The Bushfires in Australia

Unprecedented’ is a word I have heard used in the Australian media a lot lately. And it’s true. The experience of recent months across the country with fire has been exactly that. There  are some other words that deserve to be used also: catastrophic, devastating, traumatising and horrific.

During the One Month Body Harmony Retreat in September last year I chose to attend the funeral of the father of one of my close friends from school. I had to drive away from the fringe of Australia’s east coast where I live to venture west and south, well away from the Pacific Ocean. Seeing the countryside was to truly understand what the worst drought in living memory actually looks like. Bare paddocks barely holding the top soil for hundreds of kilometres. Farming communities in tatters. Palpable stress in the townsfolk’s bodies and the extreme weather being the constant subject of conversation.

In late November we were required to evacuate our property on three occasions due to bushfires and I can tell you –  that is an exhaustive and activating process. However, we fortunately escaped the fires. This was not the case for people – close friends – who returned to ruins and are now required to pick up the pieces in a landscape foreign to their senses. The loss of wildlife has been staggering.

The sheer scale of this disaster can, in part, begin to be understood by reading current data from Wikipedia,

“As of 14 January 2020, fires this season have burned an estimated 18.6 million hectares (46 million acres; 186,000 square kilometres; 72,000 square miles), destroyed over 5,900 buildings (including approximately 2,683 homes) and killed at least 29 people.

Burned area: Over 10,700,000 hectares (26,00…

Non-fatal injuries: At least 41 total: Unknown ci…(?)

Fatalities: 28 total: 25 civilians; 3 volunteer firef…(?)

Buildings destroyed: 5,900+ › wiki › 2019–20_Australian_bushfire_season

2019–20 Australian bushfire season – Wikipedia“

To give context to this, an area the size of England and half of Scotland has been torched, and the burning continues in some places, though thankfully drenching rains have been received recently in many parts of the country. Let’s not forget that although Australia is a really big place, the fires aren’t everywhere and nor is the rain. It seems that the extremes are much more extreme.

It’s impossible not to notice that priorities change when your life, and the lives of those you love and care for, come under threat. The value and significance of my daily task list changes. Some things begin to feel meaningless, inconsequential and irrelevant in the middle of such catastrophe. It’s no longer a sense of ‘business as usual’. People’s lives are under threat in a real and direct way. It takes some adjustment and resilience to manage and yet the biggest thing that has stood out for me is a remarkable and growing sense of unity, community, kindness and generosity. 

Of course Australia is not the only place in the world with problems, – it is however the place that has received ‘unprecedented’ media attention. I am reminded that there are many people suffering for whom there is no attention.

We need each other in simple and meaningful ways. A pat on the back, eye contact, and empathetic nod are the substance that sustains our communities. Validation, however simple, lubricates the hardship. I have loved the contact from people within our Body Harmony community during these challenging times. It really does make a difference.

In Australia, we have volunteer fire fighters who have given everything they have to attempt to save the lives of people and property and wildlife wherever they can. Amazing people.

In my opinion, more than ever, we need to come together. We need to share our experiences with those with open hearts and minds who can listen. When we’re threatened we need to feel that there is indeed intelligent life out there, because it certainly appears to be lacking in our governance structures. 

May we, the members of the BHA Management Committee, take this opportunity to wish you a vital, empowered and meaningful 2020. Perhaps, in my imagination at least, we could collectively act with more respect for each other and the amazing planet we inhabit.

Duncan Hogg

Practitioner, Teacher & President Body Harmony Association Inc