I’m lucky enough to live in a part of New South Wales where I haven’t been affected by natural disasters like floods and bushfires. But when I read the news and see people, their families, including pets, evacuating their homes, or standing on top of their roof to wait for a rescue helicopter, it hits me that we live in the same country. At times they’re not even that many kilometers away from me. What separates me from them? Is it luck? And if it is … will my luck run out? Did those people also consider themselves lucky until they were watching their belongings float down floodwaters?
If you have faith (which isn’t the case with me), you might think some all-seeing entity is punishing, or warning the world. I don’t attribute catastrophes to cosmic punishment. Maybe we have done things to be punished for. Not in some karmic sense but because of the way we have been treating our environment for hundreds of years. Or because climate policies are fought against despite the evidence stacking up that their implementation would bring about change.
Finally, I think about the fault lines in society. Those where vulnerable people fall through the cracks of emergency services. Those where climate policies get push back when made into legislation.
It is often the most vulnerable who suffer the consequences of the actions of more powerful groups. I am not sure how to change that imbalance, but it is certainly present.
We’re over it - the rain. Some say it’s going to rain through to March next year. But maybe it’s best not to be in a hurry for the rain to end because what if this is the last big wet?
The earth must be relishing the wet right now, but what happens when it gradually begins to dry out? When the ground dries out and dries out until slowly it begins to crack open from thirst?
The long and lovely green grasses, the bursting hedges, flowers and trees will begin to curl in on themselves. Gardens and farmland all over the east coast, all over Australia, will begin to shrivel up and turn yellow, then brown; grass crisp like paper will crackle when you walk over it.
Creeks first, then rivers, will begin to dry up to a trickle, then there's be nothing at all. The fish will grope for water. The animals will go mad for a drink. People will begin to worry.
One day, there's no water in the kitchen when we turn on the tap to fill the kettle for our morning coffee. Maybe we should get to the shop and stock up on water?
When we get there, people are leaving the shop with trolley-loads of water; others scramble when they see the loaded trolleys. Panicked, they push and shove their way into the shop. Someone knocks an old woman over. A child begins to cry. People grab for the last bottles of water; a brawl breaks out.
Are we able to predict exactly when we feel the first chill of autumn as it blows in on a southerly wind and banishes the last long hot summer's day into memory?
Can we tell when the warm East Australian Current will return to the beaches of Sydney so that surfers can, at last, pack away their full-length steamer wetsuits with their neoprene socks and embrace the water with bare skin?
At what point did the El Niño Southern Oscillation of the Pacific Ocean pivot towards La Niña?
Driving in the country during the summer of the bushfires in 2019, I followed a back road from Mudgee that leads towards the Capertee Valley and the colossal sandstone bluffs of the Gardens of Stone National Park. The country lay cracked, brown and desperate in drought. Only the straw-coloured stubble of what once were grasses remained as a testament to a time when cattle were spelled for grazing in lush green paddocks that were quarantined by the splintered grey post and rail fences that hugged the road.
Black crows cawed as we pulled into the car park of the abandoned terracotta-painted railway station at Lue and took refuge from the searing heat in the shade of its decrepit Victorian era awning that hunched over the deserted platform. Ragged weeds slouched between the sleepers that clung to the rusted iron rails.
I had to wonder whether the passengers on the last train out of there knew it was a one-way ticket? Perhaps, some unforeseen flash flood set in motion a chain of events that closed the line prematurely, either extended and extensive flooding or perhaps its contrasting counterpart to follow, devastating drought.
Today, Australia's east coast countryside is looking more like rural England as the days pass. We cannot know how long this exceptional weather will last, but we do know that there will be a turning point at the beginning of the end, a turning point which we will recognise only after it has long since passed.
Copyright: text Anonymous, CK & Robert Carrick; photos (from top) cv williams, Catherine Bloor, Wix & Robert Carrick.
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