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Australia fires: Aboriginal planners say the bush 'needs to burn' (bbc.co.uk)
25 points by jweir 8 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 20 comments





> "It's the concept of maintaining country - central to everything we do as Aboriginal people. It's about what we can give back to country; not just what we can take from it."

Aboriginal practices should not be romanticized. There is evidence that it actually had severe environmental impacts, in particular shortening Australia's monsoon season and lengthen the dry season: https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2011/06/did-australian-abori.... There is also evidence that they caused the extinction of the Australian megafauna: https://phys.org/news/2017-01-humans-climate-australian-mega....


On top of this, this year's conditions are nothing like the "natural" burning of Australian forests. The fires are burning hotter and faster due to the dry conditions.

A massive part of Australian forests have already burned too, they don't regrow out of nothing, and they are the only thing keeping deserts at bay in many cases.


Yep, it’s the noble savage fallacy https://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Noble_savage

The article is about controlled burns.

What's the name of the fallacy where you dismiss something that has has been successful for centuries or more just because it doesn't have a Latin/Greek-derived name granted by a European?


I agree with the criticism, and disagree with your counterpoint.

There is no evidentiary record of this being "successful for centuries." After all, there are no written records.

On the face of it, if you start a fire in a bushland which is 100s of kilometres in breadth, how are Aboriginal people going to communicate and control such a blaze? They don't have access to:

- water pumps - hoses - irrigation - telecommunications - horses

There's some mythmaking going on at the moment in Australia about this.

I find it hard to take the claims at face value.


> What's the name of the fallacy where you dismiss something that has has been successful for centuries or more just because it doesn't have a Latin/Greek-derived name granted by a European?

I bet that Ice age survivor Europeans were perfectly aware of fire and all its possible uses, a few thousands of years before 1606.

The idea of Australian aborigins teaching Europeans about how to use fire in that new thing called agriculture is very funny.


In general a lot of Australian forest does need to burn, we know this. Record drought and record high temperatures over the past few years created the catastrophic fire conditions we have seen this year. Controlled burns cannot be carried out when conditions are dry and hot - the fire gets out of control. Thus there have been very few burns of this nature over the last several years.

Climate change means it's getting more and more difficult to carry out these type of controlled burns for forest management in general. Our fire seasons are longer, hotter, drier and more dangerous, and these types of burns can and do get out of control.


The purpose of a controlled burn is to remove underbrush and create gaps that an uncontrolled fire could not cross, right? Wouldn't it be possible to archive those goals without fire? (e.g. just going through the forest and clearing underbrush manually)

Of course some fires are still needed, e.g. to trigger fire-dependant seeds.


> Wouldn't it be possible to archive those goals without fire? (e.g. just going through the forest and clearing underbrush manually)

Not at the scale that'd be needed. Clearing underbrush is a labor-intensive process, and the amount of it involved is staggering.


The amount of bush in Australia is incredible.

120+ million hectares, equivalent to three times the size of California !

Doing this manually would be far too time consuming.


Perhaps we could introduce a non indigenous animal to do it for us, Australia had some experience in this area :)

The kicker is that grazing animals could do it but aren't done that way very often in practice. Not without environmental costs of course.

Also, there is significant political opposition to this, specifically in the Victorian highlands.

It's not just about clearing underbrush. Ecosystems that experience frequent wildfires actually need fire for succession. Long lived plants in those ecosystems tend to be more fire resistant, they're smaller with thicker bark, shrubs and herbaceous plants will have seeds that lay dormant in the ground for years until a fire.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fire_ecology

A lack of controlled burns leads to a buildup of dead wood and underbrush so when there eventually is a fire, it becomes the raging out of control bushfires going on in Australia right now, or in California not long ago, or in BC not long before that.


To express it grafically I would say that ecosystems need fire in the same way as humans need to suck pacifiers.

I dont have the citation offhand but some of the recent fires have simply ‘jumped’ firebreaks and cleared areas as well. Add to that the natural firebreaks of damp/wet forest lands going up like we saw in QLD.

Many have crossed firebreaks at unprecedented levels. Throw in the self-generating storm clouds and associated lightning strikes and it’s an entirely new situation to anything seen before.

No, no and no. Being ignorant is one thing. Deliberately maintaining it and event romanticizing it is a heinous crime at best.

Agreed, we have so much to learn. https://youtu.be/_tOkb1y7hEs

This should be a much larger part of forest fire conversations.



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