Sydney's fires - a short story

Pacific Edge Permaculture + Media pacedge at
Sat Dec 29 06:20:48 EST 2001

> From: Loren Davidson <loren at> Reply-To: "permaculture"
> <permaculture at> Date: Wed, 26 Dec 2001 21:10:47 -0800 To:
> "permaculture" <permaculture at> Subject: Re: Sydney's fires
> - a short story
> At 02:03 PM 12/27/01 +1100, Pacific Edge Permaculture + Media wrote: HOW
>> As I sit writing this message in a southern suburb of Sydney, Australia, a
>> fallout of cinders and burned eucalyptus leaves continues to descend on the
>> city, just as it has these past two days.
> I hope that you are safe where you are.

Yes, we are  - thanks for the thought. We have only a small area of remnant
bushland nearby and nowhere close enough to threaten our house. I guess that
is one benefit of life in the dreary suburbs!

>> Here in the south-east, a vast biome dominated by eucalypt forest, the fire
>> season comes in summer - late December and January.

> Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, half a world away,

But only the other side of the ocean in yesterday's time zone...

> the very same eucalyptus was one of the main contributors to the big Oakland
> fire in October of 1991 - hundreds of homes destroyed -

I thought Oakland was an urban area of houses and wharves...

> and for many of the same reasons.  We also have a fire/flood ecology
> here...but eucalyptus isn't a native species here; it was brought over by
> people who saw how fast it grew and figured they could use it for something -
> initially for railroad ties, for which it was poorly suited.
One of the ironbarks (a common name covering a number of  eucalypts of the
stringybark variety) - I don't know which species - was used for railway
sleepers in Australia. Cutting and supplying them used to be an industry.

> Amazing how many things we can have in common across so many miles.  I hope
> that things don't go as badly there now as they did here a little over ten
> years ago.

I guess as we internationalise suites of plants we also spread their
benefits and disbenefits - in the case of eucalyptus - inflammability and
medicinal properties - it has a disinfectant oil.

Incidentally, I believe another Australian contribution to the North
American ecology has been one of the Malaleuca sp - the tea trees. I
understand that  people in Florida regard it as a weed!

New Zealanders have also been recipients of Australian biotic largesse. In
this case, it's the tree-dwelling possum, a medium-size, furry vegetarian
common in east coast habitats (and a nuisance when they take up residence in
suburban roofs!) that New Zealanders prefer to view as a pest! I hope they
keep their keas to themselves!

Here, we have numerous pestiferous imports - cane toads (brought in to
control a beetle pest in sugar cane and now a popular target of Queensland
drivers when the animal crosses roads), camels (in desert regions), horses
(in the south-eastern alpine and subalpine regions - occasionally shot by
national park personnel), water buffalo (in the Northern Territory), foxes,
pigs, cats, dogs (which interbreed with dingo) and, in Sydney of recent
years, Sacred (White) Ibis which have grown into large populations and which
annoy the Waverley Community Garden folk by digging up their vegetables!

Incidentally, if you would like a few more additions to enhance your
ecologies, I could suggest wombat (which dig large burrows and devestate
vegetable gardens), bandicoot (which do the same on a more modest scale),
brown snake (relative of the cobra) and Tasmanian devil (nocturnal scavenger
with a roar that terrifies non-Tasmanians and is sort of a large mouth on a
stout, barrel-like body) and goanna (large, angry monitor lizard with liking
for chickens).

Thanks for your notes.

...Russ Grayson

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