Bush Fires and being Green, can you do both?

By Eco Guy 4:11am 17th February 2009
Given that bush fires cause a lot of destruction and environmental damage, can we manage them and be green at the same time?

Given the terrible bush fires that occurred in South Australia and terrible loss of life that occurred; questions are being asked if the Green element has a lot to blame with the bush friendly planning laws encouraging development in places and in ways that are considered down right dangerous to life.

To certain extent, I believe the Green element does carry part of the blame; although they are not alone... For instance, there are several 'vested interests' in the whole building industry more motivated by seeing housing built as cheaply as possible and influencing the standards setting process to suit their short term profit based view of the world... So houses are built of readily combustible wood, with external plastic fittings and ill fitting windows and doors.

For instance, did you know that the fire standards for house building across Australia assume a 'low intensity' fire - so if you just build something that met just those standards - the first bush fire it encountered would flatten it! Needless to say local states and councils have built these standards up to suit their specific situations better - but it results in a patchwork of standards, 'fueling' costs and causing properties in different councils on different sides of the same street to have differing fire resistance levels!

This being said, some councils have very strange 'Green' planning requirements - like requiring people in known bush fire prone areas to put trees on newly developed blocks! Come on; that's not being Green, its being stupid! If you want more trees, go plant some more on the council land you own - do not 'force' people into unsafe situations. Yes, I do not want to see everything covered by lawn; but insisting people put potentially highly flammable trees close it to their properties is not a good thing.

Also restricting the fire services in their job of managing the bush fire fuel load through doing managed burns is utter madness. I wonder how much CO2 went into the environment with the 300,000+ Ha of bush going up in flames? The bush will burn sometime, either at a time we choose or at a time it chooses - for the sake of the people I'd much rather do this when we decide and not mother nature. Remember the original occupants of Australia have been doing controlled burning of the landscape for thousand of years; this is not a new way to deal with the fire prone bush!

Also remember the environmental damage caused when a house burns - firstly; all the contents go up in a nasty chemical rich smoke, then the remaining chemical rich ash gets turned over into the local land.. Then you have the environmental cost of rebuilding and occupying the new house (i.e. all the stuff you have to buy anew) with all that entails.

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