High alert

I’ve just posted a four paragraph response at a multi-author blog which I think is a sign from my subconscious that I should actually write about it. It was in response to the rebuilding of towns after the bushfires. The post itself was quite innocuous, phrased rather to get the commentors going on the historical, legal and psychological issues of redesigning towns in response to extreme local fire risk. As expected there was one comment along the lines of, they built suburbia in eucalypt forests so there you go.

There’s been a little bit of that around – perhaps more than I’ve heard, perhaps not. I heard the conversation at work and it’s been hinted in one or two letters to the editor. It’s this: they chose to live there. And this is what I wrote:

Clearing land around houses is not going to be the answer. I’m in that outer north east that really is vulnerable. It’s an established area, small lots (certainly not 1/4 acre) and heavily treed. If you want to go the land clearing route, you’d be leveling the place and doing unbelievable environmental damage. You know, the kind that makes it unlivable for humans as well destroying ecosystems?

So, do we go with building codes? Well, we rent and the thought of having to defend our place makes me very ill. I can’t imagine our landlord paying for the mods necessary to make it defensible. New houses are built in our area, but rarely. More often it’s the medium density units on a suburban sized block. So higher population density and still only three roads out.

I don’t mind if the communities of Kinglake, Marysville, Narbethong, Strathewan, Flowerdale, Kinglake West, St Andrews and so on want to rebuild their communities, their lives and their houses. I really mind if government and other interest groups don’t have a conversation about what it means to live in a changing, Australian environment and striking the balance between human habitation and the ecology within which it sits.

I’m over conversations about ‘they chose to live there’. We all make that choice: federal, state and local governments, investors and developers, individuals. How about we recognise a collective responsibility to get the mix right? Otherwise, X is right. We should never have settled Australia at all.

As a community, I believe we have an obligation to ensure that we do not unnecessarily endanger others. At that will probably mean changing building codes, looking at the design of towns, houses and community buildings. It may increase the cost of housing or town planning or establishing towns. But the response is not to say, it’s their fault they chose to live there. It’s not to say, don’t rebuild because it’s unsafe. It’s not say, clear the land. It’s to say, do we understand our environment? It’s to say, how do we live in our environment? And to think hard and creatively about answering those questions.

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1 Comment

  1. Stomper Girl said,

    March 12, 2009 at 1:19 pm

    Bravo.


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