PYROCEN: According to Bronwyn Lay, the catastrophic fires in Australia can be an opportunity to learn from Aboriginal interactions with nature.

Philosopher. Permanent literary critic in MODERN TIMES. Translator.
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Published: 2020-02-04

"Natural and unnatural disasters are increasingly difficult to separate from," Australian environmental lawyer, theorist and activist Bronwyn Lay writes in his Juris Materiarum (2016). I contact her to get a first-hand report of the natural disaster in Australia - which is also contingent on human culture. It seems obvious, except perhaps for Australia's prime minister Scott Morrison, that the extreme fire season is due to global warming, with temperatures as high as 49 degrees in some areas.

"The fires that rage are far greater and out of control than anyone is used to," she can confirm. Basically, the flora is in Australia custom fire: The many species of eucalyptus trees have spread across the continent in a rhythm of fires, as ecological historian Stephen Pyne describes in his great work Burning Bush - A Fire History of Australia > (1991). He devotes a great deal of space to the controlled burning of forests, grasses and bushes that have been practiced for millennia by Aborigines - and which contributed to natural regeneration. Now the situation is out of balance, Pyne states: Forest fires and the greenhouse effect from fossil fuels work together and tilt the weather and climate into a new catastrophic state, pyrocen - the fires era. An Australian ecologist, David Bowman, has even founded a new discipline, pyro geography, says Lay. The goal is to study landscapes on fire, in all dimensions: human, historical, anthropological and ecological.

Bronwyn Lay
Bronwyn Lay

Dangerous protection

Are the fires natural or unnatural? Some critics in Australia have pointed out that the forests are "overprotected": The ideology of protecting the wilderness from fire has led to the build-up of disastrous amounts of combustible material. Therefore, when the fires first occur, they get out of control.

"Here in Australia, the Greens have been blamed for this problem, quite wrongly, since they have not…

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