It’s cool and damp today, a perfect planting day. Soooo tempting. But I know that within a month or so, we are likely to be getting frizzle days, days when the fire danger meter down on the main road points to Extreme. (It hasn’t been updated yet to include the new category introduced since the Victorian bushfires – Catastrophic – but we’ve already decided to follow the advice of the Rural Fire Service, and arrange to be somewhere else on those days. Our house is well prepared, but the warning is that on those days, nothing is well prepared enough.)
We’ve had frizzle days ever since I’ve lived here – nearly 30 years. But with climate change, they are becoming more frequent and more extreme. That’s the climate change pattern. The weather has always been variable, with long cycles and short cycles overlapping and catalysing each other to create occasional “extreme events”. Climate change just raises the whole kit and caboodle a notch or two, so what was a “very high” fire danger becomes “severe”, what was “extreme” becomes “catastrophic”, what was a defendable position becomes foolhardy.
We’ll leave on a catastrophic fire day, but the climate change pattern of bumping everything up a notch is likely to mean that what was a grassfire that would go out of its own accord at night, or be easily fought, becomes a bushfire that needs serious attention. We’re becoming more and more conscious of conserving water for firefighting. So although we have a lot bigger reserves these days, I’m even more reluctant to plant things that will need watering.
So, mid-spring, heading into summer, la Ninã or no, I’m not planting any more fruit trees, not even to replace the jackfruit and macadamia twisted off at the base by the storm this week. I’m planting my usual round of carrots and spring onions, and that’s it. I’ll wait till February, when the worst of the fire season is over, to plant trees. I won’t even regret it if it turns out to be a wet summer. It’s not about politics, it’s about risk management.