A mostly-human created firestorm has killed many people in Australia. Like in California, the drought/monsoon cycle of Australia creates a lush tinderbox during droughts. The heat wave in Australia clearly shows us that, despite cold and snow in the northern hemisphere, the nature of global warming is more complex than global-warming deniers think. Aside from the natural forces at work here, I want to talk about the human brain and our relationship with fire.
At least 84 people have died and 700 homes destroyed in Australia’s deadliest bushfires, prompting the deployment of the army to help firefighters in southern Victoria state.
Police figures confirmed the nation’s worst bushfire death toll after more than 400 fires struck yesterday and crews fought 14 large blazes today, according to the Country Fire Authority’s Web site. More bodies are likely to be recovered as fires are brought under control, police said….
Many of the latest deaths occurred around the towns of Kinglake and Wandong, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) northeast of the state capital Melbourne. The town of Marysville has been almost completely destroyed, and about 50 homes were destroyed around Bendigo, Brumby said.
Temperatures in Victoria have plunged after reaching a record 46.4 degrees Celsius (115 degrees Fahrenheit) in Melbourne yesterday, as a southerly front moved across Australia’s southeast, changing the direction of many fires….
A 31-year-old man has been questioned over a fire believed to be deliberately lit near Peats Ridge, he said. “We will throw the book at you if you are caught.”
The tragic fires that are sweeping Australia today are not new but are, like the ones that periodically sweep California, are a natural part of the ecosystem of Australia. This latest inferno is the worst to ever hit Australia. The tragic consequences should cause us to think about how we live with nature and how we should protect ourselves.
I am a practical person. I believe in studying nature and then doing things that work in tandem with nature. People who live in tornado-prone areas should have underground shelters to run to when a storm spawns tornadoes. But we don’t build many of these, do we? And people living where there are sudden flash fires that are very hot should also have underground shelters, too. Instead, they try to flee. In California, we see traffic jams as people try to flee fast-moving fires. In Australia, many people fleeing the wind-driven infernos died in their cars as the flames overtook them.
The worst thing to be near, in a fire, is a car or a propane tank. They blow up. The safest place is in a hole in the earth. People living in dangerous places should be drilled so they know what to do in a disaster. Often, doing something reflexively is the most dangerous response.
AUSTRALIAN BUSH FIRES16 February 1983: 75 dead, 2,300 homes destroyed in “Ash Wednesday” bushfires in Victoria and South Australia8 January 1969: At least 22 dead, 230 homes lost in rural Victoria7 February 1967: 62 dead, 1,300 homes destroyed in fires in Hobart, Tasmania13 January 1939: 71 dead, 700 homes destroyed in “Black Friday” fires in VictoriaFebruary – March 1922: 60 die in Gippsland, eastern Victoria
Most of the people who died came from a cluster of small towns to the north of Melbourne. The BBC’s Phil Mercer in Sydney said many charred bodies had been found in cars. It is thought they were trying to escape the fires but were overtaken by their “sheer speed and ferocity”.
At least 12 people died in the town of Kinglake, four at Wandong, four at St Andrews and three at Strathewen.
One Strathewen resident told ABC local radio how people had witnessed “absolutely horrific” scenes as they had helped battle the flames.
“The school’s gone, the hall’s gone… some people left it too late. We’ve lost friends, and we’re just waiting for more – children, loved ones,” she said.
The town of Marysville, with about 500 residents, was said to have been burned to the ground.
The biggest danger from fire for humans is from human arsonists or carelessness, not lightning. There are two reasons for this: when lightning hits, it is usually raining and most lightning strikes that do cause forest fires, do it in more uninhabitable places and if there are no firefighters to thwart Mother Nature, the fires tend to be fast moving and burn mostly underbrush, indeed, the trees of the American Sierras and other mountains require frequent, fast moving fires to pop open Ponderosa pine tree seeds so they can germinate. The bark is even fire-resistant.
This is also true of Redwood pine forests. Modern firefighting techniques are actually very bad for these forests which rely on lightning to regenerate. For lightning comes with rain and rain germinates seeds. These are just two examples of how natural selection creates a multi-level environmental super-structure built around hazards.
For many millions and millions of years, land-based life forms evolved to co-exist with lightning. But about a million years ago, a new environmental force entered into this Garden of Eden: humans figured out how to get or make fires without waiting for a lightning bolt. Immediately, fires began to occur without rain. Since these often happened during dry spells, these fires were immensely dangerous and burned with greater ferocity than lightning fires.
To investigate, Nira Alperson-Afil from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel, analysed archaeological remains from the shore of an ancient lake near the river Jordan.
All human religions revolve around the business of fire making. It has many aspects to it which are very deeply embedded in our psychological make-up. We are all descendants of fire-makers. Any sapien creature can use rocks. It takes no great skill to pick up a stone and throw it or hit something with it. But long, long ago, when our brains were hardly bigger than a chimpanzee’s brain, the earliest proto-humanoids used rocks to chip rocks.
The chips off of the larger rocks were sharp and could be used as killing tools. Over time, the early humanoids discovered the best rocks to chip were flint-type rocks.
The video shows the modern method. But I believe that the very first fire was started not by getting a fire from a lightning struck tree that was burning. Believe me, that is very dangerous and besides, it is raining and lightning is very scary! Trust me on that, I have been hit more than once. It hurts.
No, I surmise that humans were sitting around, during a drought, no sign of any clouds, even. They were whacking away at flint rocks using non-flint rocks as the hammer to strike the flint. Sparks were flying. One lit up the very dry grass and it began to burn! Everyone rushed over to see this miracle! Yes, it was literally a miracle!
The name for the number ‘four’ comes from the Norse word for ‘fire’. The number 4 is ‘tetra’ in Greek. ‘Tetragrammaton (from the Greek τετραγράμματον, meaning ‘[word of] four letters’ (tetra “four” + gramma (gen. grammatos) “letter”),  refers to יהוה, one of the names of the God of Israel.’ There are a number of magical significance to the number four. In China or pre-Columbian America, for example, 4 was the number of unity between the gods and man.
And universally, fire gods are all very human and quite wicked as well as clever and are the ones who wage war against the ‘gods’ who tend to be stars in the sky, not fire on earth. Lucifer, for example, is a fire god. Hell is a place of burning fire that is in the earth, not the heavens. The four elements, earth, water, sky and fire, are ancient ways of seeing and understanding nature which was superseded only in the last 300 years by modern scientists.
Prometheus (Ancient Greek: Προμηθεύς, “forethought”) he was also a brother of Epimetheus (“afterthought“). The ancient Greeks understood that the care and tending of fires required lots of planning. It is fairly easy to start a fire. Keeping it going is careful work. I have heated my homes and the tent we lived in for many years, via wood fires. Keeping them going and not overheating, etc, took lots of planning. All summer long, we had to collect and make firewood and put it nearby and protect it from ice. All winter long, I would have to restart the fires in the morning and that is a bit of work, I assure everyone.
Guardians Of The Wolf ~ Loki, The Fire God
In Norse mythology, the evil trickster fire god, always mischievous, deceptive, and scheming, and one of the most well-known characters in Norse poetry and saga. As his name is derived from the Germanic root of flame, Loki is believed to have originally been a fire spirit. He was a trickster figure, and, as a shape-shifter, could become different animals at will. He was the father of two sons, Nari (or Narfi) and Vali, by his wife, the Asynjur goddess Sigyn (Siguna). But since he could also assume the shape of the opposite sex, he could give birth, and he had a number of other offspring in this way. In the surviving literature, Loki’s name is mentioned more than that of any other god, and he is certainly one of the most inventive conceptions in folklore. He was a participant in many of the gods adventures, often accompanying the principal god Odin, or Odin’s son the thunder god Thor, on their travels, though he was always stirring up trouble. Loki was able to charm everyone, despite his deep cunning, with his cleverness and good looks. In the ‘Prose (or Younger) Edda’, Loki is cited as one of the 12 Aesir gods. Strictly speaking, however, in the Norse pantheon Loki was not a god but a giant, since he was the son of the giant Farbauti (Dangerous Striker) and the giantess Laufey, or Nal. This is why he was sometimes referred to as Loki Laufeyiarson. He had brothers named Byleist and Helblindi. Although he was usually an antagonist to the gods, he sometimes lived in Asgard, the heavenly realm of the gods. The gods and the giants were usually enemies, but at some time in the distant past he had taken an oath with Odin that made them blood brothers, and because of these ties, the other gods enjoyed his company and tolerated his excesses and schemes until they got out of hand.
In many cultures, (as may be seen in Greek, Norse, or Slavic folktales, along with Native American/First Nations lore), the trickster and the culture hero are often combined. To illustrate: Prometheus, in Greek mythology, stole fire from the gods to give to humans. He is more of a culture hero than a trickster. In many Native American and First Nations mythologies, the coyote (Southwestern United States) or raven (Pacific Northwest, coastal British Columbia, Alaskaand Russian Far East) stole fire from the gods (stars, moon, and/or sun) and are more tricksters than culture heroes. This is primarily because of other stories involving these spirits: Prometheus was a Titan, whereas the Coyote spirit and Raven spirit are usually seen as jokesters and pranksters. Examples of Tricksters in the world mythologies are given by Hansen (2001), who lists Mercurius in Roman mythology, Hermes in Greek mythology, Eshu in Yoruba mythology and Wakdjunga in Winnebago mythology as examples of the Trickster archetype. Hansen makes the interesting observation that the Trickster is nearly always a male figure.
Frequently the Trickster figure exhibits gender and form variability, changing gender roles and engaging in same-sex practices. Such figures appear in Native American and First Nations mythologies, where they are said to have a two-spirit nature. Loki, the Norse trickster, also exhibits gender variability, in one case even becoming pregnant; interestingly, he shares the ability to change genders with Odin, the chief Norse deity who also possesses many characteristics of the Trickster. In the case of Loki‘s pregnancy, he was forced by the Gods to stop a giant from erecting a wall for them before 7 days passed; he solved the problem by transforming into a mare and drawing the giant’s magical horse away from its work. He returned some time later with a child he had given birth to–the eight-legged horse Sleipnir, who served as Odin’s steed.
In some cultures, there are dualistic myths, featuring two demiurges creating the world, or two culture heroes arranging the world — in a complementary manner. Dualistic cosmologies are present in all inhabited continents and show great diversity: they may feature culture heroes, but also demiurges (exemplifying a dualistic creation myth in the latter case), or other beings; the two heroes may compete or collaborate; they may be conceived as neutral or contrasted as good versus evil; be of the same importance or distinguished as powerful versus weak; be brothers (even twins) or be not relatives at all.
It is interesting to me that the concept of duality is directly connected, in all cultures, to the human fire makers with the godly fire making. Gods make fire via two ways: volcanoes and lightning. Early Humans made it via flint. Let’s go back in time to the ancient early humanoids with the sparks flying from the flints they were knapping, a fire started and they marveled at this great act. Knowing how children are attracted to fires, perhaps the younger humanoids began to play with this first fire while the elders screamed in terror, for fires were scary things.
The dual fascination with fire and fear of fire is a human characteristic. We are drawn to fires and we flee fires and the dual nature of this is very deeply embedded inside of our brains. For the greatest wonder of fire is, our brains literally evolved around the use of fire. I am constantly amazed at how our brains work. The many dualities that exist inside of our heads is just astonishing. And none are more dire, greater and powerful than all the emotions and deep-ingrained thought-processes surrounding the topic of ‘fire’.
The first protohumans that figured out, knapping flint creates fires and more, these fires could be controlled and even more, these fires could be created by humans, at their desire and the ones who controlled the fire pit, fed it and cared for it when the Great Crisis came, ie, the Ice Ages, this person usually was not the hunter or the fighter but the elders who spent their last years, tending the fires, and at these fires, they told stories at night. For they had all day to think about things they already knew and the transmission of this information created language and all words revolve around the fire pit conversations.
These conversations were not idle chit-chat but were poetry, namely, the words describing the world and all the things humans did in this world were fine-tuned around the fire pits. By repeating the same sonorous words over and over and weaving them into stories, religion was born around the fire pits and to this day, the kindling of fires and the ceremonies involving fires are still quite central to religions. And so are the crimes of humanity.
The fires in Australia probably were kindled by humans who were seeking the power of the Gods and this power is to both use fire and to kill humans. This is why we fear gods! Or rather, used to fear them. As we took over more and more godly powers of death and destruction, we flipped these dire gods and turned them into loving beings who don’t want to kill us all but rather, are protecting us. And we took the original gods, the fire gods, and turned them into demons who torment us with fire when we die. How bizarre is this?
Alas, for us all! The earliest stories of the fire gods were, they tricked the deadlier sky, earth and water gods. And that the fire gods were friends of humanity and helped humanity fight off the death gods who used the earth, water and sky to destroy us with the Ice Ages and volcanic eruptions and lightning bolts and floods. When humans figured out how to control fires, we evolved big brains very rapidly. These same brains that cause some humans to go insane and do horrible things like lighting fires outside during a dangerous drought.
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