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Nobody wants to watch the Australian Chokin’

If the tournament is this unsafe for players, it might be best to relocate it to another country entirely. Perhaps somewhere with better air quality, like Beijing or New Delhi?

It’s in the cloud

Blowing smoke in somebody’s face is the height of rudeness in this post Mad Men-era, which is why those dinosaurs at Sterling Cooper puffed out a thick ciggie fug in every episode. Nowadays, a faceful of smoke is more unacceptable than double dipping, mansplaining, ghosting or just about any other modern faux pas – after all, not many lapses in etiquette are carcinogenic.


So how is the world to feel about the news, from no less a source than NASA, that the smoke from Australia’s bushfires will travel right around the globe, becoming the most unwelcome antipodean export since Peter André? The smoke has already visited New Zealand, Argentina and Chile, giving locals an unwelcome taste of why Australians have taken to face masks with enthusiasm unseen since the Phantom of the Opera. Every cloud has a silver lining, though, even literal clouds like these ones – and I have very much enjoyed not being able to see Blues Point Tower at regular intervals this summer. It makes asthmatic misery almost worthwhile.

Eventually, our true blue Aussie smoke will wend its way to Europe, whose residents will probably assume that some negligent Eurovision contestant has left their smoke machine running – and in a way, Australia has.

Subsequently, the cloud will make its way back home, like a toxic, stratospheric boomerang. Because no matter how far it may roam, those PM2.5 particles still call Australia home, and even Peter Dutton can’t stop the smoke.

Our international reputation took a huge hit even before this choking proof of our lack of preparation circled the globe. British coverage of the crisis has been especially intense, both because their Tory government has had little trouble agreeing to strict emissions targets – 100 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050 – and because many members of the British public are no doubt relieved to discover another world leader who can compete with Boris Johnson for buffoonery.

Indeed, Scott Morrison is making international news like no prime minister since Paul Keating dared to put his mitt on Her Majesty. This week’s dire Newspoll was downright kind compared to some of the press the PM has been getting abroad. For instance, a New Yorker article last week basically portrays him as a carbon-loving troglodyte – let’s just say that his stunt of bringing a lump of coal into parliament and gleefully claiming that ”it won’t hurt you” has travelled about as well as coronavirus.

At least the pines are fine


There was one good piece of bushfire news last week – we managed to save the Wollemi pines from the immense Gospers Mountain ”mega” fire, which started in late October. These priceless botanical treasures were protected by what the NSW Environment Minister Matt Kean, that fringe rebel who believes in climate change, called a ”military-style operation”. Specialist firefighters, water and retardant-bombing aircraft and an irrigation system all combined to ensure that our precious ”dinosaur trees” survived. A hearty round of applause to all involved.

It was an admirable example of multiple government agencies working efficiently and urgently to protect an ecosystem that was in dire trouble, because it was far too precious to lose. Might it be time to treat the rest of the planet the same way?

Happily, as we learned this week, even a member of the Murdoch family thinks so. What a pity it’s James, who is currently as influential within his powerful clan as Prince Harry.

Peter FitzSimons is on leave.

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