Floods and fires

The eastern coast of Australia has been on the wrong side of nature’s umbrella since the beginning of the year. The drought that had given us the tinder box which ignited into devastating bushfires in the Black Summer of 2019-20 was replaced by floods of near biblical proportions in March 2022.

Communities in the very south of Queensland and the far north coast of NSW (Big River Country) have been inundated by record breaking floods. Further south, areas around Sydney and Wollongong were also lashed by the East Coast Low – a quaint term for a cyclone-like event that occurs south of the areas cyclones are supposed to stick to.

Waiting to be rescued

My new town of Armidale was not affected by flood. The thirsty paddocks around here soaked up the welcome rain. It got a bit boggy but given nearly everywhere is downhill from Armidale, there is no risk of widespread flooding. Not so for the residents of towns like Lismore and Woodburn. The news was filled with heartbreaking images of families huddled on the roof of their two story homes with water lapping at the gutters waiting their turn to be rescued. Some of them waited for days. The demand for rescues exceeded the capacity of the emergency services and everyone with a “tinny” (a small aluminium boat) joined the effort to deposit soggy, hungry people on drier land.

The rains continue

A month later when recovery efforts were well underway, and widespread tidying up in full swing, another East Coast Low dumped more rain. Less than the previous event but because the ground was already sodden it did not take much to over top the levee again and people were evacuated for a second time. This time there were few rooftop rescues, mainly because those families were yet to return to their homes and because of swift enforcement of evacuation orders. 

Lismore’s future

Flood is a frequent visitor to Lismore. There is a levee around the town which is meant to protect them but this year the flood was a full 2 metres past previous records. Climate change? Probably.

I listened to an interview many years ago, when another bad flooding event had submerged the town. When the ABC reporter asked the hydrologist what could be done to protect the town, she drew a sharp breath and said “Move it”.

Move the whole darn town. Sounds crazy but not that crazy. With the the millions of dollars that are spent in fixing things after flood every couple of years, it seems like a good long term strategy. When you add in the personal cost, the trauma; the loss of household “stuff” and the fatalities, it seems like an even better idea.

Will it happen? Probably not.

I wouldn’t like to be trying to insure my home there though.

Here to help.

I am here in the disaster zone, helping out as an SES volunteer. My role is a small one. Working in the “back room” logistical side of things at an airbase. The helicopters are busy dropping food and supplies to people and animals. Today I helped load a chopper with sleeping bags and air mattresses for people still stuck in an evacuation centre.

I’m not getting wet and I’m not getting dirty, but I’m here and doing my bit. Just like hundreds of others of my orange colleagues and those from other agencies like the Rural Fire Service, the Police, the Defence Force and NSW Fire and Rescue. Some get paid, but for others (like the SES and RFS) this is a labour of love. For me it’s all part of my personal strategy to improve my life. Volunteering is one of the things that contribute to your own positive mental health and happiness.

Remember this!

To get here, I drove through the towns worst hit by this 1 in 1000 year flood. The scene was horrific. I found it hard to keep driving. I wanted to leap from the car and help the family I saw sweeping mud from their home. I wanted to hold the hose for the firies (fire fighters) who were sluicing out the shops. I wanted to take photos of the mud on the roofs, the caravans tipped sideways; the cars randomly wedged against trees; the bits of furniture stuck in the branches 10 metres above the ground. The piles of books and furniture stacked outside on the street waiting for collection. I wanted to record and share it all. But that seemed disrespectful. Disaster tourism. It didn’t seem right.

Or is it a chance to share an historic moment in time when Australians once again pulled together to help a community in trouble. A time when we decided climate change was here, and now.

Fellow Australians, It’s only a few weeks out from an election. Remember this. Which party has our long term interests at heart? The planet’s?

Remember that handshake during the fires? Where is he now?


There are no photos for this post. Maybe I’ll take some on the way home.

Earth’s do-over.

This post is a thought bubble. The idea is not yet fully formed. It may never be. It is unlikely that my train of thought is unique or original.

How far back in mankind’s* history would you have to go to do a successful do-over that would right the wrongs of today? Not just “fix” these problems, but make sure they never actually happen. What alternate decisions should we have made? 

What sliding doors did we need to close to prevent the damage we are doing to the earth?

What other path should we have chosen to prevent all the -isms which lead to wars, violence and death. 

What survey questions should we have answered to prevent marginalisation, discrimination and poverty based on how you looked, and who you love? 

Which box should we have picked to prevent the divide between super-rich and everyone else?

Which ancient parents should have practiced better birth control? And then, what behaviours should they have ignored so they were not encouraged?  

What inventions should never have been developed? 

What eureka moments should have been left in the bath?

Religion – more harm than good?

My big three do-over steps

A few ideas come to mind.

  • Money?
  • Religion?
  • Humans themselves?

As I said my idea is a thought bubble but on very shallow inspection it would seem that perhaps humans should not have been invented. Every problem stems from there. I don’t see any other living things causing as many problems as we do. What about art and music and poetry and all those beautiful things we create? Not much good if we can’t breath the air or can’t stand the heat or are worried about land mines.

I’m going to leave this parked here and do some reading and find out what other people think. 

*The fact I had to use that word as opposed to a non-gendered term in itself is something to do-over. 

and don’t worry mum! I’m fine – just thinking out loud 🙂

Spring in Australia

It’s September 1st and downunder in Australia, we call that spring! As a scientist, I pedantically wait until the spring equinox around the 21st – 22nd of the month to claim it Spring. This seems more in line with the way humans may have done it before calendars. When all they had were huge massive stone structures that were perfectly engineered to allow light to enter a tunnel or shine on a particular inscription on a particular day at a particular time. Nothing special at all. And we use a paper calendar, or even more likely Facebook wishes us a Happy Spring!

How far removed we are from nature! I notice the day length increasing. I notice the few deciduous trees in my neighbourhood re-greening, but I’d be hard pressed to place a rock in a spot to catch the sun on a particular day.

Neolithic knowledge sharing

This line of thought led me down the path of

“How did Sven, the Neolithic engineer, share his ideas on how and where to erect the standing stones. How did he tell his “team” how deep, long and wide the tunnel needed to be so light entered the tunnel and struck the wall in an earthern Broch?”

Robyn eating breakfast…

How indeed? No way to simulate the result before starting. Not even a slide rule! No way to write down the calculations and no way to communicate other than speech. How did the Svens do it? If the tunnel was off by a few centimetres they’d have to wait a year to find out. Did they start with a stick in the ground?

Even with our modern technology and computer simulations we get it wrong. Even with our international teams of technicians and aerospace engineers, a spacecraft bound for Mars failed because one team used SI units, and the other imperial measurements!

Neolithic people must have told their stories and hence they would have to remember them. They would have to remember everything. Can I eat that plant? Without PlantSnap app to give you clues it might be a game of Russian Roulette. [Whispered aside: I feel that Ugg (Ugg being my quintessential Neanderthal archetype), might have done the ground work in passing down the knowledge of which plants killed other Uggs]

Driven to distraction

As humans we still have that capacity to remember great wads of knowledge. Yet we don’t. Instead we are distracted with social media and other forms of mass entertainment. We are kept passive and locked into a white patriarchal capitalist hegemony. We are literally cooking in our own pot yet we are too distracted to get out and turn off the stove. (The lobster analogy is of course not my own original work. I’ve seen it written in many places). Mind you I’m rather pleased we have progressed to the point that we know about hygiene and vaccinations!

This is not exactly where I wanted to go with this post. It was meant to be an exploration of ancient knowledge systems. But these ideas of being deliberately trapped in a consumerist hot pot have been on my mind for a while in case you hadn’t noticed.

Down a different sort of tunnel

As part of my quest for intentional living I have been falling down some deep tunnels myself and widening (or is it narrowing) my information sources. I have recently tapped into a few new podcasts, and subscribed to some online newsletters. You might like to check them out too.

Futuresteading – the byline “living like tomorrow matters” wraps it up. An interview style podcast which explores the greener side of living. One of the hosts, Jade Mills has just released a rather lovely although very gendered book about her rural life in Victoria.

Galaxy Brain. My newest internet vortex find! I subscribe to Future Crunch which is a good news site. It publishes good news that usually gets lost in the regular doom and gloom news cycle. They referred to Galaxy Brain in one of their micro-stories. While not about the environment per se, Galaxy Brain raises ideas about interesting modern issues, like should we work everyday for 40 years in a job we hate to make someone else rich? You can see why I like it!

Orkney Island Neolithic Sites

The images in this post were taken in the Orkney Islands around Skara Brae. In 2019, I was lucky enough to spend a wonderful week walking on the islands as part of my Scottish Roadtrip. I have written some other posts about the travel aspects of this trip elsewhere in my blog.

I still haven’t answered my Sven question but just so the post is not completely off topic, here are some spring flowers!

This is wattle – the Australian National Flower. Sweet-scented and loved by bees but hated by those with hay fever!