The fires in Australia have been burning for months, consuming nearly 18 million acres of land, causing thousands to evacuate and killing potentially millions of animals.
They’re showing minimal signs of slowing down. The Australian state of New South Wales, where both Sydney and Canberra are located, declared a state of emergency this week, as worsening weather conditions could lead to even greater fire danger.
But a 50,000-year-old solution could exist: Aboriginal burning practices.
Here’s how it works.
Aboriginal people had a deep knowledge of the land, said historian Bill Gammage, an emeritus professor at Australian National University who studies Australian and Aboriginal history. They can feel the grass and know if it would burn well; they knew what types of fires to burn for what types of land, how long to burn, and how frequently.
“Skills like that, they have but we don’t know,” Gammage said.