For those familiar with Australia’s weather patterns, they’ll be aware that it’s no stranger to bushfires, with “fire season” generally occurring some time between April and September each year. However, the scale of destruction in 2019 and continuing into 2020, has been unprecedented.
As of 6th January 2020, it was recorded that at least 23 people have died, with six more missing in a fire season beginning in September 2019 and currently showing no signs of stopping. More than 1,500 homes have been destroyed as fires burned through close to eight million hectares of land. On top of this, Australia’s ecosystem has been dealt a considerable blow. It is currently estimated that half a billion animals have been killed — with the future environmental consequences of this still to be seen.
Away from areas directly impacted by the fires, heavy smoke is compromising air quality. On New Year’s Day, Canberra’s air quality stood at worse levels than any other major city. Further afield, the smoke has turned New Zealand skies an “apocalyptic” shade of orange and countries as far away as South America have seen their air quality negatively impacted.
Amongst the scientific community and general public, the crisis has been widely attributed to climate change, particularly after Australia witnessed its hottest and driest year on record in 2019. Despite experiencing the damaging effects of global warming first-hand, the Australian Government is taking a lax stance on curbing ongoing climate catastrophe. Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken in defence of the country’s polluting coal industry and repeatedly denied the link between climate change and the trend towards worsening bushfire seasons.
On 4 January, Morrison announced a scaling-up of efforts to manage the fallout from the fires — calling up 3000 army reservists to help aid evacuations — but firefighters have been critical of his slow response, particularly after he was seen vacationing in Hawaii as the fires raged on.
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We are truly saddened by the catastrophic fires that continue to rage across the state. We are in awe of the incredible work from so many not-for-profit organisations who have banded together to assist those who need help during these desperate times. RSPCA NSW is helping wherever we can. We currently have staff manning evacuation centres and our inspectors are helping animal owners (pets and livestock) in some of the hardest hit areas. You can see above a convoy of our inspectors and animal ambulances en route to Bega. We are helping to coordinate goods distribution drives in affected areas and will have more information about these in the coming days. We are so grateful to those of you who have been reaching out to us, asking how you can help support our inspectors on the ground in affected areas. If you can spare anything, please consider donating to our bushfire appeal to help vulnerable animals in need today (link in our bio). Please stay safe.
If you are concerned by the impact of the Australian bushfire crisis, consider donating to services looking to contain the fires, provide support to First Nations peoples whose homes have been lost, and salvage Australian wildlife. Additionally, you can use social media to direct others to where they can also donate.
Find a round-up of donation pages below.
It’s estimated that 3000 firefighters are on the ground each day to help contain fires, many of whom are volunteers. If you’d like to support their work, you can do so via the donation pages to services such as New South Wales Rural Fire Service, the Country Fire Authority for the state of Victoria, South Australia’s Country Fire Service and Queensland’s Rural Fire Brigades Association.
Australia’s First Nations peoples are on the frontline of the environmental disaster, with homes, lands and property destroyed. Yorta Yorta community organiser Neil Morris has set up a GoFundMe page to raise money and awareness for First Nations peoples impacted by the disaster. As he writes in the description, the link between the catastrophe and historical and ongoing mistreatment of First Nations peoples should not be overlooked: “We acknowledge that these tragedies have occurred on Sacred Indigenous lands where Sovereignty has not been ceded. The ongoing connection of First Nations people’s to land and culture is critical to life on this land. We acknowledge our ancestors and elders past present and future.”
Disaster relief efforts and evacuation centres can be supported via the Australian Red Cross and the Victorian Bushfire Appeal. Emergency housing can be supported via Airbnb’s Open Homes scheme whilst donations to the St Vincent de Paul Society offer food, clothing and household goods to both those who have been temporarily displaced by fires or who have permanently lost their homes.