News from the Writing Zone

So after weeks of stifling heat, many days over 40 Celsius (104 F), ravaging bushfires, impenetrable smoke, unavoidable dust and ash inhalation causing nausea and headaches, constant obsessive anxiety looking at bushfire maps and a state of acute mourning for the losses, especially the wildlife, we now have buckets of rain, floods, drinking-water fears and blackouts. But there you are, dear friends, this is Australia and here we are and we love it (even though a lot of people have been talking about migrating to New Zealand).

The first sign of the Ruined Castle fire near Katoomba, 3 December 2019: it burnt out 40,000 hectares over the next seven weeks and was not put out finally until 5th February 2020. Photo A. Hamilton.

So as you might gather this was not great for the writing. In fact, I stopped writing altogether. Even my red daily diaries, which I have been assiduously adding to for over two years now, still rest untouched on the bookcase. I wanted to write about how this summer felt, but I just couldn’t. It was too awful, too terrifying yet somehow also familiar. We have been told for years now that the world will end in a conflagration, well here it was and it was right on our doorstep.

The red skies, the relentless approach, flames leaping, everything alight

You have to start asking why you would write at all. If the world is perilously close to a terminal phase, what good is writing? What good are books? If you saw that movie The Day After Tomorrow that scene in the New York Public Library will no doubt be burnished into your synapses: the brave survivors holed up inside tearing up the entire contents of the library, all the world’s books which could at least keep them warm. One old guy was trying to keep the Gutenberg Bible intact, as I recall, but the rest of it was just good for fuel.

What books are really good for … The Day After Tomrrow.

My writing associate Obelia is now completely convinced that are now only a couple of decades left. She stopped writing as well.

But time passes and in spite of doubts and fears I really have to produce the books I have been working on for so long now. In the next couple of months I have plans to see at least two or maybe three of the front-runners hit the deck. The two volumes of short stories and the memoir are pretty much ready to go. So stand by for some more advance notice: covers are done and all that remains is the playing with Vellum which I hope will allow me to pull them all together very quickly.

Another thing I have done over this horror summer is read a number of very interesting memoirs (loosely identified) and I am going to write a little about them, not so much reviews as reflections on the thoughts and feelings they created as I read them in this heightened state of alarm and anxiety, pushing me once again up against the complex questions about what memoir writing really is and can do, and where is the Real in writing.

The Bushland is Inhabited Too!

I posted this on my site for my children’s book The Priceless Princess (thepricelesspricess.com) which is about the need for protection for wild creatures and their natural homes. Although the Kingdom of Hullabaloo is an imaginary place, the creatures who live there are Australian – snakes, owls, bilbies, crocodiles and others. Because the present situation is so dire I want to write more about habitat and wildlife protection and thought I would start a thread of posts here about it, since it has been such an important part of my life and writing.

skynews-australia-wildfire_4830948

The horrifying bushfires across many parts of Australia in 2019 (and it’s hardly even summer yet) are a dreadful reminder of how vulnerable our amazing wildlife is to the changes happening all over the continent. We must never forget how extraordinary Australia is. Isolated from evolutionary pressures which created the creatures of Europe and Asia (and much of the Americas) life here was able to sustain itself in so many unique and wonderful forms, which do not exist anywhere else in the known universe. Yet uncontrolled population growth, land clearing, forest destruction and “development” have affected all but the most remote parts of the country. Now climate change is creating wildfires which are ripping through what used to be wet rainforests and across national parks, annihilating whole populations of animals, birds and plants in its path.

After the bushfires, people reported hearing the utterly horrendous sounds of burnt creatures, crying out, abandoned to their agony. Great efforts are being made to find and save burnt koalas from their rare bushland habitats, and people have given generously to the Koala Hospital. You can visit their website here. Donations are still being received by the Hospital, which hopes to use the funds for a long-term survival and support program. If you can help, go to the donation page.

Peter the Koala
Photograph from News.com.au

But it is a drop in the bucket. As the heat increases, the land and plants dry out, and fires are uncontainable. What is worse is that some are deliberately lit. It is awful that people lose their homes and possessions, some even lose their lives, but consider the fate of the animals and birds abandoned in the midst of raging fires which nobody even tries to contain, since all their efforts are directed at helping the human victims. Steps must be taken to develop better fire retardants, and to be able to deliver them in bushland areas as soon as any fire is detected, instead of waiting until the fires are completely out of control and approaching “inhabited” areas. The bushland is inhabited too!  Please help raise awareness of the impact of climate change on our wildlife, and try to find ways to help in whatever way you can.

Governments and industry are in some places trying to work towards helping avoid the apocalyptic scenarios we are so rightly afraid of. Anyone caught anywhere near the bushfires in Eastern Australia recently will know just how totally terrifying these fires are, beyond anything people have lived through in the past. There are so many reasons for this, but the main one has to be the reliance on fossil fuels and the entire economic system with its remorseless demand for “growth” and ever-greater levels of consumption. It may well be too late to avoid some pretty catastrophic outcomes in the next twenty or so years, but every effort should be made to do whatever we can to change things. But some governments appear completely unable to even see the problem. Some prominent people simply deny there IS a problem!  While I care about people, I care as much (sometimes more) about the wild creatures we share this planet with, rare and amazing survivors through countless aeons. How dare we paltry humans, who have only been around for 200,000 years or so, threaten the existence of life forms already millions of years old!

If you care about the survival of wild creatures under this threatened planetary catastrophe, find ways to let people know and do something about it. Write letters, join with others, help rescue and care for injured wildlife, leave water out for animals and birds in the horribly hot weather, consider what you are doing and how you are living, and ask whether you are entitled to exist at the expense of all other forms of natural life on the planet. Get ready for change, which is coming, and try to find ways to sustain the life of the dear creatures we share our existence with.

kookaburra in burnt land
Note: copyright acknowledgment above

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