Upper Lachlan

The Trouble With Setting Fire To Stuff; A History.

by Daniel Moor, gulp environmental consultant.

About 4 billion years ago life began on the Earth and all the trouble started.

For a lot of this time the Sun shone on the Earth and billions of trees thought this was a really good idea.  They put out their leaves to catch all the yummy little carbon dioxide molecules that were floating around everywhere in the air.  They crunched them up and spat out the yucky bits (the yucky bits happen to be quite useful to certain other species. They are called oxygen molecules).  After that they were left with bits of carbon, which they used rather like Lego to build themselves into even bigger trees, although Lego would not be invented for another few hundred million years.

The trees were incredibly messy though and they left leaves and branches and their dead decaying bodies all over the world.  Eventually there was so much of this stuff that it began to accumulate in great piles that got buried by more great big piles which were then buried by even more great big piles until the whole lot sank under the ground and became COAL.

Plants were doing this sort of thing all over the world, and other life evolved that thought it would skip all the boring sitting around photosynthesising and just eat the plants instead. A lot of these creatures used their stolen carbon Lego to build themselves tentacles and cilia and tails and stuff and went swimming around all over the oceans, living and dying and generally creating a great big sludgy mess on the bottom of the ocean floor.  Over another few hundred million years this stuff metamorphosed into OIL.

Everything went along swimmingly for rather a long time, give or take a few major extinctions. Ice ages came and went and life had to change itself about a bit to cope.

After a particularly cold and horrible ice age the planet had just started to settle down a bit when a group of life forms happened on the idea of burning bits of tree to keep warm.  This turned out to be such a good idea that the life form soon became the dominant one and started setting fire to pretty much everything that would burn.

It didn’t take them long to discover that under the ground was a huge amount of stuff that would burn really well.  They burnt the COAL to make electricity, which they used for all sorts of things and they burnt the OIL in their cars and trucks. This worked so well that soon there were billions of these creatures all over the planet, all burning stuff like crazy.

After this had been going on for a couple of hundred years, a couple of things began to become apparent.
1. The stuff under the ground would sooner or later run out.
2. All this burning of stuff was starting to affect the Earth’s climate.

The Earth had achieved a delicate balance at this point and what all the burning was doing was this:  All the carbon which had been turned into Lego by all those billions of creatures over all those billions of years was being dug up and burnt and sent back into the atmosphere from where it came.  All this extra carbon dioxide gas in the air was upsetting the naturally sustainable system that was currently enabling life on the planet. Slowly but surely the balance was changing and the Earth was warming up.

Suddenly the creatures began to take notice.  Their scientists said lots of horrible things would begin to happen if the world continued to get warmer.  Ice caps melting, horrible weather, desertification and the end of life as they knew it within a couple of hundred years.

The creatures, who for whatever reason called themselves Human Beings could do a couple of things at this point, they could
A. Pretend it wasn’t happening and ignore everything or they could
B. Believe their scientists and start to do something about it.

For many years the Humans dilly dallied between these two ideas until the scientists started to insist that if something wasn’t done REALLY RIGHT NOW then it would be too late.

And so the humans started to try to do something. There were many ideas, but one of the most obvious was that all of them, every last single one of them, had to get it into their brains that they had to BURN LESS STUFF.

In a certain part of the world the people were the biggest and best at burning stuff. Every last one of them put more carbon dioxide into the air than people who lived in other countries.  They called themselves Australians and they believed that they could show the world how to burn less stuff.

They built huge windmills that turned air into electricity without all those millions of years of coalification.  They caught the sun in big solar farms and they turned sunlight into electricity without anything having to catch the sun, live, die, become a fossil and get dug up and burnt. They started to educate their children in that art of BURNING LESS STUFF.

The children who lived in this part of the world had little idea that their parents had created such a large mess for them to clean up.  Gradually though and not without a certain amount of finger pointing they began to realise that, through no fault of their own, it was up to them to start to make a difference.  They started small, they learned everything they could about the problem and then they started to think big.  They kept their eyes open and they saw what was wrong with the way things were and they began to think about what they could do to change things for the better.

One of them became President of Australia and was able to persuade the whole world to stop burning stuff. Another became a great scientist who solved the problem of how to make lots of electricity without burning lots of stuff. Another drove little electric cars, grew his own food and taught his children to burn less stuff.


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