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Australia on the Chasm of Climate Catastrophe

Fires burning East Australia, December 2019. Courtesy NASA. Public Domain.

Australia: coal and Murdoch are kings 

Australia has had a series of bad governments beholden to the coal industry and to the Rupert Murdoch propaganda machine. The media empire of Murdoch controls about 60 percent of the newspapers and television stations.

The Murdoch message, just like the message of Fox TV in America, is in defense of the oligarchs and against environmental protection of any kind. This propaganda is in accord with the continued use of fossil fuels and the ceaseless destruction of the natural world. Young people brought up on this diet of lies become vociferous in their advocacy of violence and undemocratic politics.

I used to write for an Australian journal. However, my articles triggered a vicious reaction. Some readers threatened me with death.

Coal conservatism

It’s people like these that embrace conservatism. Like the American conservatives, Australian conservatives are not smart enough to understand that the coal companies and Murdoch exploit them or that the anthropogenic fury of nature will kill them and their children.

Scott Morrison, the present conservative prime minister, exactly like Trump, denies global warming while his country fuels itself primarily with coal, including petroleum and natural gas. In addition, Australia has been exporting huge amounts of coal to China and other countries.

Ecological holocaust

Simultaneously, large sections of the country the size of West Virginia have been burning with holocaust-like effects on wildlife and forests. Australian scientists report that something staggering like half a billion wild animals (mammals, birds and reptiles) have already perished in the raging fires since September 2019. Another estimate raised the dead animals to a billion.

Even if this calculation is overblown, the implications are cataclysmic. The fires probably pushed thousands upon thousands of species to extinction. The surviving animals have practically no habitat or water or food left for them. Heat waves follow one another. Smoke of the Australian fires is seen around half of the world. Drought is threatening farmers, agriculture and food.

The 1,500 miles long Great Barrier Coral Reef and kelp forest, home to countless fish, are dying from the rising temperature of the oceans.

This ecological upheaval and nightmare is mobilizing young Australians who demand that their government takes climate change seriously.

Tyranny in Australia   

Richard Flanagan, an Australian novelist, is outraged by the climate change destruction of his beautiful homeland. He denounces the criminal negligence of the conservative government denying the truth of climate change to please the fossil fuel magnates and Murdoch. “Tyranny is emerging in Australia,” he says. “Murdoch should be ashamed.”

Murdoch and his News Corp and government officials are spreading disinformation and doubt about climate change, questioning the veracity of climate science and connecting the fires to arson rather than climate emergency.

Murdoch’s news outlets are smearing and criminalizing ecological thinking and action, especially the followers of the Green Party criticizing the fossil fuel industry. Environmentalists are very angry and desperate. The fires of climate change are destroying their homes and dreams.

Dark ages

Flanagan speaks like an angry and desperate prophet seeing the end of good life in Australia. He says Australia in the first days of 2020 “is ground zero for climate catastrophe.” He paints a science fiction-like reality of Australia that combines the dark ages and no less destitution than that of days after nuclear war:

“The images of the fires are a cross between “Mad Max” and “On the Beach”: thousands driven onto beaches in a dull orange haze, crowded tableaux of people and animals almost medieval in their strange muteness — half-Bruegel, half-Bosch, ringed by fire, survivors’ faces hidden behind masks and swimming goggles. Day turns to night as smoke extinguishes all light in the horrifying minutes before the red glow announces the imminence of the inferno. Flames leaping 200 feet into the air. Fire tornadoes. Terrified children at the helm of dinghies, piloting away from the flames, refugees in their own country.”

The civilized world should be up in arms and in the streets over this climate inferno in Australia because the ecological holocaust in Australia has no borders, sooner or later reaching China and the United State and Europe. It is already seething in the Amazon and the forests of California.

Flames reached the heavens

It’s utterly stupid to ignore the climate superpower we have brought out of the chasm of Tartaros. Like the mighty monster Typhoeus, the new fossil fuels-climate has the power of making our Mother Earth uninhabitable.

Hesiod tells us that fires from two wars came close to destroying the Earth. The first war was between the Titans (born of Ouranos (Sky) and Gaia, the Earth) and the gods (born of the Titans Kronos and Rhea). The second war included Zeus and the monster Typhoeus (Τυφωεύς, son of the Earth and Tartaros, a chasm under the Earth. These wars were primarily fire wars. They burned forests, land and water. The flames nearly set the sky οn fire as well. Fires nearly melted the Earth. In both wars, Zeus relied on his almighty Thunderbolts and lightnings. He was especially effective against the monster Typhoeus, which attacked with intense fires coming from the eyes of a hundred serpent heads sprouting from his shoulders (Theogony 624-739, 835-868).

Typhoon, the windy and destructive hurricane, comes from Typhoeus.

Zeus and the gods won the wars against  the Titans and Typhoeus. They imprisoned them into Tartaros.

Throw fossil fuels to Tartaros

We can do the same thing. Form a global coalition against fossil fuels companies and their political stooges. Shut down fossil fuels and imprison and dump into Tartaros their executives and  other serial polluters.

I applaud the protests in Australia. But that is not enough. Australians must get rid of their conservative government, just like Americans must impeach Trump and defeat conservative Republican politicians.

We have Zeus’ weapons in the inexhaustible energy of the Sun, wind, and water.

The climate fires in Australia signal a moral and existential crisis. We cannot afford another billion dead animals. Fires in Australia are a warning we overlook at our mortal peril.

More articles by:

Evaggelos Vallianatos is a historian and environmental strategist, who worked at the US Environmental Protection Agency for 25 years. He is the author of 6 books, including Poison Spring with Mckay Jenkings.

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