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Long a fire continent, Australia now finds itself at the leading edge of a fire epoch. Australia is one of the world's fire powers. It not only has regular bushfires, but in no other country has fire made such an impact on the national culture. Over the past two decades, bushfires have reasserted themselves as an environmental, social, and political presence.
The Still-Burning Bush traces the ecological and social significance of the use of fire to shape the environment through Australian history, beginning with Aboriginal usage, and the subsequent passing of the firestick to rural colonists and then to foresters, to ecologists, and back to Indigenes.
Each transfer kindled public debate not only over suitable fire practices but also about how Australians should live on the land. In Australia, the 2019–2020 season have heightened the sense of urgency behind this discussion, as the megafires of recent decades and the serial conflagrations in California have for Americans.
The Still-Burning Bush examines the global changes that are affecting Australia (and the world). Especially pertinent is the concept of a Pyrocene – the idea that humanity's cumulative fire practices are fashioning the fire equivalent of an ice age.
Stephen J. Pyne is an emeritus professor at Arizona State University. Among his many books are Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire, and Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910.