January 2013, has been very distracting and the extreme fire conditions have woken us from our usual persistence to stay in holiday mode a little longer. Traditionally it is a less than optimum time for putting forward ideas and getting anything done. Friends schooled in adult education training warned us NOT to try and run courses in January because people retain their school holiday mindset well into their senior years, and even if you can get them to turn up they will be distracted and inattentive.
Fire has been often characterized as the best servant and the worst master (you may have heard this expressed in many different ways). Last evening at a local rural firefighting service get together, as expected, the politics of fire was in the forefront of casual discussion. Yet, some very important debate happened of interest: We talked of fire management and the attitudes of each of us towards, and the implications for, landscape management.
Introduced into the discussion was how the government measured success of their many programs. We at this point input our interest to expand the Carbon Farming Initiative (CFI) methodology on savanna burning to a more focused area of controlled burning as was practiced by the indigenous in times past and the difference being in those traditional ways the management was to avoid total incineration and encourage regeneration and improve soil fertility.
In relation to the traditional burning practices cited, the various land managers, both government & private, agreed the need to stimulate considerable discussion was evident. Those that opposed said they were having some trouble accepting the notion of “cool” patch burning. They don’t like it because it leaves too much charcoal on the ground which they think will fuel the next fire, and the only answer is to ensure hotter more complete burns to reduce the fuel back to mineral ash. One even went so far as to say, ‘do you think the indigenous knew what they were doing, they had no intention of managing the landscape, fire was an accident that just got away from them and the benefits were accidental’. Our reply, does it matter that they planned the benefit, what matters was they learned something and have knowledge from the experience, and the issue must be effective communication is needed for a better understanding and to ensure that knowledge is not lost. To have the attitude that all that we need to do to manage the risk for the environment is indulge in recursive behavior is nonsense.
Saying there was a communication problem was the catalyst for a more rational response and the group was then more open to accept they needed to engage in more than polite conversation and to actually open themselves to the thought our indigenous colleagues deserve an audience for what they say is a solution to our degrading rural scape.