The Australia Bushfires: What’s happening and how students can help

How did the fires start?

Every year Australia has a fire season during the summer accompanied by dry and hot weather making it easy for fires to start. As always, fire is dangerous, but this fire season has been exceptionally dangerous. According to Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology, “Australia is experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades. Australia also experienced a record breaking heatwave in December, where some parts of Australia were struck with temperatures as high as 40 degrees Celsius (approximately 113-120 degrees Fahrenheit).”

The New South Wales rural fire service has reported that around 5 million hectares have burned in New South Wales since July 1. This is five times the size of the Amazon fires and fifty times the California fires. Multiple news sources are being fed misinformation in an effort to deny the belief of climate change. According to Nina Jankowicz, disinformation expert for The Guardian, “It’s climate change that has drawn out the Australian fire season, by heating the temperature and drying the air. The intense disinformation campaign online is a mad scramble from those interests that are vested in ongoing climate denial to confuse and obfuscate the facts of the fires and thereby head off any political pressure for meaningful climate action that may coalesce in their wake.”

Jankowicz continues by referring to what is going on as “a type of information laundering. It poses danger not only to democracy, its impact on policy decisions affect our physical capacity to protect communities – whether from fire, or anything else.” Jancowicz’s interview appeared in the Jan. 7, 2020 edition of The Guardian in an opinion article by Van Badham titled “Australia, where lies and conspiracy theories spread like bushfire.”

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What’s the damage?

With nearly five million hectares ablaze, the New South Wales rural fire service is reporting more than 1,300 houses have been destroyed forcing thousands to relocate and seek shelter. According to ecologists at the University of Sydney, “nearly half a billion animals have been impacted by the fires in New South Wales alone, with millions potentially dead.” The Federal Environment Minister Sussan Ley said, “Up to 30% of the koalas in the region [NSW] may have been destroyed.”  Thousands of homes have been destroyed, ecosystems have been demolished, up to 480 million animals have been displaced since September 2019, and at least 27 lives have been claimed by this deadly inferno.

What can students do to help?

  1. Save the Children is accepting donations to help make “child friendly spaces,” to act as safe havens for children to play and talk in a safe environment. You can donate to “Save the Children” here.
  2. Port Macquarie Koala Hospital is taking donations to help towards distributing clean water to water stations in areas destroyed by wildfire. The funds will also go towards establishing a wild koala breeding program. (Approximately 8,000 koalas have been killed in the fires.) You can donate to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital and their efforts here.
  3. The Australian Red-Cross is also accepting donations for their efforts. You can donate the the Australian Red-Cross and their efforts here.
  4. Talk about the issue, educate yourself, decrease your carbon footprint, plant a tree, and take preventative measures locally to stop fires like this before they start.

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