Australia Fires are Becoming Worse, but Crisis Pulls Community Together

Alyssa Chang and Lauren Guss

   In mid December of 2019, ravaging bushfires began to blaze all over Australia. New South Wales has been hit the worst so far. 4.9 million hectares have burned throughout this province, a size larger than the area of Denmark. In total, approximately 15 million acres have burned across Australia, which, in comparison, is about the size of Indiana according to Time Magazine. 

   As of Jan. 23, more than 3,000 homes have been destroyed, and 31 people have died nationwide, including the three American firefighters who sadly passed away in a plane crash on Jan. 22. The fires have been more immediately worsened by these weather conditions, climate change being a suspected cause cause of the fires. The dryness and heat make the fires 4.5  more likely to occur. 

   “A second model showed that the below-average rainfall was also linked to increased greenhouse-gas concentrations, but only in some climate scenarios,” explains Nature.com. The fires are beginning to spread more quickly and are becoming harder to stop from burning through endangered animals’ habitats. Many organizations are trying to rescue these animals and nurture them back to health. Usually, when they find these animals, their feet and hands are black with ash or burned. Although the U.S. and other countries have sent aid to Australia, both the state and federal authorities are struggling to stop the fires. 

   Scott Morrison, the Prime Minister of Australia, was supposedly planning on calling for a high-level government inquiry into responses to the fires, according to the New York Times. However, he did not signify that he was going to make a change in current policies to cut down carbon emissions, as many hoped he would do. Morrison has declined to consider making major alterations to how Australia uses fossil fuels, renewable energy and coal.

   According to an interview by an unnamed journalist from the New York Times, Morrison will not be putting jobs at risk in the mining industry to chase lower carbon emissions, but the spike in these carbon emissions are making Australia’s bushfire season become out of hand. Australia’s fire season is usually dry and hot, but due to climate change, there are longer and more frequent periods of extreme heat. This weather also causes the vegetation to become dry and flammable.

   However, in the same interview, he said, “It isn’t just restricted to bush fires. It deals with floods. It deals with cyclones. It deals with the drought, which is affected by these broader issues. Adaptation and resilience is key to that.” 

   Approximately half a billion animals, including highly endangered ones such as koalas, the yellow-bellied glider, and wallabies have been killed within the high waves of flames and destruction. Time Magazine shares that Andrew Baker, a mammalogist, had recently discovered a species called the black-tailed dusky antechinus. Their population has been dropping drastically already, but the high temperatures and dangerous fires have been destroying their habitat. Images of horribly burned koalas and kangaroos have shocked social media users. 

   One may help by donating to organizations such as the “Australian Red Cross,” “Givit” or the “Salvation Army Australia.” Donations will be going towards disaster relief; funding state-supported fire services; and supplying food, goods, and clothing. 

   Many celebrities have also declared their contributions to helping Australia. Australian comedian Celeste Barber has donated a whopping $34 million dollars to the New South Wales Rural Fire Service through a fundraiser she created on Facebook. It was the largest fundraiser on the entire platform. Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental organization, Earth Alliance, will donate $3 million to wildlife relief efforts. Australia’s community has been coming together more than ever to help support one another and to stop these devastating fires.