Climate fires


There are no adequate words to describe the loss and grief that many people right around Australia are experiencing right now. 

If you're like me, you'll have feelings of helplessness as you sit and wait for news about the latest fires, sadness on hearing that another town has burnt down, and deep heartbreak on learning that millions of animals have died and thousands upon thousands more are burnt, starving, or searching for water. 

My heart goes out to the thousands of Australians who have been impacted by the climate fires but especially those who’ve lost loved ones. I have a heavy heart when I think about everyone who has lost a house, property or livestock and of the huge ecological damage and loss of native animals we’re now facing. 

It is a terrifying and tragic start to the new year.

But in the midst of all the terror, we’ve seen the best of our country as people come together and communities mobilise to support one another. We’ve seen the donations pour in from around the country and overseas, animals rescued from the fires now sheltering in people’s living rooms, and stories of people opening up their homes to strangers to provide everything from a shower to a long term place to stay while they rebuild their lives.

We’ve seen our firefighting crews working tirelessly and putting their own lives on the line to save communities, homes and wildlife and to all those brave men and women we say thank you. Our gratitude to them for the work that they are doing is profound. 

you probably agree that the community response is in stark contrast to that of our Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He has failed in his basic duty to keep Australians safe from harm through his inadequate and slow response to these fires and his refusal to accept that burning climate changing fossil fuels will lead to more frequent and intense bushfires.

Throughout 2019 Scott Morrison refused to meet with fire chiefs and prepare for the worst. He went on holiday in December when he should have been addressing the crisis that was unfolding across New South Wales and Victoria. He told us to watch the cricket while the country was burning and instead of offering up the resources needed to fight the fires he offered prayers.

When I think about all of this I feel furious . Furious that we have a Prime Minister who refuses to acknowledge the impact of climate change on our lives and to take action that could have lessened the impact of the summer fire season. Australia’s climate has changed and we need to make sure that our land management, disaster response and climate policies are relevant to the new reality we face.

The past few weeks should be a wake-up call to every member of the Liberal and Labor parties who believe that coal has a place in Australia’s future. It’s time for their love affair with coal to end. 

Yet despite feeling overwhelmed with sadness and rage I still have hope. I have hope that our country and the world can change course. It is going to be tough, but I believe it’s possible. 

People may be saying they’re sick of politics, but in reality they're more involved than ever. Just in the last week, we’ve seen whole communities join together to demand the Scott Morrison stop hiding and start acting. It was this pressure from all sides of the country that forced him to finally announce additional support and funding for our fire and emergency services. This is political change in action. 

Last year, millions of young people were fed up and sick of not being listened to. So they took to the streets and organised some of the biggest rallies cities had ever seen. An entire generation of young people have found their voice through the climate strikes. They give me hope and they will be voting soon. 

This government needs to be held to account, and with you by our side we are ready to do that. We must go back to the drawing board to rewrite how governments look after people, so we can give people hope and trust in our government once more. 

If you are wondering what you can do right now, here are some ideas:

Reach out
You likely know someone who has been affected by the fires, let them know they are not alone and that you are there for them. Let them know you are grateful that they are alive and safe.

Share your thoughts
Australia is facing an unprecedented climate crisis and these bushfires and extreme heatwaves are a result of that. The climate emergency will only get worse unless the Morrison government takes serious action now. By sharing your stories about the bushfires and having conversations with your family and friends you are helping others understand the impact of the climate crisis and the need for urgent action.  

Use your social media for good
Think of your social media as a loudspeaker to your own community. Use your voice to amplify and share stories about the impacts of the climate crisis and encourage people you know to take action too. 

Donate
If you are fortunate enough to be in a position that you can make a donation, take some time to consider where you want to give your money. As well as the relief effort and support for our firefighters, you could consider organisations that do critical work supporting climate science, organisations that support First Nations people to protect country, or organisations that are looking after injured wildlife in the wake of the fires. 

Volunteer your time
Spend some of your spare time volunteering with an organisation that will be helping to repair and rebuild communities and restore the environment. If you are not near an area with organisations that are part of the relief efforts, there are plenty of other ways to get involved. Volunteering your time with your local tree planting group or helping to clean up rubbish at your local park or beach are also contributing towards making our planet healthier and more resilient. 

Go to a rally
Make your voice heard on the issues you care about by attending rallies in your area. The more people that turn up and demand change the closer we are to seeing that change happen. 

Every little bit helps to start rebuilding communities. If we all do our part we can make this the world we want. I hope you will be part of this journey with us this year.

In the meantime, stay strong, stay safe and look after each other.


Richard