Australia is on fire
We are in the midst of an unprecedented national emergency, which not only affects all of us here but which is having a ripple effect on a global level.
Australia is on fire.
As of January 13, 7.3 million hectares across Australia has burnt or is currently on fire. In NSW alone, more than 1,500 homes have been destroyed as part of the 4.9 million hectares burned. Fires have been burning across every state since September, impacting the air quality on a national level and clouding its main cities with thick smoke. To give you an idea of what this means, Sydney’s air pollution rose to “11 times the hazardous level” in December. The smoke plumes are turning skies in the areas immediately affected by fire pitch black in the middle of the day, and turning the skies of Chile & NZ orange with ash.
The fires have released over 350 million metric tonnes of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is around ⅔ of Australia’s annual output - all before the end of January. Temperatures in Australia have continually broken temperature records this past December, with the average temperature nationwide above 40 degrees Celsius.
26 human lives have been lost with dozens more missing and many more under threat. An estimated 1.25 billion animals are dead, which doesn’t include insects. We can’t even begin to comprehend the ripple effect these fires will have on our planet.
It’s impossible to describe the level of catastrophic impact this national disaster is having. We are not even in the height of summer and dry, hot conditions are estimated to stretch out up to April. Our official bushfire season has not started and yet here we are, in apocalyptic conditions. These aren’t fires raging in deserted forests, these are fires that have cut off all roads to major cities, fires that have reached the water’s edge, fires raging in rainforests and deserts. Our home is on fire.
We are scared.
We are grieving. We are shaking with anger at the complete inaction of our government to take action against climate change, and poor leadership in the face of this disaster. We are heartbroken for our animals, our ecosystems, our Indigenous peoples whose cultural heartbeats have been destroyed. We are exhausted. We are running out of resources to battle these fires and to keep our people and animals alive.
And yet, we have seen immense community gathering on both local levels and internationally. Celeste Barber raised over 35 million dollars to donate towards the emergency relief. We’ve seen communities come together to pool resources, donate time, volunteer to fight fires, create animal pouches and mittens for our wildlife, offer their homes and support, and truly make a difference.
Over the coming weeks and months, we will be contributing to the global conversation on climate change, sharing what we know, celebrating the activism and advocacy of those on the front line, and offering ways you, as individuals and as a collective, can take action. The time is now for climate action. The time is now for collective activism. The time is now for change.
If you’re financially able to donate to support the bushfire crisis, find a list of places to donate here. And we’ve included below further money-free ways to support the bushfire crisis.
Ways to Support the Bushfire Crisis
- Donate your time. Check out local and national organisations providing bushfire support and relief, such as the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, WIRES Wildlife Rescue, RSPCA, Food Bank, any of your local Fire Brigades or local organisations helping wildlife and relief efforts.
- and find out whether they need volunteers such as the Red Cross, The Salvation Army, WIRES Wildlife Rescue, Food Bank or any of your local Fire Brigades.
- Leave water outside for animals affected by fires. If you’re in an affected area, it’s best to leave water in dishes or bowls for animals, particularly koalas. Animal shelters have warned that koalas drinking water from bottles can cause the water to run into their lungs, so it’s safest to let koalas lap up water from a bowl rather than a bottle.
- Stay safe! Follow the fire bans and drought restrictions from your state fire brigades. Make sure you visit their websites regularly to stay on top of their recommendations. Here is a brochure of what you Can and Can’t do during a Fire Danger Period by @cfavic.
- Donate non-perishable foods. Food Bank Australia have a presence in all affected states of Australia.
- Use your voice! Write a letter to your local member of parliament demanding action. Not sure how? You can find your local MP and a template letter here.
- Visit change.org to sign the petition asking the government to declare a #ClimateEmergency.
- Give blood at any Red Cross Donation Centres or help pack emergency kits for the Red Cross.
- Donate your frequent flyers points. Qantas will convert these to dollars and you can choose to donate to Rural Aid, Royal Flying Doc Service, Red Cross and other charities.
- Find support. Situations like this can be overwhelming, stressful, painful and scary. Know that feeling anxious about the climate crisis is a healthy response, but you don’t have to experience these feelings alone. Reach out to loved ones. Strengthen support networks and work together to take positive climate action. If you or someone you know is experiencing anxiety, reach out to Lifeline at 13 11 14 for counselling support.
- Offer a bed! Many people, and their animals, affected by the fires need somewhere to stay. Offer a bed or register for one via FindABed.info
- #SpendWithThem. Support local business from affected areas as they begin the challenging task of rebuilding what was lost. When it’s safe to do so, plan your next trip to affected towns. Use your dollars to support their local businesses and share it on social media. Two great accounts encouraging people to do so are @spendwiththem and @emptyesky. Follow them on Instagram to be part of the movement.
- Connect with community groups like the local groups of the Australian Conservation Foundation- Australia’s national environment organisation - to explore solutions and advocate for climate change.
- Join a rally! Feel the power of standing side by side a unified group of people advocating for change. Rally for climate action and join protests and marches in your city or state.
- Donate your Flybuys points. Flybuys will convert donated points to dollars towards the Red Cross disaster relief and recovery appeal.
- Check with your wildlife care centre for how you can help. Some centres have been calling for knitted pouches for joeys and kangaroos so get sewing or support others by donating materials.
- Donate your skills. For example, Architects Assist is an organisation coordinating pro bono design and planning assistance to those who’ve lost their homes in the fires. Australian Unions is coordinating relief efforts for all sorts of assistance, from cooking to cleaning, construction and more.
- Share, share, share! Create awareness by keeping the conversation going on your socials. The time is now for climate action.