“COOINDA, Australia — At a time when vast tracts of Australia are burning, Violet Lawson is never far from a match.
In the woodlands surrounding her home in the far north of the country, she lights hundreds of small fires a year — literally fighting fire with fire. These traditional Aboriginal practices, which reduce the undergrowth that can fuel bigger blazes, are attracting new attention as Australia endures disaster and confronts a fiery future.
Over the past decade, fire-prevention programs, mainly on Aboriginal lands in northern Australia, have cut destructive wildfires in half. While the efforts draw on ancient ways, they also have a thoroughly modern benefit: Organizations that practice defensive burning have earned $80 million under the country’s cap-and-trade system as they have reduced greenhouse-gas emissions from wildfires in the north by 40 percent.
These programs, which are generating important scientific data, are being held up as a model that could be adapted to save lives and homes in other regions of Australia, as well as fire-prone parts of the world as different as California and Botswana.”