We all have our own tribes — people we care about or have a connection with and who we consider more like us than others. Over the course of our lives, we create these overlapping networks of friends, families and neighbors and acquaintances that together shape our world.
While science tells us that the earth’s circumference is 24,901 miles, the size of our personal world of relationships and communities varies greatly. There are some whose worlds are centered around their own small communities. Others have networks that circle the globe.
A survival trait in humanity is to be able to compartmentalize our capacity to care. We care more about the people we know and care about than we do about strangers on the other side of the world. It is only through relationships with others and broadening our personal worlds that we can view people and events in other places in the context of our own lives.
This is a long-winded way of saying it is human nature to care more about the people sitting on the church pew next to you each Sunday than about the people who dress funny who live far away that you only see as images on a TV screen. When bad things happen far away, we may think “That’s a shame” and move on with our lives.
I got to thinking about this as I have been keeping track of the ongoing fires devastating much of Australia. By any measure, Australia is far away from Medford. If you were to drill a hole through the center of the earth from it would end up somewhere off the coast of New Zealand, which means that Australia is just about as far way from Medford as you can get and still be on dry land.
The ongoing brush fires have grabbed headlines in recent weeks. The nation is in the midst of some of the worst conditions ever recorded with no end in sight. This hits home a bit more to me than other global catastrophes because my personal tribe of friends and acquaintances includes people who live and work there.
Knowing homes are burning is very different than knowing the people who live in those homes. On Tuesday, we got an update from the people who are witnessing the fires first hand, they wrote: “Our country people live with a bush fire plan, how to prepare their properties, clear the land around their buildings, dig bunkers, install arrays of sprinters over their roof and have the precious goods packed ready for evacuation.
Sadly, this attack came on many fronts and the best prepared and equipped properties were attacked, almost by military precision.
From the north with strong winds, then a few hours later the wind turned 180 and came from the south, more ferociously, faster and hotter leading with large flaming embers picked up from fresh fire area with the embers traveling faster than the fires - lighting new stands of bush.
In one record, a house in the middle of over 100 acres of cleared bare pasture was attacked. There was nothing to burn on the ground, so by normal standards they would have been safe, but the fire behind was so strong, traveling so fast it appeared to be ‘living’ on oxygen alone like a red hot cloud in the sky. The property owner saw the flames on a distant hill, about 20 kms away and thought it would be six hours away - best a get a couple of hours rest to cope before a new fire attacked.
An hour later he woke and it was screaming at the far end of his property.
All his 5,000 and 10,000 litre full poly-water tanks melted instantly, all his fire fighting equipment was ash and he fled to his bunker. It travelled so fast, but possibly due to this, his home was spared! but nothing else survived. All his barns were totally destroyed - where he had moved all his farm equipment and machinery, believing they would be safe.
In summation, this was much more than a bush fire, it was a ferocious inferno attack that fed off huge tracts of forest, jumping from one forest to another maybe 50 kms away through its own micro wind, heat and ember system, traveling well over the fire fighters on its way to more fuel. Small fires quickly became big fires, and rarely experienced before, big fires lit numerous spot fires in many directions creating an impossible task for fire fighters.”
My family, like many others, are praying for the weather to shift and the fires to end and for those who have lost everything to be able to rebuild their lives.
When you think about it, the world is a pretty small place.
Brian Wilson is News Editor at The Star News.