Fire in Australia

In a dispatch from Cooinda, Australia, Robert Fuller writes in the New York Times today:

“Many forests were thinner than those that exist now and were more resistant to hot-burning fires. Early explorers described the landscape as a series of gardens, and they reported seeing near constant trails of smoke from small fires across the landscape.

“As Europeans took control of the country, they banned burning. Jeremy Russell-Smith, a bushfire expert at Charles Darwin University, said this quashing of traditional fire techniques happened not only in Australia, but also in North and South America, Asia and Africa.

“’The European mind-set was to be totally scared of fire,’ Mr. Russell-Smith said.”

In the end, the aboriginal ways send less carbon into the atmosphere, and allow animals and humans to live and thrive, as today’s conflagurations in Australia do not. The question there—and in California, Washington, and Oregon—is whether reviving ancient ways and wisdom can have a significant impact on hundreds of years of  the “European mind-set” on fire.

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