Time of reckoning

I thank my lucky stars that, to date, no-one I know has been directly affected by the bushfires. Of course their effect is not just people losing their lives, homes, or livelihoods, as has already occurred. I know some family members are affected by the environmental conditions, including smoke. We will all be paying more in higher produce prices and insurance premiums. The relationship Australians have with the bush will need to be re-thought. There will be places where people live where it will no longer be viable for them to live, either without major adjustments, or at all. All this will need to be considered.

I think there are psychological effects, too, and not just for those directly affected. We may have thought ourselves immune to nature, or at least able to make a bargain with it. The thinking has been: we’ll contribute so much to efforts to reduce global heating. This means we can go on selling coal and using cheap fossil fuels. The stupidity of this attitude is more obvious than ever. As someone on the ABC recently commented, the atmosphere doesn’t care about our spreadsheets. It only cares if we emit fewer molecules of carbon. Nature doesn’t care about our bargains and trade-offs.

I’m not attributing the bushfires directly to climate change. Even our PM, though, a denialist at heart, acknowledges global heating to be a factor in the current bushfire season. There’s no change, however, in government policies on carbon emissions. The Labor Party isn’t any better. I do feel despairing that the two major parties have their heads in the sand about climate policy. Are our current pathetic and largely symbolic efforts really the best we can do? Global heating seems a failure of politics as we know it.

It is fantastic, of course, that so many people have contributed to bushfire relief appeals. Extraordinary amounts — I read $30 million dollars — have been raised for fire fighting and relief funds. Many of these appeals would not have been possible without the internet and social media, so these technologies can obviously have a positive side. Of course huge amounts of money are going to be required to rebuild homes, bridges, schools and other infrastructure. But people’s willingness to pitch in and help is both amazing and encouraging.

Maybe these things are part of why I have felt so distracted and weird in general. These dreadful events have overshadowed Christmas and my recent birthday. I don’t mean to sound world-weary about it — any anniversary is worth celebrating. And I was given some lovely presents. One worthy of note (because it was so unexpected) came from our local greengrocer. When we dropped into his shop a few days ago, I mentioned that my birthday had just occurred. So he gave me a beautiful purple orchid from his shop. It was such a sweet gesture. He and his wife are lovely people, and I like to support young people having a go. But all the gifts, cards, and good wishes were very much appreciated. We can all make someone feel valued and appreciated with these small gestures.

Exercise classes have resumed at Hawthorn Aquatic Centre, and I am dragging the now 65-year old bones along for another six weeks. It has been the season also for getting things fixed, and the air conditioners have been high on that list. Both have required service calls. The split system is working normally now; it had been very noisy, sounding as though a leaf had gotten caught in the air intake. The evaporative has been problematic to get going reliably. After being switched on, it either just pushes out hot air, or air that is half cooled. A third service call is going to be required before the problem can be escalated. (Of course Christmas has gummed up the works, taking longer than normal to obtain parts and so on.)

There have been two problems. First, one rings the manufacturer for customer service. But those folk just pass your details onto the contractors, who carry out the actual servicing. Second, the contractor gives you only half an hour’s notice before rolling up, and — of course! — no-one can give you even an indication of whether they will be around in the morning or afternoon. Moaning about this to the customer service people gets you nowhere, because they don’t do the servicing. (One of them actually said “I’m not a service man”.) No-one’s accountable! I don’t like to play the cancer card, but I pointed out that having potentially to be at home all day would mean I may have to miss one or more exercise classes, something that is part of my treatment. All the right noises were made in response, promising they would work with me, etc. We will see.  I do hope everyone stays safe. 

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