The Fires in Australia

W. Hall

The Australian Greek-language newspaper “Neos Kosmos” on 16th January published an article entitled “How far away is Australia? The deadly fires we are experiencing in Australia ‘are frightening Greece too.'” The article was written by the head of the environment section of SYRIZA Socrates Famellos. According to Mr. Famellos “The fires in Australia, which are caused in part by climate change and accelerate its development, have burnt over 4.8 million hectares, an area six times larger than the Amazon fires.

Data from the scientific community reveals that almost half a billion animals, many of them indigenous species, and unfortunately many human lives, have been added to this tragic total. It is similarly tragic that Australia has a large part of the responsibility for the poor result of the recent United Nations summit for the climate. It is the largest export country for coal and natural gas, together with the USA and Brazil, and its new government has announced new investment in coal mines….This is our biggest problem in the battle for the Climate. There is an oversupply of announcements, but behaviour does not change.” Mr. Famellos concludes: “Fossil fuels threaten the environment and the peace, the most precious elements in our lives.”

Intellectuals in Australia who oppose the climate policies of the Australian government are even more scathing in their condemnation. The celebrated Australian writer Richard Flanagan writes: “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.” The prime minister Scott Morrison has tried to present the fires as a run-of-the-mill disaster, something not uncommon. “Now his government has taken a disturbing turn, repressing trade unions, political organizations and journalists. According to draft legislation which has been submitted in Tasmania and is expected to be extended to the whole country, environmental activists could face 21 years in prison for demonstrating.”

Public discussion in Australia of the fires has centred around two poles. Apart from those who target climate change there are many people who target arson, privatization and appropriation of water by big foreign companies, funding cuts to fire brigades, etc. Damien Cave, New York Times journalist, notes: “Australia’s biggest media group, Murdoch’s New Corp, is contributing to the proliferation of misleading information. An independent study has found that numerous Internet bots and trolls are attributing an excessive amount of responsibility to arson for this Biblical catastrophe.”

The Australian activist Max Igan asserts that “what is happening is that they are deliberately drying out the country…. Fifteen hundred kilometres of the greatest river system is empty, and it’s not drought. Flood plain harvesting means where there was flood plains they’ve killed all the trees, levelled it off, and they put a big embankment to stop the water actually getting into the river. And they call that ‘harvesting’. This is what is happening to the Murray-Darling basin. They’re building private dams for foreign corporations.”

Max Igan, and not only he but American journalists also, have noted another development. The fires in California and in Australia too seem in both cases to have broken out along the route of a planned high-speed rail network. In the Australian case it runs all the way down the east coast from Brisbane to Melbourne.

Max Igan does not hesitate to touch the subject of geoengineering, that is to say the aerial spraying called “chemtrails” and regarded as a figment of the imagination of conspiracy theorists. “These fires are not like the fires seen in other places also. Many times it is difficult, if not impossible, for them to be put out. Also the flames can reach heights of one hundred and fifty metres. By analysing soil samples we’ve found sulphates, metallic aluminium, aluminium oxide, barium titanate, strontium 90. And other ingredients too, but barium, strontium and aluminium are common in all chemtrails.”

The American researcher Marvin Herndon has reached the conclusion that the material contained in the spraying is derived from coal ash, that is to say the waste from coal-burning power stations for generating electricity. If this is true it could be the most powerful weapon in the arsenal of those who want to abolish the use of fossil fuels for generating electricity. Why isn’t it used? Why isn’t it even examined?

For those on the other side of the climate change argument, dispassionate examination of Dr. Herndon’s findings could help to restore the reputation of professional science in the eyes of those who deplore its politicization in the climate debate and have come to despair of the integrity of professional science. It could also help to put a brake on those who seek to take advantage of the controversy over climate to promote false, and destructive, solutions.

At the Paris Climate Summit in 2015 within the framework of the civil society component a video was screened on Dr. Herndon’s research, to a miniscule audience. It was on the official program and deserves to be better known.

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