Climate Change - you can almost feel it!

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Dawn-in-kangaroo-valley.JPG
Duck in Kangaroo Valley after a very hot, dry windy and in the end smoky day

Changing behaviour through fear:notes from a tourist accommodation provider in Catastrophic Fire Risk Australia.

Monday mid day. We have been alerted that Tuesday will be a Catastrophic Fire Danger rating in South East Australia. There is no higher warning. It means we face the threat of high winds fanning bush fire and destroying communities, nature and potential loss of life.This fire threat is influenced by the El Nino effect and Climate Change. It has been argued that people will not change their ways in the face of Climate Change because its effects are too slight (not today perhaps 43 C, 75 kph winds and a very dry air).

The order of events for this small accommodation provider in Kangaroo Valley:

Monday evening. Implement our Bush Fire Survival Plan. Advised our guests of the dangers. Three parties choose to immediately travel through the night to Sydney. The last choose a cinema and shopping mall day trip to Nowra - they leave in the morning. My wife Sophie has evacuated to her parent's in Milton with the children.

Monday 9:00 p.m. The evening deathly still, no bird song. The only sound was the three computerised phone calls and four sms messages from the Rural Free Service warning of the fire danger and advising of evacuation.

At 3:30 a.m. I awoke to the sound of Christmas Beetles hitting the fly screen as they tried to reach by digital clock light. Difficult to sleep dreaming of the Towering Inferno.

Dawn Tuesday the sky was filled with fluffy swirls of thick cloud. You had the sense that the forces of Mordor were coming.

6 – 10:00 a.m. Final preparation for the cottages. Remove door mats and any inflammable items, turn off gas, water plants around cottages to reduce combustion. Water kindling stored under our solar panel stand. There is a lot to prepare for a single person covering 16 acres! Sophie calls regularly with news of the weather conditions south of us .

11:00 a.m.Constant media coverage, confusion in what they are saying. Called elderly neighbours to check they are OK.

1:30 p.m. Now there are several fires 50 km plus to the south. The wind is picking up and the temperature is increasing. This wind can easily bring down a tree in the mountain forest and cut Kangaroo Valley off. If you did try to leave you could be cooked in a queue wanting to leave.

2:00 p.m. The internet connection in Milton NSW where Sophie is staying has gone down. No ability to use “modern technology”. (Interesting to note that the Tasmanian fire authorities are now distributing their bush fire survival plan physically as an insert in newspapers because people are not downloading the free link from their website!)

3:00 p.m. Smoke spotted on the in Kangaroo Valley. Dialed 000 took 3 minutes to get connected. They had to write the information down as their computer is ‘frozen’...everyone's busy.

By 6:00   Temperature still 41C but Kangaroo Valley appears safe for today, not so lucky else where

8:36 p.m.  Still 35 C and the grass is now as crisp as a pack of chips. Let us hope the weekends high temperatures don't have high winds.

The point of the story is are we going to make such events 'normal' or take action?

On the one side as marketeers councils and tourism providers encourage visitors to the regions and spend money inviting them to enjoy our natural attractions, but as hosts we might fall short in caring for our guests and considering the right precaution for their safety. We are morally responsible for them, it is fundamentally part of hospitality. The impacts of extreme weather events are going to increase. In 2009 the STCRC report strongly recommended that government take action to manage visitor communication and safety (The Impact of Cliamte Change on Australian Tourism Destinations). In the above cases, using today's 'event' has encouraged people to adapt but also to recognise the real tangible impacts of Climate Change. One step to change behaviour and encourage a better world.

In the following cases, using today's 'event' has encouraged people to adapt but also to recognise the real tangible impacts of Climate Change. One step to change behaviour and encourage a better world.

1. By using this Blog I have encouraged one peak tourism body in Australia to propose state wide fire risk management plans as part of destination management planning process (pending their approved at their next board meeting).

2.All Kangaroo Valley Tourist Association members were sent a week ago a Bush Fire Survival Plan - see attached. Many have read and implmented the proceedures.

3.I have used this fire plan and today's situation in a letter to the Shoalhaven City Council mayor, general manager, tourism board chairperson and all the councilor to encourage the local council to consider a Tourism Fire Risk Management Plan. 14th January Update After several emails with the major, council officals and the chair of the Shoalahven Tourism Board they have agreed to discuss the need for risk managment.

 

The cost of cyclones on toruism Queensland is a reminder of the need to be truely prepared - see below.

Two months on, it was reported as The Angry Summer and we have much to do

 

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Bush Fire Survival Plan for KVTA members.pdf546.54 KB
The full costs of the Queensland Floods blog[1].pdf293.84 KB