Tuesday, 7 January 2020

It’s all about how we see things!

Someone showed me a photo of Australia seen from space. Today’s Australia. With fires blazing away. Almost the whole continent ablaze. If it had featured in an apocalyptic movie we would no doubt have said it was an exaggeration.

Also impressive are the images of Australia superimposed on the map of Europe or of the USA. Australia is away on the other side of the world and we tend to forget how big it is. And then I imagine almost all of Europe ablaze in the same way. Frightening!

The smoke from the fires is causing problems all the way over in New Zealand - the same hemisphere but still along way away. Scary stuff!

I came across an article about an Australian Aboriginal elder who had developed a bushland property with a main house and several huts, offering cultural camps for tourists and Indigenous youth. He had to evacuate a few weeks ago because of the fires but when he returned, expecting nothing but ashes, he found his property intact. The fire had gone round it. Why? He put it down to the traditional Indigenous technique of cultural burning conducted on their land three years ago. The only hut not protected by cultural burning, 500 metres from the main house, was destroyed in the blaze. 

Apparently there are modern techniques of hazard reduction burning, creating firebreaks, so that fire cannot spread. Those in favour of cultural burning, a practice which they say is informed by thousands of years of traditional knowledge, maintain that unlike hazard reduction burning, cultural burns are cooler and slower moving, usually no taller than knee height, leaving tree canopies untouched and allowing animals to take refuge from the flames. And they are more effective. Small fires are lit with matches, instead of drip torches, and burn in a circular pattern.

If Australia manages to put this fire out and recover from the current situation, maybe they should listen to older wisdom.

We see the same sort of thing with flooding. Modern techniques work to some extent but in places where older ideas such as planting trees, which take up a lot of the excess water, have been followed these seem more effective. We must get away from always thinking new is best.

But we are all great followers of fashion. Just take the example of little Archie’s beanie. Prince William and his Meghan were given a knitted hat for their baby, during a visit to New Zealand I think. This hat featured in a photo as part of their Christmas or New Year message. (It seems that everyone and their grandmother send out such messages nowadays. Oddly enough, Princess Anne dies not appear to share this activity. I may come to admire that lady!) They must have revealed where the hat came from as the company who made it, accustomed to having maybe 30 or 40 orders a month, suddenly had 300 orders overnight! They were a little overwhelmed!

Now, this is a perfectly ordinary knitted hat with a couple of bobbles, a bit like ears, instead of one single bobble on the top. I could knock one up in a day or so, as could any half-way competent knitter. But, of course, it would not be “Archie’s beanie”.

A similar phenomenon is what is happening to the little village of Hallstatt in Austria - just under 800 inhabitants. It seems it was the inspiration for the town of Arandelle in the Disney film “Frozen” and now tourists are turning up in their thousands to take selfies.

We live in an increasingly odd world!

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