Danger of burning plastic
Everyone knows bushfires are dangerous and burning plastics are toxic, but few understand the full extent of how dangerous burning plastics can be.
I won't go into the horrors of deformed children in Seveso, Italy; Bhopal, India, and in many places in Vietnam, but burning plastic produces large amounts of dioxin, one of the most lethal terategenic substances known, and the substance that, owing to various difference circumstances, causing ongoing deformities in those places.
In Batemans Bay, our industrial area is south-west of the town, the direction from which the greatest bushfire danger comes. Our industrial area contained a large motor wreckers which went up in smoke, probably about midday when the smoke was at its worst and turned day into night. My son and I, amongst thousands of other people were in town seeking refuge from the fires at that time and were in and out of cars going to and from evacuation centres and the like.
Councils need to ensure this sort of thing does not happen again, by locating any business that contains or uses a lot of plastics well away from town and in a safer direction, probably to the north, but that would be a matter for research. Councils are of course subject to control by various government departments and I believe these departments should be involved in coordinating a sensible response to this danger in every town and region.
Dioxin accumulates in the body, especially in the liver. Plastics are a grave danger, especially when coupled with fire and the safety issues must not be ignored.
On the Beach
We had come down for Chrissie to a village on the shore
To a childhood dreamtime playground, far away from words of war,
Where the old folks had retired, independent, within reach,
To share with friends and family a festive season on the beach.
Fire season started early, there was bad news from the south
Of wholesale evacuations, on TV, by word of mouth:
But we went ahead with Chrissie, we heard the padre preach,
And we all enjoyed the party with a barbie on the beach.
With New Year's Eve approaching the wind was getting worse,
And hope began to fade that we'd dodge the fire's curse.
Still, early on that morning, there were surfers in the reach,
And tai chi and pilates and joggers on the beach.
The smoke came first, from earth to sea, a solid rolling arc,
Then flames within the smoke, like lightning in the dark.
Hot and swirling winds, smoke covering all and each
And the Firies started shepherding us to our shelter on the beach,
From Surf Beach and Lilli Pilli, and Guerilla Bay, we came.
To see a blast like a tornado turn south headland into flame.
Phone and power lines were cut, there was no-one we could reach,
We were horses, budgies, cats and dogs, and prize chooks on the beach
Spot fires up at Reedy Creek, and what of Mogo Zoo?
We could hear gas bottles popping, see houses burning too.
Shark alarm kept us posted, but no-one made a speech:
We were calm, down by the water, gathered on the beach.
The dusty russet crouched and spread, like a huge bat, on the crest:
It made us feel as though the sun was rising in the west.
Was it old world seeking new world, always out of reach?
Or new world fleeing old world, as we huddled on the beach?
Between a burning crescent and the vast Pacific sea,
We felt the winds subsiding in time for afternoon tea,
But the Firies said "The roads are closed, we're still quite out of reach:
The safest and the sweetest spot is right here, on the beach."
The next morning, hardly morning, we scanned to count the cost:
The bowling club was gone, and a dozen houses lost:
Not a leafy tree left standing, gum or plane or beech,
The hollow husk of a holiday village on the beach.
Now New Year's past, we're back at work, repairs are under way,
The village stands together to face another day:
The hand of help and friendship is always within reach,
And all are still good neighbours in our Bourke Street on the beach.
Were we lighting beacons to show space-travellers the way?
Or sending out a warning to keep aliens at bay?
Will we ever learn the lesson that nature longs to teach,
Or do we face a fiery future, swagging on the beach?