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The Australian Bushfires: What You Need to Know and How You Can Help

Last updated on January 29, 2020

The anxiety around climate change is palpable in The Northwest School’s air. The impending fear that our futures will be cut short, majorly due to the mistakes of politicians, big corporations, and past generations is something that weighs heavily on the minds of most young adults, even subconsciously. Personally, I didn’t even notice that climate change had such a big effect on the way that I picture my future until I made a casual comment to my grandma that I want to do something in the future, “if I’m not already dead from climate change.” Her shocked, sad reaction made me realize that this wasn’t actually a typical way to communicate, and that the climate crisis was having a severe effect on my psyche. It doesn’t help that there seems to be news of a different, devastating natural disaster every week. 

The most recent and surprisingly severe catastrophe is in Australia, predominantly the south-east region of the country. Bushfires are a usual occurrence in this region but they are especially destructive this year, burning for 72,000 square miles so far, and still counting. This year is especially bad because of the dramatic drought that Australia is experiencing, which obviously leads to severe dryness, as well as unusually heavy winds that assist in spreading the flames. At least 29 people have died due to the fires and an estimated 1 billion animals have been killed in the fires. The fires started in New South Wales in September 2019, but the flames rapidly spread to all parts of the country. Even major cities such as Sydney and Melbourne have been affected with homes damaged and air quality absolutely ruined by the smoke. In early December, the air quality in Sydney was eleven times higher than the “hazardous” amount. Children were sent home from school and other events were cancelled due to this smoke. 

So what’s being done by people in power? Victoria, a state in Australia, declared a state of emergency in early January, which allows for more resources to be poured into relief from the flames. Over 2000 firefighters from countries including the United States, Canada, and New Zealand are currently in Australia working against the fires. Things aren’t necessarily looking up, as Australia is currently only halfway through its summer season and things are unlikely to get better for a couple months. Not to mention that statistics from recent years are telling us that things will only get worse in the coming summer seasons. 

As a small community in Seattle, there’s only so much we can do. A couple weeks ago, the Environmental Interest Group raised over 300 dollars in a bake sale that they donated to the Australian Red Cross. Supporting fundraisers like this, or donating to organizations that are either working towards victim relief of wildlife preservation, are the best ways to help from across the globe. 

Other than that, make sure you are voting for elected officials that are going to advocate for climate change solutions, and do all that you can to minimize your carbon footprint. This can mean many things. It means biking, bussing or carpooling to school. It means only taking what you can eat at lunch and minimizing food waste. It means taking shorter showers and turning the lights off as often as you can. These things may seem small, and they are, but we must do all that we can to combat the rising threat of climate change that has already impacted so many lives, especially the lives of those who are marginalized.

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