Tuesday, February 10, 2009

It is time to reflect...

A bushfire in Victoria, Australia. Photo: AFP.
There is no way to describe the horror and sadness of following the bush fires engulfing huge areas North of Melbourne in Victoria, Australia. So many families there have lost or are losing not only their houses, but also their loved ones; all that nature and wildlife, destroyed for long times to come. It is a time of sorrow, even for us not directly affected.
Koalas at Cape Otway in Victoria, Australia. Picture taken by me in February 2007.
A koala emerges from the fire at Christmas Hills. Photo: Tina McCarthy, The Age.

I lived in Melbourne from 1999 to 2003. What was then called "a drought" began about the same time as we moved there. During those years, we experienced temperatures between 33ºC and 38ºC (90º to 100ºF) each summer, which was quite exhausting, especially as I was breastfeeding our daughters who were born in 2000 and 2002. Now the temperatures climb even higher, just a week ago thermometers reached a new, terrifying record of 48ºC (118ºF). When we moved back to Sweden in 2003, Melbourne water levels were at 52% of the total capacity of the storage. Now they are at 32%, a huge difference in only six years, despite all restrictions on water usage. Many of the reservoirs and lakes around Melbourne have disappeared totally, like Lake Wendouree in Ballarat (just one hours drive from Melbourne), where 28 countries competed in rowing and canoeing events at the Melbourne Olympics some 50 years ago. It has been dry at least twice before (in 1850s and 1930s), but this still gives a good indication of how desperate the water situation in Victoria is.
The beautiful garden of one our friends at Mornington Peninsula, in Victoria, Australia.
As Freya Mathews, a research fellow in the philosophy department at La Trobe University, writes in today's newspaper The Age in Melbourne:

The fires we saw on Saturday were not "once in a thousand years" or even "once in a hundred years" events, as our political leaders keep repeating. They were the face of climate change in our part of the world. These fires are simply the result of the new conditions that climate change has introduced here: raised temperatures, giving us hotter days than we have ever experienced before combined with lower rainfall giving us a drier landscape. Let's stop using the word "drought", with its implication that dry weather is the exception. The desiccation of the landscape here is the new reality. It is now our climate.
Our friend's garden at Mornington Peninsula, in Victoria, Australia.
It is a scary scenario for all of us, and acutely scary to those living in these areas most effected by the climate change. As Freya Mathews describes it, the consequences of climate change will make the financial crisis look like a garden party, which gives a not very promising picture of our future. Lin Yutang so aptly writes: Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence. Even if I might sound pretentious, I think this is a time to reflect how we can make a difference in our lives to lessen our footprints on this beautiful planet, so that we together can create a road to a better future.

Entrance to Children's Garden at Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens, sculptures like green flames planted with Muehlbeckia complexa (maidenhair vine), Asparagus densiflorus as underplanting. Picture taken by me in February 2007.


Gardeness said...

I agree Liisa. People need to stop saying it's just nature taking course and face the reality that we too often have a negative effect on this planet. So many changes are needed, and time is wasting.

Sunita Mohan said...

Ditto. I'm horrified at the devastation around Melbourne now. Especially since there are news reports that it was caused by arson. How terrible !

Safi Crafts said...

I am so sorry for all the people and the wildlife affected by the fires. It is a horror indeed. Your larger theme of climate change is even gimmer and I am not able to talk to my children about it because it makes them cry. We just focus on reducing our own carbon footprint and try not think about the big picture. Until governments step up it won't be good. Sorry. No cheery words about this.

Antigonum Cajan said...

I expect considering what is written
here there will no more lawns allowed in Australia, considering
this climatic change and fires.

nilla|utanpunkt said...

A very important post, what's happening in Australia is beyond belief. The losses are beyond grasp. Nature always "strikes" back. I think individual responsobility is crucial, but so is the determination and responsibility of governments. Let's hope we become many enough to make them change their short term visions!

Anonymous said...

So scary and sad, as you say, and grim to think that this is our future (along with the floods that will happen elsewhere, unseasonable cold temps in the northern hemisphere if the ocean heats up further and the wind patterns change, etc). I am truly frightened about this on a daily, if not hourly, basis and feel and extreme amount of guilt for every mile I drive and tiny bit of plastic I put in the landfill. I keep looking for more ways to reduce my footprint and just have to keep working on it. Planting a better and more efficient garden is a small thing to do but at least it's a start. Thanks for this thoughtful post.

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Thank you for all your thoughtful comments. I agree that as "garden people", we can and should do our part in trying to reverse the sad climate development in our world. This kind of catastrophies easily make me feel quite desperate, but the only right thing is to try to act in a resposible way. I am not politically active at all (and can't even vote for the moment!), but this really is something that needs to get more attention from the governments as well, just as Jean says. It is good to know that the new goverment here in the US supports "green" energy and other initiatives, I only hope that they (and other countries, even the developing ones) make reality of them too.

Safi Crafts said...

I feel that my last comment was unhelpfully sad. For a more positive spin on things, how about we declare our Seattle garden bloggers group "green". Hold events near bus routes (or car pool), use washable cups and plates for locally produced snacks etc. I kind of assume that we all garden organicly already. It could be fun to see how green we can be. Sunny day today = better attitude.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Jean, and although I didn't want to trumpet it too much, did try make those kinds of choices for our first gathering: as-local-as-I-could-get carrots, home-baked garden thyme scones, brought a paper sack to compost food scraps, brought flowers from my garden instead of buying some, picked a meeting site on bus routes, etc. As Jean says, I think we can shoot for that as a goal and try to carpool and otherwise reduce our meetings' footprints where we can. Swapping seeds and other stuff instead of buying them is great too, cuts down on shipping, right? I know we will all do our part individually and would be cool to make the effort as a group as well! Jean or Liisa - maybe you would be up for putting this idea out there on the Googlegroups to see if others want to get on board? :)

Safi Crafts said...

Karen you are wonderful.

Thanks Liisa for letting me natter away on your blog!