We all smell the smoke, we all feel the heat. This environmental catastrophe is global

(The Guardian, 17 May 2019) Governments of the world need to act. It’s time to speak to our planet with kindness before it’s too late.

A dense haze of smoke crawled over Melbourne and embraced us for a day in its lonely pilgrimage, inviting us to contemplate its mourning rite, its long prayer.

This smoke came from a cremation of the natural world - the bushfires from the Bunyip state forest that had begun during days of a major heatwave running across the country. The forest lies 65km east of Melbourne where mountain ash grow, prickly tea-trees, stringy barks and heathland swamps. In the Woiworung mythology of the Kulin nation, the Bunyip is a spirit that punishes bad people who disturb its home in the swamps of the Bunyip River, and according to the Parks Victoria information sheet on the park, local Aboriginal people avoided the area.

Lightning strikes created the fires by igniting a tinder-dry forest that flared up into “insane” flames from out of control bushfires. The sky around the Bunyip bushfires quickly filled with ash-loaded clouds reaching up to 6km in height where it produced its own erratic weather system. This was another massive pyroconvection producing bushfire – a super cell thunderstorm that was perhaps similar to the cumulonimbus flammagenitus clouds associated with the 2003 Canberra bushfire, and the 2009 Victoria’s Black Saturday bushfires which created pyrocumulonimbus storms reaching heights of 15km and generated hundreds of lightning strokes. This is the new language of climate change. Words most of us have never heard before but we are now learning to understand from experiencing the extreme weather events affecting us more frequently.

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The Guardian, 17 May 2019: We all smell the smoke, we all feel the heat. This environmental catastrophe is global