Bushfire dwarfs a fire-truck at Labertouche, near Pakenham, east of Melbourne, February 2009. Alex Coppel / The Australian

In February 2009, Desdemona was new to blogging. The world was still reeling from the global financial collapse caused by the deregulated, automated, shadow banking system – currently valued at $67 trillion and growing! Global warming was fading into the background of the public consciousness.

Except in Australia, where a “once-in-a-century” heatwave had broken temperature records across the states of New South Wales and Victoria. Coupled with the record, decade-long drought known as the “The Big Dry”, eucalyptus forests – the habitat of the beloved koala – were tinder-dry.

The koalas that could reach human settlements lined up along roads and begged for water. One baby koala was taken in by a family, and this photo became famous around the world for a few minutes:

A baby koala named 'Joey' was found shaking and sickly beneath the verandah of Mrs. Tracey Young, during the Australia drought of 2009. He had been deserted by his sick mum and left to roast in the blistering temperatures. Probably his mum had become distressed and disorientated by the heat, so she left the baby on its own without even realising. Blisteringly hot conditions forced the baby koala out of his tree. seawayblog.blogspot.com

Then came the Black Saturday bushfires. Eucalyptus trees, full of volatile oil, exploded like bombs. The flame fronts lofted up to 200 feet high and swept through the forest at 60 miles per hour. People escaping in cars were overtaken and incinerated. The animals that hadn’t succumbed to thirst were incinerated, in their millions. The few that survived, like “Sam”, the other koala who became famous globally for a few minutes, had no habitat to return to.

Local CFA firefighter David Tree shares his water with an injured Australian koala at Mirboo North after wildfires swept through the region. The koala, later named 'Sam," suffered second- and third-degree burns to her paws in the February fires and is recovering at the Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter in Victoria state. (AP Photo / February 9, 2009) 

Over the span of a few days, koalas became an endangered species, as their habitat exploded around them. The Australian Koala Foundation said koalas will be extinct within 30 years. The climate in Australia has changed; it no longer supports eucalyptus forests.

Today, four years later, Australia stands on the brink of another, even hotter, “once-in-a-century” heatwave event. It’s so hot that the Bureau of Meteorology was forced to add another color – purple – to its temperature maps, for temps > 50°C (122°F). Bushfires rage across Tasmania. A record-breaking “heat dome” hovers over the continent.

Desdemona fears the worst.


  1. RalphWiggum said...

    I don't think that Cassandra enjoyed being right.  

  2. gail zawacki said...

    Fires today: http://witsendnj.blogspot.com/2013/01/a-world-of-dying-trees.html  


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