opinion

Australia's 'Notre Dame' is burning. And we can never rebuild it.

The ash had not yet settled on the 4th arrondissement of Paris when President Emmanuel Macron addressed the nation.

“I tell you solemnly tonight: We will rebuild this cathedral,” he said, standing outside the Notre Dame Cathedral, one of the world’s most esteemed monuments.

The fire still burned as Macron said, “Notre Dame of Paris is our history. The epicentre of our lives. It’s the many books, the paintings, those that belong to all French men and French women, even those who’ve never come.”

There were gasps of disbelief from bystanders as the Cathedral’s spire was engulfed by flames – a Cathedral which has sat in the centre of Paris for 850 years.

Watch: The roof and spire of Notre Dame burns. Post continues. 

Video by Sunrise

Firefighters risked their lives to rescue priceless historical relics from inside the building. They built a ‘human chain’ in order to retrieve Jesus Christ’s Crown of Thorns.

Meanwhile, Australia’s own cultural heritage ‘burns’.

Like Notre Dame, people travel across seas to visit a site that evokes within them a feeling. Awe. Adoration. A connection to everyone who has travelled there before them.

More than 8000 years old, we have our own UNESCO World Heritage Site – one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

The planet’s largest living structure, astronauts can see it from space.

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And yet it continues to ‘burn’.

Greater in size than the United Kingdom, Holland and Switzerland combined, it seems more fitting to refer to it as a city of its own – the ecosystem a symbol of the potential of life itself.

And just between 2016 and 2018, we lost half of it.

In a way, our Great Barrier Reef, is burning.

The coral has been “cooked”. The ecosystem, in the words of coral reef scientist Terry Hughes, “has collapsed”.

Perhaps because the Great Barrier Reef is burning more slowly, and below us rather than in front of us, it’s easier to disregard.

We know who lit the match, too.

We did.

Human-caused global warming is destroying our greatest national relic, a site we were lucky enough to inherit.

Our Prime Minister is not making promises like Macron. Instead, he’s celebrating the flame itself in parliament.

In early 2017, Morrison, then the treasurer, brought a chunk of coal into the House of Representatives and infamously announced: “This is coal. Don’t be afraid. Don’t be scared.”

As our most prized cultural monument burns, there are plans to build the biggest coal mine in Australia’s history – just inland from the Great Barrier Reef itself.

The mining and burning of coal is the single leading cause of climate change.

Adani (the name of the coal mine project run by the Adani group) will also destroy the ancestral lands of Australia’s First Nation people – whose history dates back more than 60,000 years.

Watching Parisians cover their mouths in horror, as they felt a piece of themselves burn, perhaps we need to ask ourselves: Where is our pride?

And where is our leader, promising to rebuild, and acknowledging that even when the beams, the wood and the stained glass windows are replaced, something will be forever lost.

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