FIRE, SPACE and TIME
FIRE, SPACE and TIME
Video by Malcolm McKinnon
Contact Malcom McKinnonCopyright
Kevin Tolhurst has spent thirty years studying the role, impact and management of fire in the Victorian environment.
In the Wombat Forest, 100 kms north-west of Melbourne, he reflects on the need to appreciate fire as a defining force and presence and to develop a stronger knowledge of the environments in which we live.
KEVIN TOLHURST: I think people are naturally attracted to fire. There's a fascination and there's a power about fire. And that provides a real opportunity to actually understand it. So rather than treat it as some sort of supernatural, inexplicable force, we can actually use that fascination to learn more about it.
Fire plays an incredible role in our environment. And we need to look at the whole picture, rather than just zoom in on the actual short space of time when the fire actually occurs or the immediate consequence. And getting that spatial and time perspective on fire allows us to look at fire in a very different way.
I think one of the traps that we fall into as human beings is we often see the environment as it is right now, without trying to understand how it is that its come to be the why it is. And we need to understand, well, what role has fire played in this environment? And there's nowhere in Australia where fire hasn't had some influence. So the question for us is that when they live in an environment, we need to learn and understand that environment.
Just realizing that fire is an incredible and inextricable part of that environment has to be a realization and an admission we need to make. So we have to actually take a very active personal role in this. In the same way as if we want to make a new friend, we learn as much as we can about their personality. We learn as much about what their behavior is likely to be under certain circumstances.
We need to do exactly the same thing with the environment because we want to be friends and we want to actually live in that environment. We need to learn about it, know what its behavior is, and know what to expect under different circumstances. It's really no different.
Without fire in our environment, our environment basically stagnates and becomes a much less balanced and a much less productive environment. So rather than looking at the moment that the fire has occurred, we need to look at fire as part of an environmental process over decades and centuries. It's a fire regime that we ought to be looking at.
Part of what living in the environment means, it's not about providing ourselves an armored suit. It's not providing some high level of protection to isolate ourselves from that environment. We need to come to an understanding of that environment and learn about that environment so that we can actually live with it in a knowing and meaningful way.