For two months, the world has watched in horror and despair as one of the most beautiful and diverse continents on our planet is ravaged by fire. While New South Wales and Victoria were most affected by the bushfires, much of the country was covered in blazes, some uniting into super fires. More than two dozen people have perished, 10 million hectares (40,000 square miles) of land is destroyed, and more than a billion animals are predicted to be dead.
While arson has been suspected and investigated, it is not the root cause of these bushfires. Even prime minister Scott Morrison, who downplays the seriousness of climate change and who claims taking action would damage the economy, has acknowledged climate change’s influence on these dramatic and deadly blazes.
2019 was the hottest year on record for Australia. Bushfire risk reached a high point September through November, and typically bushfire season lasts through March. Rising levels of greenhouse gases in the earth’s atmosphere change radiation balance and allow less heat to escape. Combine that with the fact that Australia also received 40% less than average rainfall this year, and the perfect hot and airy conditions for these fires to grow and spread quickly are created. While prescribed burns often help mitigate these problems, the affects of climate change are making it harder to carry them out successfully.
At the beginning of this month, rain and hail began to fall, helping to provide relief from the fires. While this is great news, the giant hail balls, wind, and intense rain are causing even more damage and flooding. We must continue to help the Australian people and animals with the devastation and recovery they are facing. More fires are still burning, and two months of bushfire season still lay ahead of us. The crisis is far from over.
HOW TO HELP PEOPLE AND FIRE FIGHTERS
More than 2,000 homes have been lost in these fires. People are without power or supplies and air quality is extremely hazardous. The intense fires stranded thousands on beaches as they raged on land and blocked highways. Fire fighters have worked tirelessly and some have lost their lives. To help the people of Australia, donate whatever you can to the Australian Red Cross as well as the Victorian and South New Wales fire departments. The Victorian government alongside the Salvation Army have also set up a fund for affected communities. Anything you can give, even a small amount, will have a positive impact on recovery
HOW TO HELP WILDLIFE
It is absolutely devastating to hear about the loss of wildlife in the bushfires. Over a billion precious animals have died and over one hundred species have been affected; many of them already endangered. Koalas, kangaroos, pangolins, quokkas, birds, and many other iconic species have been dramatically impacted. Thousands of sheep and other domesticated animals also lost their lives.
On Kangaroo Island, Australia’s third largest island well known for it’s unique and diverse ecology, the scene has been called “apocalyptic.” The army has been called in to dig trenches and collect the remains of dead koalas, wallabies, kangaroos, and sheep. What was once a sanctuary for animals has been scorched and decimated by the bushfires. Of the 50,000 koalas on the island, it is believed that half of them have died. The animals that do remain have lost their habitats and their food sources. Thousands of them are receiving emergency care from volunteers, shelters, zoos, and preserves around the country. The race is on to save the animals still fighting for their lives.
The family of Steve Irwin, the famous conservationist and wildlife advocate, has continued to carry on his legacy at their zoo outside of Brisbane. It is one of the biggest conservation facilities in the world. What they are doing there is truly inspiring.They have taken in thousands of animals from the fires and treated over 90,000 patients. You can donate to the Wildlife Warriors Fund to contribute to their hard work.
There are other angels on the front lines in Australia doing incredible things to save the lives of these beautiful creatures. The Koala Hospital in Port Macquarie, which has been open and rehabilitating koalas since 1973, and Wildlife Victoria, an Australian wildlife emergency response team are making an important difference in this dark time. Donating to them will help support rescue efforts and provide medical care to wounded animals.
The very best way you can help save animals, fight climate change, and protect the future for generations of humanity to come is by eating a diet rich in organic plant based foods, recycling, and lowering the amount of waste you contribute to landfills. If we all play a part in protecting our environment and taking care of one another, we can help prevent disasters like the bushfires of Australia and the recent forest fires in the Amazon.