Amid the current crop of climatic horrors being visited on various inhabitants of Queensland and NSW I reflect, having just been admonished by a first-year university student and her mother at our local dog park and informed that the fires currently threatening our principal home, for instance, are an inevitable consequence of global warming – about which I may well be from the look of me even a denier – I reflect on some of my earlier times in other less obviously extreme climates.
Before coming to Australia I lived in an area which was historically extremely liable to flood rather than to burn: in other words in a house overlooking the Thames at East Molesey which lay almost directly opposite Hampton Court Palace. Our problem was that this whole extremely low-lying area was served by three vigorous rivers rather than just one: the rivers Mole and Ember which co-joined with the Thames directly opposite one of Britain’s more famous historic buildings.
In 1968 an epic deluge of water, which flooded many local shops and houses, joined the Thames very close to our family house. The whole area was in fact full of plaques which recorded the epic heights achieved by floods in previous centuries. Early in 1963 by contrast the Thames froze and could actually be skated upon for several weeks. Many areas of England were cut off by deep snow and ice and a road journey which normally took me three hours took thirteen along a road which was supposedly impassable. Ever tried a series of doormats, shovels and a sleeping bag?
I was also living at East Molesey in 1978 when the great hurricane of that year hit, flattening some 15 million trees in its path. If I had had a board I could have surfed on the river at 3am thanks to the fiercest wind recorded in the UK since 1703. For at least a decade and a half following 1968, East Molesey resounded each day to the sounds of multiple jack hammers and pile drivers at work. Surrounding river banks were shored up, redirected and reinforced and to the best of my knowledge ‘global warming’ never got a mention even by any former prime minister – let alone one trained previously in science by Goldman Sachs. At the seaward end of the Thames in the meantime a truly massive project and feat of engineering had been undertaken which is known today as the Thames Barrier. Its basic aim was to protect the inhabitants of Britain’s capital from incoming surges by the sea – an aim which it has delivered subsequently with total success. Both projects were completed and opened for service in 1982. What was recognised in England at least was that householders deserve some degree of protection against the elements via the authorities of the state.
Back in Australia my wife and I bought a number of properties in the upper Blue Mountains over the years, some of which were aimed to provide a permanent shelter for her widowed mother who died just as we at last received permission to extend and modify our current home there. We have made the latter as attractive, practical and cleverly devised as we can. A few years ago our efforts were recognised by the National Trust of Australia who opened the house to the public and over 900 visitors were then able to see our best attempts at creating a local landmark.
The house itself has unusually had only four owners in over a hundred years and was built originally by a doctor from Sydney who was given an acre of land by former NSW governor Lord Darley in return for being on hand to tend the latter’s sick daughter Lillian whose name is commemorated still in the name of a famous local hotel. Historically, Echo Point has become the second most visited tourist destination in New South Wales. Scares have certainly taken place over the years but local diligence and historic procedures have so far kept our investment intact. When the local fires recently erupted I was about to write a short history of the house in fact for general publication. We are close to the escarpment and a friend who is currently even closer tells me that the currently endangered Cliff Drive was known before 1940 as Scenic View Drive. In short, a breathtaking panorama of local views was once not just permitted but encouraged. The public viewing platform at Echo Point aside, most of the potential views are shielded from public view today by indifferently maintained scrub and fallen trees presumably on the fashionable grounds that such are more ‘natural’. Our local council also vigorously pursues any looked upon as harbouring ‘forbidden’ plants although doing so on a massive scale itself.
When looking at news footage of fire-torn villages and small towns I have never been able to understand why clear ground is not always established on their outskirts at least; lives and houses can so readily be lost. Yet in many areas of NSW the removal even of a single trees is looked on as a source not only of edicts but of income. Often, to remove even a single tree an extremely complex form needs to be completed and a substantial fee paid, quite apart from the professional services of a removalist. Has local bureaucracy exceeded its proper remit? In an article I wrote six years ago called Ecological Marxism and Other Delights I quoted the Hon. Kevin Andrews MP who quoted former leader of the Builders’ Labourers Federation Jack Mundy who was instrumental in the development of Green politics in Australia. Mundy advocated placing considerations of ecology before all else and favoured pursuing such ideological-sounding causes wherever necessary by totalitarian means. I fear the endless brainwashing in Australia of gullible students may soon become a major factor in our dwindling reserves of water. I fear our so-called longest drought in history also involves a tragic current drying up of common sense.
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