Every summer it becomes apparent just how extreme Australia's weather conditions can be; and this summer has been worse than any in at least twenty years. We have just returned from Victoria, where they have had record-breaking temperatures for the last couple of weeks; and all you have to do is glance at a TV or turn on a radio to realise that most of the state is in flames. Approximately 70 people have died in this year's fires, and entire towns have been burnt out. Marysville and Kinglake, to all intents and purposes, no longer exist. Thousands of homes and properties have been lost throughout the state, and many of those fires are still not under control. I grew up in the Australian bush, and I know the destruction that can be caused by fire despite taking all possible precautions. Sometimes, like this summer, there's simply nothing that can be done. I urge any and all of my readers who are able to donate to the Australian Red Cross' "Victorian Bushfire Appeal".
I must, however, note the positive side of this disaster: It is absolutely wonderful to see how our people respond in times of crisis. I suppose we're used to it; if it isn't fire, it's flood or drought (or all at once in different areas). In this case, probably most of the people fighting the fires are volunteers; and charities who are already overstretched due to the current financial crisis are still coming good and providing emergency assistance to those affected by the fires. ABC radio has become the emergency broadcasting service, giving news of fire locations and severity and also broadcasting "community meetings" in areas too badly affected to organise one in the flesh. We are never a finer representation of what humans should be like, than when the shit hits the fan. So, a massive cheer and a thank you to everybody who has done something or given something beyond the bare minimum.