in order to make a point to the rest of the world. You can’t tell it to the people. They won’t listen. Some do. Some understand it, but many won’t listen. You know they don’t understand that it’s our right to have the water that’s held up in these places, these dams.
You know, all of this agrofarming and restriction of water is all illegal. The whole thing. And the people of this country need to wake up. They really need to wake up to what’s going on here. This is a very very serious situation and the rest of the world needs to pay attention because they’ve been spraying your countries with sparkler dust as well and they will use this to push the concept of climate change in your countries.
And another interesting thing I’ve been noticing here where I live, and I live quite close to the coast. I live only eight-ten kilometres from the ocean. It’s rain forest, and it’s a beautiful valley setting. The creek out the front, which is dry at the moment, and it’s never been dry
But you know I live not very far from the coast and something that I’m noticing is that so many of the birds aren’t there in the morning, that used to be there. I used to go out and I used to sit there and listen to the bird calls every morning.
There’s probably about a third or a quarter of the bird calls now, just in the last couple of months. They’ve all gone elsewhere obviously, looking for water. And something else that I’m noticing is that here it is – what – the 20th December, something like that, it’s fairly into December. It’s the middle of summer here in Australia, the days are extremely hot.
We’ve got a massive heatwave happening. But at night I’m still sleeping with a doona (a quilt). It’s still quite cold. Very cool nights here at the moment. Unseasonally cool. And this is because the ground is drying out, because as many people know, when you are in the desert it doesn’t matter how hot it gets in the daytime. The temperatures always plummet at night. And the fact that the temperatures are dropping so much at night here in the middle of summer when I’m this close to the coast – it’s been happening, it’s been ongoing, there hasn’t been any time this year that I’ve actually taken the doona off my bed yet.
And this indicates that the ground is drying out. Even though there is still grass here and there are still trees here. It’s turning into a desert, and it’s being done deliberately, folks. We could still turn this around if we released the water back into the river system and if we pay attention to the fact that…you know this government is a criminal entity. It’s a criminal entity, it’s a corporation and they’re running a mining operation here. You can look at the cities, and Sydney, and the Gold Coast, and all the places here. They’re recreational areas for the mining operations that are happening in this country.
If you think that Australia isn’t a corporation, folks, it is. You can go and look it up yourself. It’s a corporation. There’s the number there. It’s a corporation, and it’s running mining operations. And as I said, folks, the people in the country need to wake up. That’s what I attempted to do with the last video that I put out, just to let people know that we’ve got a very urgent situation here.
I got a couple of things wrong in that video. I mentioned that Australia has been a corporation, it has been invalid and all this sort of stuff. I said the government of Australia has been invalid since Bob Hawke signed the Australia Act in 1973. That’s what I said in the last report that I did but I was actually mistaken. I got mixed up.
I’ve got a lot of stuff rattling round in my head, folks. It was Gough Whitlam actually announced the Queen of Australia in 1973, and Bob Hawke introduced the Australia Act in 1988. Against the referendum that we had as a population. We ran a referendum, held a referendum to ask whether we would give government power to local councils and we all voted no, so Bob Hawke wrote the Australia Act and he said we’re going to give power to local councils anyway, through that Act.
But it’s an invalid Act. It actually says within the Act that the Constitution will not be affected. So, that’s the way it goes, folks. And it also says within the Constitution for any people who claim that these water restrictions are, you know there is State legislation and, you know they want to take it to a magistrate’s court or any of this sort of stuff over these issues, it doesn’t matter, folks, because it also says in Section 2 Clause 5 of the Preamble of the Constitution that “This Act applies to all courts, all judges, all states and all people within the Commonwealth, so any judge or lawyer that tells you the Constitution does not apply here in any situation is wrong.
The Constitution applies in every situation, and if they’re telling you it doesn’t then I guess they just became a Constitutional matter for the Supreme Court as well. But that’s the situation we are in, folks. We’ve got to pay attention to what’s going on here. And I think the reality to what’s being sprayed on our countries is actually sparkler dust, and that is what is causing the ferocity of these fires, is a very significant piece of information that people need to take on board for their own countries.
But you watch how this plays out, folks. If the people of Australia don’t wake up they will genocide this country through starvation and thirst and fire and then they will use it as an example to the rest of the world of what happens if you don’t pay attention to climate change. The government of Australia chose to ignore climate change and oh, look what happened to the people of Australia.
Now half of them are dead and the rest of them are refugees. So that’s why we need to pay attention to climate change. Part of the agenda, folks, and it’s being done deliberately.
But as I said, we could release this water. We could reclaim control of this situation. If the people just stood up and said “Enough is enough!” And we don’t even need any violent revolution.
We just have to stop complying with this system and stop going along with it. Down tools. Stop going to work and paying your taxes and doing all this. Stop supporting the criminal racketeering that is the Australian government system.
And folks, it’s time to snap out of the slumber and wake up, because we have a real situation here. Thanks for listening.
You know, there is a lot of stuff I want to bring you but there’s just too much important stuff that needs to be dealt with, these fires and this extreme loss of water.
There was even a report on the mainstream that I meant to have there in the news reports but I somehow misplaced it. But it says that Sydney will very likely be out of water within two to two and a half years as well.
So, again folks they’re doing this while they’re withholding the water themselves. Through trade and commerce, and it’s a racket.
We could turn things around. We could go and release the water. It’s our constitutional duty to release the water. And you know we need to form some sort of a valid government.
I reckon we should put the aboriginal people in charge of managing the water in this country because they know how this country works and they know where the aquifers are and they know how the river systems work and know how to manage them.
That’s who should be in control of the environment of this country, not the people in Canberra. Have a nice day folks.