Ok, no clever title or jokes in this post today. Just a bit of fact checking and sharing of ways to help victims of the Australian bushfires.
This image has been doing the rounds on social media – I haven’t fact checked it in terms of the size it refers to, but it’s pretty telling.
Another source I’ve seen states that it’s 12 million acres on fire, another one says it’s equivalent to the whole of Belgium. Either way (and of course the absolute measurement of space will change every day, every hour, every minute maybe), it’s fucking big. And fucking scary.
24 recorded deaths so far, many more missing, 2000 homes lost. 500 million birds, reptiles and mammals lost in New South Wales alone.
Now, I confess that I’ve only just started reading articles about this crisis today; I’ve literally closed my eyes to it, because it’s just too awful to contemplate. The situation of course has been politicised – I don’t know much about Australian politics other than that the Prime Minister Scott Morrison is leading the country in an increasingly right-wing direction (which sounds depressingly familiar), and has been widely criticised for down-playing the influence of climate change on the risk of wildfires. I haven’t read this article in full, but it looks to be a pretty full account of the Australian government’s response to the bush fires over the last couple of years. There’s also this bonkers idea circulating that the fires are the fault of the Greens (who are not and have never been in government), as they’ve allegedly objected to hazard reduction strategies; this is about forming fire breaks in heavily wooded areas by clearing trees near power lines, for example, and prescribed burning to reduce the fuel load, thus diminishing the intensity of subsequent wildfires. It seems that this blame game has been rolled out before by the right in Australia, and thoroughly debunked – fact check article on this here.
So, are the fires caused by climate change? As y’all know, I’m not a climate science specialist, but it seems pretty obvious to me that there will be a combination of causes and pre-conditions for something of this scale to take hold. Here’s an article from a journalist for The Spectator (centre-right British politics and culture magazine, owned by the same people who own The Daily Telegraph), saying that the bushfires aren’t down to climate change.
Here’s another article by an award-winning Australian climate scientist, Dr Joelle Gergis, which argues that the links between human-caused climate change and the intensification of extreme weather conditions, not just in Australia, but all over the world, are clear. That “what’s unfolding right now is really just a taste of the new normal” and that “the planetary situation is extremely dire”. Gergis speculates that the Earth system may now have breached a tipping point, with so much heat trapped in the system that a domino effect has been triggered : “rapid climate change has the potential to reconfigure life on the planet as we know it”.
I’ll leave it up to you whether you want to believe someone with a pHD in Climatology, or a freelance journalist who writes for The Daily Mail and has published books entitled “How to Label a Goat: the silly Rules and Regulations that are strangling Britain” and “The Great Before“, a novel which satirises the pessimism of the green movement.
So, as always, we look for something practical to do. Here is a brilliant article which lists the various appeals and charitable funds which have been set up to support volunteer firefighters, the families of those who have died, those people displaced by the fires, and the wildlife affected. Honestly I think donating is the most useful thing that can be done; I saw a point made on the Sustainable-ish Facebook page, which was raising concern at the potential carbon footprint generated by well-meaning Europeans shipping or flying knitted joey pouches to Australia to help homeless or orphaned baby kangaroos. It’s tempting to want to physically DO something with your hands, but I think wonga is better in these circumstances.
Plus of course all the other stuff to reduce your carbon footprint and campaign to corporations and governments to take this stuff seriously.
Greta says the world is on fire, and it looks like she’s right.