“If you leave your front door unlocked, you can’t complain too loudly when someone steals your TV,” argued Tom Marland, an agribusiness lawyer based in Bundaberg, Queensland. “It’s the same with bush fires,” he added.

Marland explained that Australia’s failed environmental policies would be responsible for the wildfires that recur year after year and that the time had come to seek practical and affordable solutions to combat the impacts of fire.

However, “as predictable as always, conservationists and opportunistic politicians are blaming these fires on climate change,” said the legal expert.

“The real reason is governments—local, state and federal—over the past three decades have bowed to conservationists and green groups,” Marland determined.

All this time, he continued, government policies focused on driving people out of natural environments, restricting access to national heritage to people who were willing to invest their time, their resources, and even their lives to protect it.

“Just by locking up a piece of scrub and calling it a national park does not make it so,” Marland said, adding that, on the contrary, “it creates a massive estate, which is difficult to manage and maintain.”

Effective measures versus climate alert

To reduce the danger of huge fires caused by controlled burns—on the second driest continent on earth—Marland suggests encouraging low intensity cattle grazing, which would lead to a reduction in vegetation density and thus use less fuel.

“We need to reintroduce low intensity silvicultural practices across our forest estate to reduce fuel loads, increase forest health, reduce noxious weeds and prevent catastrophic fires,” he said.

In addition, all fire breaks should be assessed on the type, height, and fire risk of vegetation, rather than limiting them to 10 meters; and ‘cool buffer’ zones of lower forest density should be implemented, these buffers should be burned regularly (every year).

“Stop blaming climate change,” Marland said. “Even if the climate is changing, does that mean we should just throw our hands in the air and let our national estate and biodiversity go up smoke every year?”

 “Sitting around blaming the weather for all of our problems is juvenile and futile,” he concluded.

More causes and cases

According to ABC Australia, the police in Queensland, northwest Australia, announced weeks after the state of emergency was declared—due to massive forest fires—that they had taken action against 18 people for deliberately setting them.

In November 2019, it was also announced that a firefighting group formed by members of several NGOs (Brigada Alter do Chão, Aquíferos Alter do Chão and Projeto Saúde e Alegria) was arrested on charges of causing massive and catastrophic fires in the Brazilian Amazon to allegedly receive donations.

Civil Police Commissioner José Humberto de Melo explained at the time those involved even sold photos of the fires they set to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), and received hundreds of thousands of dollars from award-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio.

Until that moment, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, had been the object of a media trial that had sentenced him as the main person responsible for the worst fires registered in Brazil in the last decade.

Join our program