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Bush Fires - Man Against Nature

Can man ever protect himself against nature? Some weeks after the terrible bush fires around Sydney, the Australian government is now asking – is nature really man’s enemy or are man’s own activities making our lives more dangerous?
This year, uncontrolled fires in New South Wales destroyed 170 homes. Dai Rimmer lost everything. Her dream home in the beautiful Blue Mountains took six years to build and just five minutes to burn. Now she feels too angry and too old to start again. Thousands of animals were also killed in the fires. Some faster animals, like kangaroos, can try to run away, but many animals like koalas are too slow to escape. Some animals could take fifteen years to rebuild their numbers.
Nothing can give Dai her dream home again. But if the Australian government can prevent another bush fire disaster, it will save lives – and money. Now we know that young people started some fires deliberately. Is this the biggest problem? Or are the bush fires the result of bad management?
Small fires burn naturally in the Australian bush every summer. These regular fires are good for the land. They burn away old and unwanted trees. Grass and other plants grow well after fires. Fresh plants bring animals into the area and the land soon comes back to life. In 1993 just under 500 km² of bush was cleared by controlled fires, or ‘backburning’. Last year this number was less than 200 km². This means areas that were once open and grassy are now thick with small trees, dead wood and dry grass. Fires can burn longer and move quickly over large areas.

Bush managers say it is difficult to protect people’s homes and wildlife by backburning because more and more people are moving near the bush for a better life. They want to have forest views and smell the fresh air. But managing the bush means regular, controlled fires. People don’t like this – they want to leave the dirt and smoke in the city!

The Australian government is moving fast to find an answer to this problem. Already there are new laws. The New South Wales fire service can now work in people’s gardens and in the bush to prevent fires without asking for permission. But there are more dream homes near the bush every year. The question is which is more important: a beautiful view and fresh air today, or protecting the bush, its wildlife, and people’s safety for the future? Penguin Dossiers Copyright Pearson Education Ltd 2002. Photograph copyright Paul A Souders/CORBIS

bush: semak-semak

uncontrolled fires: kebakaran-kebakaran yang tak terkendali

kangaroo: kanguru (salah satu binatang Australia)

koala: koala (binatang dari Australia)

prevent: mencegah

disaster: bencana

deliberately: dengan sengaja

manage: atur, mengatur

regular: teratur

fire service: dinas pemadam kebakaran



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