So P is outside raking leaves. “What?” I hear you say. “I thought you said it was summer!” Too right. The summer has been too hot for our plane tree. About 70% of its leaves turned yellow and fell. Our front yard is deep in browned leaves. It really looks autumnal.
Of course, we have now had rain. 65mm in the last 3 days. It is amazing to walk on ground that feels spongey and damp. It is beautiful to feel like the air has been washed clean. It is reassuring to know that fires all over the state have probably been sufficiently deadened that they are no longer a threat.
Much of the east coast is in flood now. Sydney streets look like rivers. Some train stations have water right up to the platforms. My parents’ property is now inaccessible due to a burgeoning creek. They have had over 200mm in the last 3 days. The dry river is now a torrent, washing ash-laden top soil and burnt trees along with it.
The little town nearest to my parents’ home recorded a population of less than 200 in the 2016 census. Their little volunteer bushfire brigade was on call almost constantly from November 29, 2019 until February 6, 2020. I don’t know how many members the brigade boasts but that’s a lot of days to be out fighting fires.
On the other side of that coin, this bushfire season has birthed a lot of admiration and gratitude towards the volunteer brigades. This same small brigade has received direct donations upwards of $12,000.
So let me summarise:
- a severe drought lasting 3 years
- the government cutting funding to forestry and rangers
- shock jocks whinging about the smoke from attempted backburning
- a fire season from hell in which around 30 people lost their lives, billions of animals died and much of NSW National Parks area burned. Businesses suffer, tourism suffers, insurance companies are under the pump.
- shock jocks blame arsonists and lack of back burning
- the PM goes on holidays and then comes back and does a big public show of caring and giving money.
- A hailstorm rips through the nation’s capital and costs insurance companies another few arms and legs.
And then January slips into February and, within a week, the news is all about floods! The SES is on call to rescue cars, mend roofs, clear fallen trees, etc. Again, it’s a team of volunteers picking up the pieces.
My friend messaged me and said “I hope ScoMo realises that even if he won’t believe in climate change… infrastructure can’t handle the current weather. Electricity outages and water restrictions during the fires and now train lines closed and so on during the flooding.”
Yes, that’s it in a nutshell.
And it’s the normal people and the volunteers who do all the caring, all the giving, all the cleaning and saving and helping and nursing.
Australia is called a nanny state. But for years now, I have felt like we pay two sets of taxes – one to the government and one to the charities (of which Australia has an inordinately large number). The people fend for themselves. Science funding is cut and so charities are born and set out to find cures to all manner of illnesses. Education funding is cut so school P&C committees wrack their brains for more fund-raisers to get more money from their communities. National Parks funding is cut and, when the shit hits the fan, the rangers and the volunteers are out there, doing the extra hours, sweating and aching to deal with what has gone so wrong. People who are effected are so grateful to their helpers that they give generously to make sure there will be help next time around.
The costs that the government discards all get funneled back down to the grassroots. We give here, we volunteer there, we pay extra in this place. It’s little bits but over the years they grow and grow. But salaries haven’t grown in over a decade.
Nanny, my arse. Nannies are employed to care. That’s not what our state does.