A requiem for nature *

during the Blue Mountains fires in Australia, December 2019

 

Rosalie Chapple • Blue Mountains World Heritage Institute

 

We read that the air is toxic, and the pollution levels are dangerous to our health. We read about the microscopic dust and PM2.5 particles. But what are these particles?

 

They are the koalas caught in the burning tree canopies, too slow to escape. The few remaining native animal species that have been able to survive in our colonial-transformed environment.

 

The smell of the smoke is the one hundred species of eucalyptus trees awarded World Heritage for their outstanding diversity. Along with the living laboratory of Blue Mountains ecosystems formed across millennia. Maybe too the Wollemi pines that avoided extinction for 100 million years.

 

Our smoke-induced headaches are the 20,000-year-old rock art destroyed in the flames. The Aboriginal sacred sites and songlines of the Dharug, Darkinjung, Gundungurra, Tharawal, Wanaruah and Wiradjuri people.

 

The pink-red glow of the sunset is the burning peat of the upland swamps that formed over thousands of years, serving as sponges that hold precious water on top of the escarpments. It is the endangered wildlife that live in the swamps, the Blue Mountains water skink and the giant dragonfly.

 

The sick feeling in our stomachs is the burning of the few remaining pure-bred dingoes. It is the bower that the satin bowerbird built so he could dance for his females, surrounded by painstakingly curated blue objects.

 

The sting in our eyes is the eastern spinebill, tiny birds too vulnerable to survive the heat. The echidnas engulfed in flames with nowhere to hide.

 

Our tears are the moisture from the wings of the newly hatched cicadas that just emerged from their seven-year hibernation.

 

All of them burning, rising, floating, and settling in our lungs. Their lives have become part of ours more than ever before – we denied our connection and we can deny it no longer.

 

* Inspired by Becca Rose Hall’s  Fine particles of brilliant forests, burning, written during fires in British Columbia.

A new parliament

 

Judy Pinn • Linden, Blue Mountains, NSW

 

When what’s left of the animals are well enough

Let the roos and koalas take over the halls of power

 

When those who so savagely lost their homes are able

Let them sit alongside, in their blackened clothes

 

When those exhausted firefighters are rested

Let them sit too, cradling their hardened hands

 

If Indigenous fire stick people are still willing

Let them, once again, assemble

 

Now let the country down under

Turn the world upside down

 

Put the chairs on your head

And speak!

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