Change that happens slowly can pass unnoticed and might not be happening at all. We are told the climate is changing due to anthropogenic behaviours, but there are many doubters. The summer of 2019-20 provided dramatic evidence that something is stirring – after 17 years of drought in the preceding two decades, much of eastern Australia was tinder dry – a few lightning strikes and it exploded and burnt with ferocity, only stopping at the sea’s edge. Unprecedented in recorded history and with intensity and scale, vast areas of NSW and Victoria were devastated, the fires raged for months, millions of animals perished, thousands of properties were destroyed, towns devastated, many people died and many more were traumatised.
This personal photo essay is a journey from the unspoilt beauty of flowering wattle in spring, through the lacework of embers from the vast fires in national parks blown far out to sea and brought back by the tide to the ocean beach at Moruya, through the portentous walls of smoke advancing on the town, visiting the evacuation centre, the long self-evacuation trip home, and a record of devastation and the first green shoots of recovery.
Are these changes natural or caused by man, or a bit of both, and what can we do about it? There are many doubters, vested interests are deeply resistant to any adaptation in the way we live and work, our politicians prevaricate lest they show leadership that offends a powerful patron. Opportunities to become a global superpower in “green” energy have been ignored or undermined. The scale, duration and intensity of the fires of Christmas 2019-20, and the unprecedented devastation caused by similar conflagrations in southern Europe and the west of North America should not be ignored. There are many individual changes we can make to live more gently with nature, but it will take far more strategic actions to stabilise the natural and human drivers of climate change.
To view the devastation of the Black Summer bushfires is a sharp insight into what climate change will do to many parts of Australia and other vulnerable countries and fragile ecologies. It is well past time to wake up because there will be no jobs or economic good news coming from the Earth that awaits future generations if we ignore the changes happening now.
*NOT ALL IMAGES IN Susan’s photoessay appear here.