What can we each do to help?

By JEFF NORTH,

What have you done to help in the matter? Have you taken seriously that all of us may be having a profound negative effect on our planet and our well-being? Are you mindful, and do you care about generations that will follow? How many light bulbs are burning in your home at this very moment? If you turned at least a small percentage of the switches at home to the “off” position would you still be able to survive? Let’s move forward.

A few months ago, I wrote about what we all hear about at least several times a day…climate change. Now whether you believe there is such a phenomenon or not, we can all agree this discussion is ongoing and probably will continue for quite some time. Protests abound in many regions of our world, denouncing our impact on what sustains life. Waters, forests, soils, and atmosphere are just a few resources many believe we are demolishing by our actions. Now, I am not condemning nor supporting either side. As I have stated before, what is going on with our climate has been changing and evolving for millions and millions of years. The short span that we have been keeping records is really, just a milli-second compared to when time and climate began. There is scientific speculation that dinosaurs were lost due to changes in climatic conditions. In reality, do we really know what was going on five-hundred million years ago? The saga continues.

The ongoing bush fires in Australia are consuming my thoughts. More than 18 million acres have been affected and many fires are still in the height of their fury. Entire communities are in rubble. Tragically, up to now, 28 human lives have been lost. Regarding wildlife, a half a billion animals have been affected with millions likely dead. Keep in mind, these staggering numbers do not take into account the insects, frogs, and other reptiles that have also been lost. Our human emotions take over when news of how the koalas have been affected. If pictures of the singed creatures don’t cause a flow of tears, then something is wrong with you. To put into perspective, possibly one-third of the koalas in New South Wales have been killed. So, are we to blame or is this an act of a cruel Mother Nature? Let’s visit another opinion.

Australian forests benefit from regular bush fires. Indigenous people used fires to assist in hunting kangaroo and other prey more than 40,000 years ago. Again, we weren’t there to document this, so I am reciting literature from history. Typical eucalyptus forests are littered with debris and undergrowth leading to a “fuel” rich environment. Add to the fact that eucalyptus trees emit low levels of oil vapor that can be noticed as a “blue haze” over the forests. This collection of gas that hangs is extremely flammable. During the long, hot summers, convection from building thunderstorms spark lightning strikes that typically start the fires. When the forest floor and the gases are ignited, ferocious fires occur. Alas, there is good to come from these fires. I’ll explain.

Tender shoots of green soon emerge from the soils beneath the forest canopy. Eucalyptus leaves also emerge from many of the singed, but not killed trees. This vegetation is rich in nutrients, and not only sustains the koala, but allows them to flourish as well. Keep in mind the multitude of other fauna and flora that benefit from the newly released forest. As hard as it is for us to accept the loss from the fires, maybe we should think about the betterment of the habitat because of them.

Our human nature sometimes blinds us from the good that comes from a temporary loss. Sure, we are all saddened by what animals endure in disasters but maybe there is a reason far beyond what our feeble minds can comprehend.

In a few years when the forests flourish again, will we remember or think about what occurred to keep them healthy and vibrant. Is the ecosystem far stronger than it would have been without the fires? I’m no expert, but maybe we should at least consider the possibility.

Bush fire is an inevitable force of nature which will continue to occur long after we are gone from this planet. Australians can try and protect themselves from them, but they cannot prevent them. This holds true in our western states as well, when storms arise and ignite the landscape. Here too, in time, mountain forests are rejuvenated and come back stronger than before. Nature, in the end, seems to always take care of its own.

Now let’s go back to the protestors who spend so much energy in the streets voicing opinions that may or may not be valid. What are they doing to prepare now for the next fire that will surely occur? Instead of demonstrating with all kinds of acronymic signs and political agendas, maybe they should be cutting fire breaks through the aboriginal forests to help slow the next fire that will ignite. Maybe forest professionals can come up with a plan that will minimize the impact of the next ecological tragedy. Maybe in California, brush and undergrowth can be removed from underneath powerlines, for when the Santa Ana winds cause the lines to arc and sparks fall to the fodder below, fires will surely erupt. Remember, it’s our light bulbs that need the electricity to illuminate every room in our homes. Is this beginning to make a little sense?

I’ll ask again to provoke your gray matter to ponder the future. What can you do today, to make this planet better? What if we all stopped to pick up one cigarette butt a day. Would we have an impact in some form or fashion? What if we re-filled our plastic water bottles instead of discarding them and getting another? Would this prevent “plastic” pollution? What if you used candles to read by or light the dining room table just once a week? Would this reduce any energy demand? I’m sure you’re beginning to get my point.

I challenge you to come up with something that reduces our environmental footprint that we are all guilty of. Keep those affected by the bush fires in your thoughts and especially those little critters that have no voice in what happens to them. We owe it to not only them, but ourselves as well.

Until next time, enjoy our woods and waters and remember, let’s leave it better than we found it.

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