The notice for this climate action was short. An email from East Gippsland Climate Action Network (EGCAN) and the local Extinction Rebellion (XR) group* received late Thursday gave notice of a silent vigil to be held for half an hour in the Nicholson St mall. The purpose it stated was as follows: “This will be a respectful symbolic action of support for all the communities facing the incredibly devastating fires in NSW, Queensland and WA. We will stand in solidarity with the bushfire victims, emergency services workers and volunteers.” Participants were invited to ‘wear black for mourning if possible’ and to ‘bring a friend’.
I was five minutes late attending and not dressed for mourning. The vision as I rounded the corner from the Safeway carpark into the mall was quite impressive – a row of silent figures dressed in black – like crows on a fence. I joined the dozen or so participants followed by a few others to bring the total to 17 or 18.
The EGCAN facebook page later reported: “A silent vigil was held in Nicholson Mall yesterday in support of people across Australia affected by bushfires. Members of East Gippsland Climate Action Network and Bairnsdale Extinction Rebellion took part in the vigil. Our Federal Government cannot simply observe these events – this unprecedented destruction of people and homes and land – and keep denying the truth of the Climate Emergency. We stand in solidarity with Australians and communities on the frontlines of the Climate Emergency and our emergency services workers and volunteers working round the clock to put out these blazes and support those affected.”
The response from the public was varied. Some stopped and stared, some avoided us completely, and two delightful souls read the sign, clapped and gave us encouragement. By the end of the thirty minutes (or in my case 25) we finished for which I was thankful as sitting rigidly was causing me some discomfort in the lower spine. There can be little doubt that EGCAN (and XR) are making a splash around Bairnsdale and at the very least causing many to stop and think. Meanwhile the bushfires continue in NSW and Queensland and another hot spell will arrive on the east coast by mid-week (20th).
What is shaping up to be a long, hot summer in a dry Gippsland is still to come. The bushfires in Victoria this century have been frequent, large and damaging to life and property. Recently the fire season in Gippsland extended (in August 2018) to winter fires . A massive injection of funds and human resources for the State firefighting and emergency sectors is urgently required. On the net the Anthropocene has already been superceded by the Pyrocene. Welcome to the climate emergency.
*there is some overlap between the 2 groups