Bushfire Reflections

Two years ago, I was sitting on the beach in Western Australia, reading about the devastating bushfires occurring on the east coast of Australia.
For many Australians, two years ago, they were in the thick of it.

Whether they were homeowners, holiday-makers, firefighters, police officers, paramedics, or animal welfare volunteers (to name but a few), the unprecedented Black Fires of Summer 2019-2020 will be forever etched in their minds; as they should be for all of us.

These fires are not something we should forget, and as we mark two years, we ask you to join us in reflection.

2019 was the hottest and driest on record for Australia, and we now know, thanks to the peer-reviewed study by scientists at CSIRO, that climate change was the driving factor behind the fires.

This study measured 90 years worth of data. Scientists studied a range of fire risk factors including fuel load (the amount of dead vegetation on the ground), surface moisture, weather, and ignition conditions.

The findings were published in the scientific journal Nature Communications on November 26. You can read more here.

The Black Summer fires burned more than 24 million hectares and are Australias most destructive to date. The fires caused the death of more than 480 people (33 direct deaths, 450 from smoke inhalation) and more than one billion animals (as reported by ABC News).

While fire has always played a part in the Australian landscape, bushfire conditions are becoming increasingly dangerous. Scientists have warned that climate change will increase the risk of extreme bushfires in Australia, and extreme fire weather will continue to become more frequent and severe if we do not take action against climate change.

20 days into 2022, and this couldn’t be further from the truth. This year I have read the following articles from ABC Journalists:

20/01/2022 – ‘Emergency warning for bushfire in Parkerville, Perth Hills.’

20/01/2022 – ‘Gascoyne bushfires burn for two weeks, killing livestock, destroying land and devastating pastoralists.’
20/01/2022 – ‘Warning downgraded for SA forest fire that jumped containment lines near Lucindale.’
19/01/2022 – ‘Perth heatwave declared as firefighters contain blaze burning near Karrakatta on 42 degree day.’
11/01/2022 – ‘Out of control bushfires in WA’s southwest force residents to evacuate.’
01/01/2022 – Heavy stock losses as fire races through farms, forest in western Victoria, more dangerous conditions today.’

I ask you to reflect on how it makes you feel when you read this.

Worried? Scared? Hopeless?

While we know that there have been some real wins for action against climate change in our country, we know that much more needs to be done. Knowing that climate change was the driving factor behind the devastation we witnessed doesn’t make things better, but it does make us more aware. Therein lies what I like to call climate hope.

Because when we know more, we can do more. While it may feel at times that hope is lost, I want you to sit with these words from Dr. Jane Goodall:

 “Hope is what enables us to keep going in the face of adversity. It is what we desire to happen, but we must be prepared to work hard to make it so.”

We know that this year will see Australia heading towards a federal election. This offers Australian’s an opportunity to review the climate policies of all parties before making their vote. The Climate Council provides in-depth information and articles to assist you.

Until then, know that there are small actions that you can take as an individual to help combat climate change because it is our shared responsibility as individuals to empower and encourage one another to take a stand. To get started, I encourage you to take a look at our Blog ’10 Actions You Can Take for Climate Health’.

As we reflect on the Black Summer bushfires, let’s work together to fight climate change and reduce the risk of more catastrophic events like this.

For more information regarding Bushfires and our projects, please head to this link.

Words – Lauren Purcell, Communications & Partnership Coordinator