Australia is Burning

Australia is on fire. Massive fires have been burning for months now and new ones are starting. It is devastating seeing the pictures of places we have been to, hearing about friends’ families being affected. Although no one I know has lost anything, many, many Australians had to fend of fires and evacuate, leaving the places they call home. Not knowing if their houses will still be there when they come back. Most have been lucky with at least their houses still standing, but many others have lost everything.

So far Australia had 18 deaths (this number is rising) and hundreds of houses lost. But the staggering and really scary numbers are the over 6 million (!) hectares of bush land that have been lost (this number has gone up since the RFS shared their infographic). We are talking about land the size of a whole European country, aka Belgium. Whoever thought the Amazonian fire last year was huge, Australian fires are breaking records. And this is just the beginning of summer. The fire season started months earlier than usual and has been as severe as never before. You can’t even find the right adjectives to describe what is happening here. You hear ‘unprecedented’ all the time when the current situation is being described (and this is a word that has been over-used by media and government for months now).Fires Comparison

The worst and, what is really getting me and making me angry and sad at the same time, is the fate of our native animals. Close to half a billion (!), over 480,000,000 animals have lost their lives based on and estimate made by ecologists from the University of Sydney, and many, many more are hurt and scarred for life. The fires are affecting all kinds of birds, marsupials including koalas and kangaroos, reptiles, horses, goats, bugs, … An endless list and images so horrible you can’t forget them once you have seen them(that’s the reason why I am not sharing them here). Absolutely heart breaking. ☹

Sydney has been in a cloud of smoke for months with air quality reaching hazardous levels. Canberra was ranked the world’s worst based on the air quality index*.

Bushfire Map.PNG

Australia, the land of natural beauty and amazing landscapes is burning and it will take years and years for the environment to recover if at all. Tourism will and already is taking a massive hit, a sector Australia relies on quite heavily.

Our country is burning because white conservative Christian men are ruling this country, denying climate change exists and favouring and promoting the coal industry over anything else. How backward can you be? Australia is the largest coal exporter world wide. Australian coal is seen as the ‘cleanest’ due to its high quality. The mining lobby is huge. There are so many renewable energy options, but discussions here quickly turn very sour and vile when someone mentions the coal industry needs to get shut down. Very different to Germany who closed down their black coal industry and are working on shutting down the remaining brown coal by  2038 with no jobs lost**.

Australian government can only do one thing, exploit the land, exploit what sustains us and with it exploiting all creatures (including humans), setting us up for a future with even worse natural catastrophes. And for what? For greed. The two major Australian parties are heavily supported by the coal and mining industries, without those funds they are nothing.

If this country (and the world) doesn’t finally come to understand, that greed is only leading to further disaster, then we are all doomed. Our ways of doing business, growing for the sake of growing, encouraging consumption, enticing consumers to buy things they don’t need are out-dated and wrong.

Resources are scarce now down the East Coast of Australia ranging from Nowra, just 1 hour south of Sydney, all the way down across the Victorian border into East Gippsland. 4,000 people were stranded in Malacoota in Victoria and had to be evacuated by ship.

Today was again forecasted to be catastrophic weather for the affected regions with temperatures expected to go up to 45 degrees accompanied by strong dry winds. People have been told to leave on Friday, but the main highway is affected by fires, fuel is running low in certain areas and internet and telecommunications have been cut as well. Not everyone might hear those messages and many decided to stay to defend their properties and communities.

You just want to cry. New Year’s Eve for us was not a time to celebrate. Although we are not affected by bushfires up here in Queensland, in the Brisbane area, you feel helpless especially as we are so far away.

Nonetheless, as desperate as this situation might look and how much of a rant I just had before, there is hope. These bushfires are opening people’s eyes to the fact that we have a climate emergency, a climate crisis, or whatever we want to call it. They are seeing it with their own eyes, they might know someone who is affected. This time round it impacts them and makes them hopefully realize that a government pushing coal and them living their lives the way they have, is probably not the right thing to do. It’s a wake-up call. The support for the affected communities is huge, donations are coming in, people are running fundraisers and there is real desire to help.

The community is coming together and more and more people are protesting, calling for change, calling for the government to finally do something and really, really focus on proper measures to mitigate all the risks associated with this crisis.

Scott Morrison, Australia’s current prime minister is having a hard time defending his decision to go on a family holiday to Hawaii in December when the fires were already ravaging New South Wales and just a couple of days ago showing up unannounced in Cobargo, a town almost completely burnt, and turning his back to a lady who had lost everything after she complained about his inactivity. Very, very sad and unbelievable. You’d expect more from the leader of a country than just walk away when a situation becomes difficult, wouldn’t you?

I have always been a positive thinker. I see the good in this world and I am not letting myself being dragged down by negativity and despair. As hard as it is at the moment, we all need to stay positive. Anger and negativity are not going to help. Be as you want others to be towards you. Care, show empathy and do everything you can to make this world a better and healthier place. Every little bit counts.

Feeling overwhelmed is okay and no surprise in times like these, but rather than hiding at home, you can do your bit. You can start by:

  • going to one of the protests,
  • donate some money to the official fire fundraising initiatives (even if it is just $5),
  • write to your local MP about your concerns,
  • join a local bushcare or clean-up group,
  • put water out for wildlife on hot days,
  • walk more or use public transport and leave your car at home,
  • avoid air travel and if you have to fly at least off-set your emissions,
  • holiday in areas that have been affected by the fires once they are open again to show your support,
  • reduce single-use plastic,
  • buy less (but if you need to buy something try to support regions affected by bush fires and drought),
  • reuse, reduce, repurpose,
  • change to a bank that is not one of the big 4 (i.e. a credit union),
  • review your super for investment in mining and switch to a more ethical fund,
  • do the right thing at the next elections,
  • grow your own veggies,
  • be water wise,
  • if you own a home, put in water tanks and solar if you can,
  • make yourself as resilient and self-sufficient as you can,

There are many ways to help. What else can you think of? How do you keep your positivity and drive?

If you can / want to donate, the ABC has compiled a great list. Stick to the official venues to make sure the money ends where it is most needed: https://www.abc.net.au/classic/read-and-watch/news/bushfire-donations/11823676

 

Sources:
*ABC News Go.com
**SMH
Images taken from BBC.com
Featured image: Sean Davey/AFP via Getty Images, taken from The Guardian

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