The first modern humans appeared on the territory of Australia about 50 thousand years ago. Many researchers suggest that for most of this time, Australian aborigines regularly engaged in artificial “cultural burning” of their lands. How, and most importantly, why the indigenous people of the Green Continent systematically set up large-scale fires, and also why the practice of Australian natives can be useful in light of modern problems with massive forest burnouts in different parts of the planet – more on this later in the material.
Scorched earth art
Researchers and scientists who have been working in Australia for many years are well aware that throughout the “human history” of this continent, local fires occurred everywhere in the territories where the aborigines lived. Their scale and location makes it possible to assert that people themselves became the “authors” of these spontaneous fires.
The Australian natives systematically used fire to clear or destroy the sparse undergrowth. Thus, creating very comfortable zones for the life of small animals, which the aborigines ate. However, this was not the only benefit of artificial fires. Burning out undergrowth helped to reduce the risk of global forest fires by an order of magnitude.
Dr. Rebecca Blige Bird, an anthropologist at the University of Pennsylvania (USA), has been studying the history, life and lifestyle of the Australian Martu people for over 20 years. She is sure that such local fires were not just necessary, but rather vital for the local tribes. Moreover, the natives had their own clear “scorched earth technology”.
According to Rebecca Blige Bird, the natives set up the fire in such a way that small and small representatives of the local fauna (such as wallabies or marsupial kangaroo rats) could have time to escape from the fire. Moreover, in different seasons and in different areas, the aborigines carried out “cultural burning” in different ways, taking into account absolutely all the accompanying factors.
The natural balance was upset in the late 1960s, when the Australian authorities began to relocate indigenous people to cities and metropolitan areas. There was no one else to arrange controlled burning of vegetation. Since that time, the number and intensity of global forest fires in this area has increased significantly.
The death of the Australian megafauna
Most scientists working in Australia fully agree with the assertion that traditional cultural burning in these places is more than important in maintaining an environment conducive to human life. And also to prevent forest fires, colossal in their destructive power. However, before the arrival of people on the Green Continent, there already existed another natural factor that held back massive fire catastrophes – the local megafauna.
Giant marsupial herbivorous mammals such as diprotodons, zygomaturus, palorhests, as well as large koalas and gigantic kangaroos, sometimes weighing up to 500 kg, ate tons of plants every day. This, according to scientists, reduced the risks of large-scale forest fires by an order of magnitude.
The people who came in a fairly short period of time ate all these marsupial giants and problems with fire began everywhere on the continent.
In the 21st century, the inhabitants of Australia finally began to closely look at the history of the Green Continent, gradually realizing the influence of people on the nature around them. In early 2020, Craig Lapsley, a politician, public figure, ex-Commissioner of the Emergency Management Department of the Australian state of Victoria, made a proposal at the state level to financially support the resumption of the ancient practices of “cultural burning”.
Currently, not only local landowners and farmers, but also Australian firefighters are actively interested in this millennial “technology”. Inhabitants of Australia believe that with the help of preventive fires it will be possible to solve the problem of global fire elements. At least the Australians have expressed a willingness to give it a try.
In recent years, the problem of forest fires is relevant not only for arid Australia. Hundreds and thousands of hectares of the “lungs of the planet” are flaring up and burning all over the world. Smoke and fumes from fires, which can no longer be called a real global disaster, become the causes of diseases of the human respiratory system