Australia’s Bushfire Crisis   

It’s been a bittersweet beginning to 2020  here in the ‘sunburnt’ country. The turn of a new decade was a point of celebration that was hard to balance with the reality of a country on fire.

Several weeks ago fires were raging here on the Sunshine Coast following an abnormally dry winter and a dry start to summer (normally our wet season). Unfortunately abnormal weather patterns have been the  norm across most of the country and we are now seeing the harsh realities of tinderbox dry conditions as fires burn across many states.  

It’s hard to even know where to start a post about this topic because extreme weather results in extreme emotions. We may feel powerless. Perhaps we want to take action but don’t know what to do. Some of us are feeling angry (in many cases rightfully so) at governing bodies, our unsustainable production systems- maybe even the environment or a god figure for allowing this sort of event to happen. Whatever feels you are feeling at the moment, know that it’s all good. It’s normal to feel a wide array of emotions in the face of an extreme event, especially one like this that reminds us of our size in this global system.

As someone who has been working in water science of late (I moved from plants to water mid 2019) I can share one piece of advice. This advice was passed down from a supervisor of mine who has worked in weather and climate for most of his career. His advice is that this fire season will end, the summer patterns are moving slowly south. We have more humid conditions here on the Sunshine Coast at present which has abated some of our fire risks (it’s still very dry here). Eden, where Mr. Sustainability in Style’s (Ged) mum lives, is situated in the middle of all the NSW and East Victorian fires, experienced some rain. While none of this helps us with our feelings of powerlessness it can help put the mind at ease that things will move back to an equilibrium.

Weather and extreme weather are these experiences from day-to-day, the ‘climate’ you hear referenced in the media is relating to long term patterns in weather. Weather, as you may notice looking out your window, usually moves from one season to the next and may have sun, rain, clouds, ice, snow etc. While changes in the climate might mean that winter now is a degree or two warmer than winter two decades ago perhaps with some day temperatures beating historical highs for that time of the year (that’s just an example it will differ depending where you live and what time frame you are looking at).

While you have no proactive power over the day to day weather, you can do things to make a difference today to impact on the recovery efforts of the Australian Bush Fires.  You can  also influence the way that you react and proactively look at changes in climate. Today’s post is all about how you can take direct action in regards to the bush fires.

Throughout the upcoming weeks and as the year rolls along I will be providing loads of free content for climate positive action along with face-to-face and online workshops and courses to help you be Sustainably Stylish forces for good. 

People Impacts

Fire season started in Queensland in September 2019 and it’s believed that since this time (data is unreliable at this point as fires are still burning) that there have been 25 confirmed deaths, and an estimated 1500+ homes lost. In addition to this loss of lives and homes, whole towns have been evacuated during peak holiday trade seasons resulting in economic losses for these areas. The emotional, physical and economic impacts of this extreme fire season will be ongoing for those directly affected and the wider national and global community.

How to Help People   

Donations will support people at evacuation centres and recovery hubs, emergency assistance (including cash grants to people who have lost homes in these bushfires), psychological first aid to reduce trauma, and longer-term recovery programs in disaster-affected communities. 

If you are on the hunt for a new outfit you can check out the Red Cross Shops and get your closet contents sorted while supporting the bush fire relief 

Australian Red Cross Disaster Recovery and Relief

Donate directly to the frontline teams that are fighting the fires on ground. At the moment there are more than 130 fires burning across NSW so donating to the NSW Rural Fire Service can directly assist in fire fighting efforts. 

Each area has its own volunteer fire fighting service so check online to see who you can support in your state or local area. 

New South Wales Rural Fire Service

 Vinnies is on the ground helping people as they deal with the immediate aftermath of fires, and we will continue to be there as they rebuild their lives in the long term. Your donations help to provide food, clothing, essential items and grocery vouchers for people who have lost everything. Vinnies also help victims pay unexpected bills, aid in referrals to support services and provide emotional support. Donate online or check out a Vinnies store near you

St Vincent de Paul Society Australia

Ideas Outside the (Donations) Box  

If you’ve been following the social media outreach of the fires you may have seen that there are a variety of innovative ways that people have been aiding in the bushfire crisis. Celeste Barber used her social network in an innovative way starting up her own donations request which has raised more than 33 million dollars to date.  The Golden Globes became a platform for the discussion of natural disasters, extreme weather, and climate change as the Bushfire crisis became the topic of the evening

While you might not be a Golden Globes nominee or a social media influencer with millions of followers you can use this bush fire crisis to talk climate change with friends, family and strangers on the bus. In doing so you help to bring these issues to the forefront which enables action both locally and politically.

Other ways that people are helping people include donations of items that have been requested. Foodbank (you can learn more about them here) have noted that money is preferable but they are seeking the following items: 

  • Bottled water
  • UHT milk
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Good quality tinned foods and meals (with ring pulls)
  • Pasta, rice and noodles
  • Grab-and-go foods like muesli bars
  • Pet food

PLANET Impacts

Again, the accurate totals for land impact won’t be determined until fires have abated but it’s believed that more than 15 and a half million acres of land has been impacted by bush fires this season. This land is habitat to both domestic and native animals providing natural amenity, and contributing to natural environmental systems.  A professor from the University of Sydney, Chris Dickman has estimated that 480 million animals have died in the NSW fires since September. In a statement from the University of Sydney  they detailed that the figure includes mammals, birds and reptiles and does not include insects, bats or frogs, and that the true loss of animal life is likely to be much higher than 480 million. In addition to this loss of animal lives, the carbon produced by fires is sparking conversation in popular media. Where climate scientists have been comparing Australian burns with that of the Amazon, and suggesting that the size of the burns might be too much carbon release for the remaining forests to absorb.  

How to Help Planet   

Donations to WIRES help to rescue and care for more native animals, provide more wildlife information and education to the community.

WIRES note that animals were already struggling with a lack of water and food due to the drought. Now that fires have destroyed  habitat, food shortages have increased and lack of suitable habitat will be a significant long-term challenge. 

NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service

The Koala Hospital commenced in 1973, in Port Macquarie a regional town in Australia to help treat and rehabilitate injured koalas.  

The hospital has a GoFundMe page that has well surpassed the fundraising goals to provide thirsty Koalas with water. There’s always room for more donations given how big the impact has been on wildlife.  

Koala Hospital Port Macquarie

The Climate Council is Australia’s leading climate change communications organisation. They provide authoritative, expert advice to the public on climate change, energy solutions and international action, based on the most up-to-date science available.

Climate Council are completely independent and rely on donations from the public and philanthropy to keep their science mission afloat. 

The Climate Council

Ideas Outside the (Donations) Box  

          Australia has the sad honour of being included in the global top ten deforestation ranks. The Wilderness Society has suggested that our nation is clearing an MCG sized (thats approx.  20,000 square metres) every two minutes. While statistics like this aren’t easy to digest, the solution can be as easy as planting a tree! If you are feeling really down about the bushfires why not reach out to a local reforestation or bush regeneration group and commit some time to improving your local area. Other initiatives you can get involved in include  citizen scientist initiatives like the Aussie Backyard Bird Count (you can register for the 2020 count) or checking out the Australian Citizen Scientist Project Finder to find something near you. 

 

Hopefully this list has helped you feel like you can take action in a way that works for you. Keep watching this space over 2020 as I bring you a variety of Sustainable Living resources to help you navigate this changing social, political, environmental and economic climate.