Climate Dominion and Redemption: The Australian Bushfires

Steve Roels wrote us a timely blog post about the Australian fires.

“But if there is hope to be found in the grim headlines from Australia, and all the other places where a changing climate is causing suffering, it’s that God did not create humans to be passive participants in God’s world.”

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Good article. An Australian missionary friend of ours in Niger wrote about Christian environmental stewardship here: . He was involved in reforestation and land use treatment early in Niger. Thanks.

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Great article, Randy. My daughter lived for a few years in Algeria and I remember drinking the tea brewed over acacia wood charcoal on a visit there to the desert.
Climate change is reality, and dealing with it may involve planting trees, perhaps in places they previously did not grow due to differing climates. I have noticed in my area that fruit trees previously unsuited to our climate zone now do well. Dealing with change may involve intentionally adapting to the new conditions, as return to the old seems unlikely at least for generations.

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I just listened to a CT podcast interviewing an Aboriginal theologian and activist about how the church in “the lands now called Australia” is responding to the fires. Very interesting.

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Apparently the changing climate probably isn’t the biggest contributor to the massive fires we’ve been experiencing in California, Australia and elsewhere. I just attended a talk comparing the flora of California and the Western Cape of South Africa. Interestingly they are not experiencing the intense fires Australia and California are, although they too are running out of water from aquifers and springs. The reason they haven’t been having the big burns is that they haven’t been suppressing wildfires as vigorously as our regions. Every part of the cape burns on average every five years and in fact the flora there depends on it to reseed and replenish itself.

I’m guessing that people aren’t inhabiting thickly wooded areas the way we do here, but regardless they haven’t been campaigning against forrest fires. I suspect our population density and enjoyment of living in natural areas are to blame. Climate change still impacts the starting of fires but it is human activity which is responsible for the unnatural build up of fuels.

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I’ve lived in the Pacific Northwest my entire life, and this has always been a hot button topic. Attitudes have begun to change to the point where controlled fires are now considered a part of healthy forest management. We are also dealing with decades of overly dense human guided reforestation with quickly growing lumber species instead of letting areas naturally reforest. Before Europeans moved into the west it was a much more open park habitat, with big ponderosa’s and lots of open area between trees instead of the dense forests we have now.

Some people think that if we don’t fight fires the forest will somehow disappear. It is worth reminding them that we only started fighting fires about 100 years ago, and the forests did just fine for millennia before that.

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Exactly. That just leaves managing the building of houses in areas which need to be allowed to burn at regular intervals. Perhaps zoning and permitting minimal defensible areas around structures would suffice.

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I definitely think it’s urbanization fracturing the wilderness so that natural burns can’t make their way across the land. Then places that are wild but near people we typically practice bad fire ecology such as winter burning and then any fire that starts further away we put it out as fast as possible so it never burns through.

“Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.” -Colossians 4:6

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