Solidarity with burning Australia – exploring the fire-ravaged shores of the Garden Route South Africa
Greetings UCommunity and UOS crew, today we continue our exploration along the south Cape coast of Africa as I search for the fabled hidden pirate treasure of Captain Kidd. He sailed these shores in the late 1690s and is purported to have stashed his loot in one of the numerous caves along the craggy shoreline just below me.
While making may way down the cliffs and through the indigenous vegetation today, I can’t help but notice the charred remains of all the trees that were burned to the core in the devastating and historic wildfire of 2017. It makes me think of the tragic wildfires burning in Australia recently. Australia’s fires are equally historic and way more severe in size and destructive potential. It appears as if the whole of the Australian continent was ablaze around its edges, if we look at the maps released on the news.
The 2017 fire here on the Garden Route, South Africa was also considered to be the worst in 150 years and burned for four days, pushed by unrelenting and quite savage gale force winds. We are not far from the Cape of Good Hope in the west, also known as the Cape of Storms due to this very ability of the climate to generate such severe conditions. Numerous early trading ships passing by around the African continent in previous centuries were wrecked along these shores. And Captain Kidd would have sailed here too over 300 years ago, around the same time as the early Dutch sailors who frequented this trade route to India for the exotic products of the East. His treasure still awaits some fortunate explorer, like me.
In the video clip you can clearly see the remains of the charred trees from the fire here over two years ago. It apparently destroyed over 1000 houses, much like the current Australia wildfire, though had a smaller footprint, affecting only two towns here, namely Knysna and Plettenberg Bay plus the 25 kilometers in between. A fire fighter volunteer lost his life during that historic event, though in Australia several people have already died. And this weekend, as I write this, the reports are emerging that the Australia fires are getting progressively worse, pushed on by sweltering 40 degree C temperatures. They are out of control and there is no sign of containing them.
On seeing the damage here on the south Cape coast now I can’t help but feel solidarity with Australia. My heart goes out to them. The video footage of hordes of desperate people congregating on the beaches is gravely surreal, and yet it is the video clips of the koalas and kangaroos, desperate for water and shelter, that really bring tears to by eyes today. By looking at the damage here along the coastline, I can see that the indigenous bush bounces back but it’s the wildlife that truly suffers. Actually the local indigenous vegetation, called “fynbos” is designed – by nature and time – to factor in occasional wildfires. There are some species that sprout specifically from fire – their seeds are germinated when a fire occurs. So it appears that nature has adapted to conditions of occasional bush fires, and actually benefits from them. You will see some amazing new flowers arise from the ashes of any fires along this entire coastline, from the Cape of Good Hope, 550km to the west, all the way up to the borders of the next province, just 250 kilometers to the east of where I am now on the Garden Route.
So nature can survive occasional fires here, but in Australia their current fire is so huge that it is simply unprecedented. Reports are saying that the entire koala bear species is being pushed to the verge of extinction by this kind of drought, heat, and fire all happening simultaneously. Climate change, whether anthropogenic or natural, is having a truly devastating effect on the planet at present and Australia seems to be the canary in the coal mine. Let’s take this moment to meditate on them receiving relieving rains, which is the only thing that will save the continent now – and all its living entities.
“Nature red in tooth and claw” is a phrase from a poem by Tennyson penned in 1850, that comes to mind in such circumstances. Of course in this situation it’s more like “nature black in soot and ash” but the implication is the same. How do we reconcile the existence of a benevolent creator, while simultaneously observing just how savage and tragically deadly nature can be sometimes, whether in the form of animals ripping each other to bits for food, or wildfires burning everything mercilessly? It can challenge the faith of any devout believer.
Having traveled to India and spent months studying under the training and guidance of holy men and Sanskrit scholars there, I have learned from them how the Vedas told us thousand of years ago already how “one living entity is food for another”. In other words I recently realized that the material world is a dichotomy in itself because life is fed by death. The only way most of nature lives is if there is death. The plants are fed by decayed plant matter and the animals are fed by the death of some other animals. One cannot live without something dying. That may appear tragic, but it is the design of the material world. Therefore the yogis train in transcendence. They teach us to not become attached to the material world for it is temporary and brutal. Life goes on but death is certain. Such is the paradox, and we can’t be overly sentimental about this world being the only place to call home for the eternal living entities.
Anyway, you get the idea. We have to be philosophical about the nature of life on earth. And the yoga tradition of India and the east in general, has given us a bigger picture. Perhaps that’s why I’m a constant traveler, with no need to have one particular place to call home, because either it’s all home or none of it is home. I’m sure you digital nomads and constant travelers will understand. And one day, when our time comes, we too will all leave this body we call home behind and travel onward, take to the stars, or to another material body, according to the philosophy of reincarnation. It seems all this devastating fire stuff has made me very philosophical today. Well, travel is a fantastic teacher so keep on rolling fellow travelers and we may well find what we are looking for. Until next time, keep your eyes on the road and your hands upon the keyboard.