WHY THE CAPRICORN SKY?

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Marko and his weird cliff-face house appeared in 2012 at the tail end of a dream about Townsville, where I grew up.

During Xmas 1971, my newly emigrated family experienced the fury of Cyclone Althea (Cat 4), and exactly 3 years later we watched the climate refugees from Darwin arrive at Townsville railway station in only the clothes they were wearing, thanks to Cyclone Tracy (Cat 5 + tornadoes).

Townsville was again inundated last year. Now, over Xmas, we experienced a further savage step-change with back-to-back droughts leading to wildfires in our bone dry country. These fires have ravaged our great North-South forest which follows the Great Dividing Range, from Tasmania all the way to the tip of Cape York.

This forest continuum is remarkable. The trees are a highway for wildlife, particularly migrating birds and insects, and embedded within it are valuable remnants of the great Gondwanan forests going back 500 million years.

After the fires, those eucalypt forests will survive and regrow, with many ecosystems altered. Animals and plants will repopulate, tho’ some endangered species such as the Regent Honeyeater and Leadbeaters Possum are now much closer to extinction.

The tropical and subtropical rainforests that burnt are all but lost.

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And so, back to dreams.

160 years after Althea, in 2131, there was another dream – a writer’s daydream. I was braced against a wet boulder alongside Dr Madrigal Phipps and 2 large Slotters called Folly and Pearl, up on Cape York, watching the rain punch into us, waiting for the next water tornado or “tube” to whirl thru, as we tried to find the frightened fugitive Andaman Marko and protect him from both a bunch of ruthless killers and the weather – The Singular Enemy.

How do you imagine really big weather? You look to Cyclone Yasi, and Cyclone Monica, Hurricane Katrina and the predisposition now for our warming oceans to supercharge further the deep lows that they incubate.

As the climate gears up, the violent weather haunts me. In 2015 we were at the Ubud Writers festival and in one session a woman from the Philippines asked – why isn’t anyone writing about the storms?

She was referring of course to the winds and storm surge of the super typhoon Haiyan (Cat 5+) which had laid waste the central islands of her country a couple of years before. Gusts of 380 kph and a low so deep, Haiyan sucked the ocean up and over vast tracts of land.

As we easily bust thru the 1.5 degree rise due to the carbonised atmos, as weather patterns change in front of our eyes, we must factor all of these medium and long term consequences.

Humans are pretty good at self-preservation and we’ll survive, but the world is certainly changing, and The Capricorn Sky is not just a thriller but a speculation about that changed world.