Australia has quite a (recent) history with bushfires. Some of them very tragic, with significant loss of human life. Of note, the lives of animals rarely rate a mention, unless they are cute — pictures of a koala seeking/receiving water from a human — South Australia 2013; 2015; Victoria 2009 — or there is significant economic loss to a farmer — the death of untold numbers of ‘livestock’. The human impacts of fires, more-so at this time of year, are very much a part of mainstream media and community discussions here. Responses are routinely anthropocentric, both oblivious and willfully ignorant. The fires around the Great Ocean Road on December 25 & 26 added another level for reflection.*
On my mind are reactive calls for further clearing of tree-land around housed, specifically forested land land adjacent to private property (including public and protected lands such as state forests and national parks). Most of the fires in recent years, especially those with loss if human life (at times exceeding 100), have been followed with significant discussion about the ‘necessity’ of such clearing. A small number of associated comments about the appropriateness of living in and adjacent you forested areas are quickly set aside, re-centring anthropocentric assumptions and attitudes. In short, (public and protected) land should be cleared to protect property. The increasing normativity of such attitudes is perhaps most clear in proposals for single homes and multiple housing sub divisions designed with an expectation that trees and other vegetation will be cleared (buffer zones for fire safety) outside of the respective private property. As in, on public and protected lands.
There is no discussion here about the impacts of clearing land on other animals, on ‘private’, public and protected lands. Whereas this is quite normative, those who live and actively chose to live in areas adjacent to forested areas regularly claim a level of affinity with ‘the land’ above and beyond those in more urban-city areas. The level of nonconsideration is quite astounding.
The proverbial ‘elephant in the room’ is the population question. Inherently linked, if slightly different, to the nonconsideration above, it is an issue the ‘left’ ignores effectively as much as the ‘right’. Without exploring it further here, it is much more an (pressing) issue for the west in the light of consumptive practices
The ‘other level of reflection’ spurred by the Great Ocean Road fire on December 25 & 26 is that the homes lost were almost exclusively ‘holiday’ homes. As in, homes owned by well-to-do people, second homes, which are ‘lived’ in for a small portion of the year. Of note, they are not cheap cabins or small houses: a search of current real estate listings includes many (which now, likely, no longer exist) for well in excess on $1 million.
Whereas I find myself with little sympathy for those who have lost these $million + holiday homes, I am certain this would change if lives were lost. Herein lies some of my own hypocrisy. How many livers of other animals were lost and largely nonconsidered in these fires.? How many other animal livers were lost or displaced (and subsequently directly-indirectly lost) in these fires?
The larger question and ongoing issue is the continual displacement of other animals (including direct and indirect loss of life) for further expansion of ‘civilisation’…
* I wrote this as holiday makers were in evacuation centres…