Yesterday dragged by, punctuated by anxious checks of the Rural Fire Service Website. Every now and then a news report. We have been lucky – we and our loved ones are all safe and our properties are unscathed. But that is just one battle. There are still two long, hot months of summer to go.
Between fire news updates, we watched the magpies making use of our bird bath. Beaks agape, dipping and drinking, dipping and drinking and then seeking shade, wings held out for ventilation. The cool change finally arrived at 10pm meaning today has only been about 22 degrees. Sadly, with the cool change, as always, comes the smoke.
The view out the window has a heavy filter of yellowy brown which I can’t catch on camera (other people have complained of the same problem. I don’t understand why it is so). The smell of the smoke is overpowering and for the first time, I feel like face masks are an absolute necessity. This morning I held the ladder while P fixed up the gutter guard on the new carport. By the time he’d finished the six metre stretch, we both had stinging eyes and couldn’t wait to get inside. I have had no idea of the time all day as the light has been the same from sun-up to sun-down. Horizontally, vision is better today than it was on January 1st but breathability is much reduced.
Nearly all of the tourist destinations in New South Wales have been effected by these fires – if not directly then by the smoke. Tourists who came to Australia this summer have been treated to a rare smorgasbord of poor air quality, shabby views, inconvenient travel options and large areas being out of bounds. The Snowy Mountains, the coastal attractions, the Blue Mountains – they are all on fire. Many institutions in Canberra have had to shut down due to potential smoke damage. Interestingly, for the most part, Sydney Harbour remains a glittering jewel of mild weather and clean air. Is it a wonder that our PM chooses Kirrabilly House with its Harbour views rather than the traditional home of the PM – The Lodge in Canberra?
Yesterday, our PM finally announced some pro-active responses to the National Disaster which is unfolding. On top of the announcements he published a video boasting about everything he has done. To me, that’s like the parent who leaves the family, shows almost no interest for three years and then turns up at the kid’s birthday party with a huge, pricey gift and announces his/her love in a public, ungainly and inappropriate fashion.
The fires in the Snowy Mountains may have damaged two transmission stations which are part of the Snowy Hydro Electric Scheme . NSW residents are being asked to conserve power as the grid may be severely taxed by this loss. Reduce use of dishwashers, washing machines and air conditioners (where it is safe to do so) – that’s the advice. I know people who lived through heat up to 47 degrees yesterday. And I know that Penrith (in the Western Plains of Sydney) achieved an incredible 48.9 degrees. It’s a tough time to be asking people to sacrifice more. Australians aren’t having an easy summer.
The more I think about what is happening, the more overwhelmed I am by its consequences. And the more I think about the lead-up, the more horrified I am by the last ten years of politics in Australia. In ten years, we have had five Prime Ministers. Our politics has been bickering and name-calling and blaming and lying. So little has actually been achieved. So little notice has been taken of the future. So little regard has been paid to people with knowledge or real information. This is the price. It’s a huge price and it bugs me because it’s not the bickering, lying politicians who truly pay.
Personally, I am finding it hard to stay up-beat for my children. It is their summer holidays and I am keeping them indoors. Public pools are shutting because of the smoke. The heat and the smoke take it in turns to imprison us and yet escaping from this oppression would require a seriously expensive trip, probably by plane. It’s not really an option for us right now. I look out the window at the yellow-brown vista and feel the truth of a First Dog on the Moon Cartoon that I saw yesterday: “The pain and terror of these bushfires cannot be contained in single human heart.”