Fall 2023 - From the Editor

   Given the recent tragedies in Maui, British Columbia, and, maybe in the next few days, Yellowknife, I write nervously from Queensland where winter is winding down, and summer is stoking its coals. Government crews are pre-emptively burning rangeland and greenswards, clearing fire roads and imploring everyone to have an escape plan. No one really knows what’s coming for fire season.

    A problem is that Australia was designed to burn. Over millennia the continent’s original people used fire to create a mosaic of specific seasonal habitats that supported the animals and plants they ate. In reciprocal partnership, the land evolved across the years to need to burn in order to thrive. Gum trees drop the stuff of their own kindling – resinous leaves and bark and twigs – that will feed the fire once it comes. Other plants cannot even seed properly if they do not burn regularly. Captain Cook’s crew regularly noted palls of smoke across the landscape where people were practising their burning craft, but the following two centuries of overgrazing, overwatering, and suburban sprawl have warped the land’s original purpose into a lethal threat.

    So as Canada cools, and the leaves turn, things will be heating up here. In the meantime, I’ll pick up fallen branches and rake and bag the leaves around my home, buy a big garden hose and memorize the shortest route to run to the beach.


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