Blogging the 2010s — 113 — November 2019

Thought seeing today is the Queen’s Birthday holiday I may as well round off the last November in the 2010s set!  And what a month! Fire!

And that would go on and on until Coronavirus took centre stage!

Memory and apprehension: what will tomorrow bring?

Usually at this time of the year I focus on 11 November, Remembrance Day, but this year so many memories are being laid down here in Oz, good and bad. Good? Not a fan of Scott Morrison, but I pay my respects to this, which can’t possibly be faked.

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And I am going to get the elephant in the room over with quickly by saying simply: YES — THERE IS A BLOODY GREAT ELEPHANT IN THIS ROOM! And we need to deal with it! Unlike Morrison’s deputy who has been banging on about those cliched “pure, enlightened and woke capital city greenies.” Shame on you, McCormack! Try this for size: from a former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner: This is not normal: what’s different about the NSW mega fires.

I write this piece reluctantly, because there are still possible fire victims unaccounted for; people have lost loved ones; and hundreds of families have lost their homes. My heart goes out to them. I don’t want to detract in any way from the vital safety messages that our fire commissioners and Premier will be making about Tuesday’s fire potential.

And cool as ever, writing these days from Armidale, Jim Belshaw: Fires, drought and climate change within New England.

So what about tomorrow, Tuesday 12 November? This: note that the term CATASTROPHIC is used for Greater Sydney (Blue Mountains and down to The Shire) and Greater Hunter —  the first time the Sydney region has been rated at that level since the new fire danger ratings were introduced in 2009. The Gong is EXTREME. The NSW Premier has already declared a State of Emergency.

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Here is where we have fires right now:

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And for those overseas, let me post this so you get an idea of the territory involved:

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On October 25 I asked: Wonder what this year’s bushfire season will bring? Could be dramatic….. Well, now we know. So far. AND IT’S NOT SUMMER YET!

I consider my own street. These pics I took eight years ago. Today, despite a cloudburst Sunday before last, it is much drier up there. Imagine that escarpment in flame! It has happened before. See my post 1968 and Illawarra burns.

So fingers crossed, eh!

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Update 11/11 1.20 pm — The Gong now CATASTROPHIC!

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The million (and more) hectare fires

And that’s just New South Wales. And that’s just so far… Of the many images we have seen, this one from Harrington NSW stands out:

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Fortunately yesterday we here in the Illawarra were spared serious fires, though not the catastrophic weather conditions. Here in West Wollongong it hit 39 C around 3 pm, and the wind at times was strong. The most obvious sign was the haze, a mixture of smoke and dust. When the southerly came at last the temperature soon dropped 10 degrees, but sadly no rain, and in the foreseeable future no sign of rain.

The bush near here is certainly ready to burn. As a neighbour pointed out there hasn’t been a major burn-out since 2001 — and I recalled that one because it was on Christmas Day, and I saw it not from The Gong but from Paddington in Sydney. On the way home from Christmas Lunch at the Dowager Empress’s place to Elizabeth Street Surry Hills I saw, to the south, great clouds of smoke.  And the post is still lurking in cyberspace!

I am just back from Christmas lunch with the Dowager Empress of Hong Kong. His Atlantic salmon was to die for, and the tamarind prawns were–oh my God, I don’t usually eat prawns, but they were wonderful. The Christmas cake was a genuine Mrs Beeton recipe (with a whole bottle of brandy); it was light yet flavoursome. There is no doubt the Empress has a talent. I would have loved to have shared this day with the Crown Prince, I really would, but that could not be. Sirdan was there, and Paul Davis and another friend of DEHK’s.

On DEHK’s new DVD and digital TV we saw several episodes of Queer as Folk, which is not on free-to-air TV here. It is such a shame that SBS did not get it for late night viewing, because it is actually very good indeed. I would like the chance to see it again.

Walking home was an apocalyptic experience. The ground is yellow with smoke as bushfires ring Sydney. It is very hot and there are strong winds. The south and west of the city looked to be totally in flames from the vantage point of the inner city. According to the latest news the Blue Mountains are very bad, and the road north may soon be closed. To the south around Appin seems also to be bad. M. has headed north but would have got through before the problem arose.

Ironically, given the past few days, that Christmas M. (Michael) was heading for Laurieton!

Today our attention is especially on Queensland, but it does need to be said that this is just the beginning of months in which we very likely will see yesterday’s catastrophic conditions return.

Back to the Elephant in the Room again — and I really do commend again Jim Belshaw’s post. Let me also commend a recent (31 October 2019) opinion piece in the New York Times by Katherine Hayhoe, a professor at the Climate Center at Texas Tech University, and an evangelical Christian.

An important and successful part of that framing has been to cast climate change as an alternate religion. This is sometimes subtle, as the church sign that reads, “On Judgment Day, you’ll meet Father God not Mother Earth.” Other times this point is made much more blatantly, like when Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told Glenn Beck in 2015 that “climate change is not a science, it’s a religion…”

…my favorite question is the one I often hear from fellow Christians: “Do you believe in climate change?”….

As I always do now when someone asks this, I explained that climate change is not a belief system. We know that the earth’s climate is changing thanks to observations, facts and data about God’s creation that we can see with our eyes and test with the sound minds that God has given us. And still more fundamentally, I went on to explain why it matters: because real people are being affected today; and we believe that God’s love has been poured in our hearts to share with our brothers and sisters here and around the world who are suffering….

I want to make one rather obvious point: it is not quite correct to say that climate change CAUSES bush fires. Lots of things, including arson, cause fires. What climate change has done however is to magnify the CONDITIONS where bush fires are likely to be worse and more frequent. To me this is hardly controversial!

On the other hand there is finger-pointing on the subject of hazard reduction. Now clearly hazard reduction is a good thing. But I urge you to read Factcheck: Is there really a green conspiracy to stop bushfire hazard reduction? by Graham Readfern.

Large parts of New South Wales have been in the grip of catastrophic fire weather this week as firefighters desperately work to save homes, properties and lives.

But as firefighters try and beat back the bushfires, a familiar blame game began with critics pointing fingers at “greenies”, claiming they get in the way of hazard reduction efforts that might have reduced the size and scale of the disaster.

“These are very tired and very old conspiracy theories that get a run after most major fires,” says Prof Ross Bradstock, the director of the centre for environmental risk management of bushfires at the University of Wollongong, who has been researching bushfires for 40 years.

“They’ve been extensively dealt with in many inquiries.”…

Sadly, silly and unfortunate things have been said on several sides by politicians who really should know better. I quite agree with the Sydney Morning Herald’s David Crowe on this:

The loss of Australians’ homes, and sometimes their lives, should shame politicians who exploit human misery to score points against their enemies. Yet the politicians cannot help themselves….

… For some politicians, everything about you is seen through the prism of partisanship. Even your death.

When [Barnaby] Joyce called in to radio station 2GB later in the day, he sounded under huge stress as he tried to save his parents’ home in country NSW, but the damage from his earlier remark was already done.

This was a dismal but predictable sight for anyone who has watched the decline of Australian politics over the past decade.

I am not going to dignify Barnaby’s remark by quoting it! And Greens Senator Jordon Steele-John was not much better.

Update

What might have been yesterday, or what might be! This photo of Mount Keira — so close to me — was taken I believe during the 1968 fires. Found on Facebook but the source is elusive, but it is a real photo. Scary, eh! Showed it to an old lady here at Diggers who remembered it happening.

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Blogging the 2010s — 112 — November 2018

This month I ended with a monster post — and you’ll get most of it again today. Because it’s worth it!  And even relevant to the present moment. But first a welcome visit:

Lovely visit last Sunday as November powers on…

Here I am this morning at a seasonally festive City Diggers Club.

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My visitor here last Sunday afternoon said I looked furrier than when he had seen me last.

It was great to see Les Farnell again, who called in en route between Canberra and Sydney. His partner was the late Graeme Little, a great man in English teaching circles. Graeme I first met in his capacity as Inspector of Schools back in the early 1970s. My friendship with Les and Graeme dates back to the 1980s.

December 2008 — ten years!

Just a few memories…

Fantastic, but another reason to feel old!

11 DEC 2008

cover_dec08I was skimming the Sydney Morning Herald’s glossy free mag just now, checking out whether I was on the list of Sydney’s Top 100 Influential People… 😉 Many of the usual suspects were there, and quite a few I hadn’t thought of. It is one of those that really attracted my attention.

thumb_jackThere under Community was Jack Manning Bancroft.

Now there was a familiar name: Class of 2002 at SBHS!

So how at the age of 23 did Jack get into the Top 100?

Through this:

Jack is the founder of the AIME Program. He graduated from Media and Communication in 2006, and attended St Pauls College in his time at university. He was awarded the inaugural ANZ Indigenous Scholarship for his degree, and received the Sydney University Union Leadership and Excellence award in 2005. He is a member of the Bundjalung nation in the North Coast of NSW. Jack hopes to lead AIME to every university in the country in the next 5 years.

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Click on the screen grab to explore AIME. It is well worth it!

And in 2018: Mentoring — The Key to a Fairer World

Update

I found some blog references to Jack and his work.

Indigenous Literacy Day by Judith Ridge (September 2008) says:

Tonight I went to the launch of Bronwyn Bancroft‘s beautiful new picture book, Possum and Wattle: My Big Book of Australian Words at Gleebooks. The book is, as you would expect if you know Bronwyn’s work, quite stunning. The images are striking and vibrant, and the colour reproduction remarkable. And a great celebration of indigenous Australian language.

Possum and Wattle was launched by Linda Burney, who spoke of of the terrible loss of Aboriginal languages (which she rightly said are, of course, Australian languages) while reminding us that all Australians are in fact speakers of Aboriginal Language. Each time we speak certain place names, or of native flora and fauna, even certain idioms, we are speaking Aboriginal Language.

Bronwyn spoke of the importance of education and literacy, especially for Aboriginal Australians. Her own father was excluded from formal education because of his Aboriginality. Now her children are school and university students and graduates, and she is about to embark on her PhD—just one generation away from that exclusion. And there is no education without literacy…

I also have to mention Bronwyn’s son, Jack Manning Bancroft, who spoke at the launch about the organisation he heads up, AIME Mentoring (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience). AIME pairs Aboriginal university student volunteers with Aboriginal high school students in a one-to-one mentoring project that aims to support young Aboriginal students in education. It was the first I’d heard of the program, and it’s something I want to learn more about. Jack was strong and heartfelt as he spoke about the value of the program, which hinges on the dedication of the current generation of young Aboriginal people to get out there and do something practical to support each other. As it says in the “About” section of their website, AIME is action. Fantastic. (And I am really curious—must ask Bronwyn about this—my grandfather’s middle name was also Manning, after the river/region where he was born. I guess that means Bronwyn’s people come from there, as mine do, although so much more recently.)

A blog called Event Mechanics promotes 2007’s Indigenous Carnivale, and quotes another blog to this effect:

A very cool, and damn motivated and inspiring bloke, called Jack Manning-Bancroft is helping organise the above day. He writes: “We welcome you all to this years Indigenous Carnivale. On Saturday the 26th of May it will be National Sorry Day. We will pay our respects to those who have suffered in the past, we will pay our respects to those who continue to suffer, and we will offer nothing but respect to each other. This is our arena. This is our community. This is our time.”

Running alongside Carnivale is it’s big brother AIME (Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience) – where Jack’s helping me to do some mentoring work. It’s a mentoring program that works with High school Indigenous students. All of the profits from Carnivale will go to its big brother AIME.

Such is time… Stream of consciousness, almost…

13 DEC 2008

raleghwBefore his head was removed, Sir Walter Ralegh wrote this magnificent lyric:

Even such is time, that takes in trust
Our youth, our joys, our all we have,
And pays us but with earth and dust ;
Who, in the dark and silent grave,
When we have wandered all our ways,
Shuts up the story of our days ;
But from this earth, this grave, this dust
My God shall raise me up, I trust !

So here am I, not in the Tower of London contemplating execution of course, but in a Surry Hills flat contemplating the $1400 Mister Rudd so thoughtfully placed in my bank account yesterday. (Very handy to cover a couple of debts, and maybe to buy a new pair of boots…) I contemplate also that next year is the fiftieth anniversary of my comparatively undistinguished leave-taking from Sydney Boys High – well I did win a History Prize after all, I suppose.

dec11 010My niece was in contemplative mood a little, I think, in her Christmas letter, which I also received yesterday. Her family has had an eventful year and have done many interesting things, some of them reflecting how The Shire these days reaches out to the world in a way that would have been inconceivable fifty years ago when, as it happens, my niece was born. They are a rather good looking family too, as you may glimpse on the left… The daughter is a promising dancer, I mean seriously promising. Rather proud of them I am, though through circumstances I have seen less of them than I may have done. You may recall we all got together in Julywhen my brother visited from Tasmania.

I can recall having a few “my God! a quarter of a century!” thoughts when I turned 25, and then, as my niece mentions of herself, even greater wonder when I turned 50 – M gave me a magnificent party – and of course this year I went on the pension, which means I am now…

dec11 009And looking back through my bits and pieces (right) I see how quickly the kids I have taught have grown up and made their ways in the world, some of them with great distinction, or making important contributions of one kind or another – one I mentioned just the other day.

I have every confidence in the young.

Now, what kind of boots will I buy? A good choice will last me at least three years, as the last pair has…

In another age of recession Henry Lawson wrote of an even deeper level of misfortune:

When you wear a cloudy collar and a shirt that isn’t white,
And you cannot sleep for thinking how you’ll reach to-morrow night,
You may be a man of sorrows, and on speaking terms with Care,
And as yet be unacquainted with the Demon of Despair;
For I rather think that nothing heaps the trouble on your mind
Like the knowledge that your trousers badly need a patch behind.

I have noticed when misfortune strikes the hero of the play,
That his clothes are worn and tattered in a most unlikely way;
And the gods applaud and cheer him while he whines and loafs around,
And they never seem to notice that his pants are mostly sound;
But, of course, he cannot help it, for our mirth would mock his care,
If the ceiling of his trousers showed the patches of repair.

I am well stocked with pants…

Bonus pic: Surry Hills Christmas

14 DEC 2008

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Surry Hills prepares to party