A tragic end to 2019 for Australia

I feel wretched for the millions of human and non-human animals who are suffering through the bushfire crisis in Australia right now. My social media feeds have been filled for weeks with apocalyptic images of smoke and fire, devastated landscapes, suffering wildlife, destroyed homes, and the charcoaled bodies of Australian animals. I have never seen anything like it before.

It is headline news in Britain and the international community is aghast that while the country burns the government continues to put coal interests first and reject all calls for meaningful climate action. I want to take hope from the many good Australians I see on social media calling desperately for their government to take action but I dare not because I know I live in a bubble. The majority of Australians voted for their government and voted against meaningful climate action.  The bushfires will not have changed their minds, nor will the encroaching desert, the increasing severity of drought, the rising sea levels, the hotter climate or the wilder weather.

The Financial Times sums it up well in this article from 23rd December 2019.

The scale of the country’s wildfire emergency has few precedents. But it has been exacerbated by a regrettable lack of leadership from the prime minister, Scott Morrison. Beyond Australia’s shores, his government stands as a reproach to any leaders tempted to follow its lamentable response to the deepening threat of climate change.

Mr Morrison has long been a cheerful volunteer in the divisive climate battles that have ravaged the political landscape in Australia, one of the world’s largest fossil fuel exporters. One of his predecessors, Tony Abbott, made history in 2014 by repealing a national carbon tax. Mr Morrison made international news himself in 2017 when as Treasurer, he brandished a lump of coal on the floor of the parliament to taunt critics he claimed had a “pathological fear” of the fuel.

It may seem jaw-dropping to the rest of the world but this is how climate change deniers are explaining the bushfire crisis now:

Not a single person I know who voted for the Scott Morrison government – and the majority of the people I know in Australia voted for him, indeed the majority of Australians voted for him – has changed their view or thinks they made a mistake. Most of the Australians I know still deny the link between fossil fuels and climate change.

Scott Morrison is deeply religious and his pentecostal religion teaches that Jesus will return to Earth and all the believers will rise into the air to meet him leaving non-believers to perish in fire, famine, and war. If this is what the leader of the country thinks then it’s not hard to see why he shows so little concern for the unfolding crisis and a lack of initiative to do anything about it.

It may be a disaster of apocalyptic proportions but there’s always something that can be done. Employ more firefighters, compensate firefighting volunteers, increase resources available to firefighters, create a “Bushfire Commission” like New Zealand’s Earthquake Commission to help manage the disaster, create a sovereign wealth fund to mitigate rising insurance costs over the coming decades, invest heavily in renewable energy and electric cars, plant crops that can withstand heat and drought, wind down and close all coal mines, commit to zero emissions by 2050, set up sanctuaries for endangered wildlife that have lost habitats, and most importantly of all, invest heavily in mitigating the water crisis. I’m sure there’s lots more. They need to get the best and the smartest people onto the problem right now.

Sadly, none of this will happen because people do not change their minds easily. I always thought that once climate change impacts were starting to be felt then people would come around but that’s not the case in Australia. Coal is too embedded in the psyche.

Image of dead cow from https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/gallery/2020/jan/02/conjola-park-fire-residents-assess-remains-after-bushfire-rages-through-in-pictures

 

13 Replies to “A tragic end to 2019 for Australia”

  1. I don’t really know what to say. Just that I can understand why you wanted to leave, why it would have been impossible to stay in Australia. I’m so sorry that humanity can be so misguided.

    1. I left because of the heat. It was too hot for me and that was 15 years ago. It’s even hotter now and will get hotter yet.

      1. On a hot humid day or in a heatwave I am so aware of global warming, I can’t believe the level of denial necessary to ignore it. On a nicer note, I found an article about Trees For Life in the Guardian today and how hard they are working to rewild areas of Scotland.

      2. Trees for Life is a wonderful organisation. They’re doing great things in Scotland. We still have a long way to go but we’re heading in the right direction at least.

  2. On one of the political pundit news shows popular in the US, an economist with a background in climate change research said that either governments will actively move with policies to correct global warming, or they will have to invest more money in emergency services and disaster relief programs as more wildfires, hurricanes, and other violent weather phenomena destroy the places where people live. Having observed how well even progressive California has helped the survivors of the Paradise fire—the town is still 90% empty, and former residents have said they doubt it will ever be rebuilt to what it was before the fire—I don’t believe climate-denying conservative governments like Scott Morrison’s will even provide recovery aid for Australians. I don’t know what it’ll take to wake voters up, when not even seeing their own homes burn to the ground persuade them that climate change is real.

    1. I don’t think Scott Morrison will provide recovery aid either. Most of the firefighters are volunteers and don’t even get paid. This tragedy will send insurance premiums up and possibly make them unaffordable. The insurance industry is not stupid and will not ignore the risks like the government does. There is no hope except to wait. Minds won’t change but time will change the people in power. I just don’t think we have enough time up our sleeves.

      1. Home insurance rates in California have tripled and even quadrupled in areas vulnerable to wildfires. A number of homeowners have said they’ll simply have to do without coverage because they can’t afford it. Mortgage/homeowners’ insurance is required in order to get a loan to buy a home, however; if people seeking to buy a house are unable to purchase a policy, it’ll just add to the growing problem of unaffordable housing in the state. Conservatives, who supposedly believe in the free market, ought to examine that: but I’m guessing they ignore market principles if it hurts their ability to pocket contributions from the carbon fuels industry.

  3. When George W. Bush was president he made the statement that we shouldn’t worry about climate change. He was confident that someday someone would invent something that would save us.

    His faith in science and innovation was almost child like, but to a certain extent he was right: we have come up with greener technologies that do less damage to the environment. They are useless, though, if governments refuse to use them.

    1. That is depressing but at least he didn’t deny that it was happening which is what people in Australia are doing now. They say it has been hotter and drying before and there have been worse fires and that the Greens are to blame (despite never having been in power). They even blame immigrants.

  4. The latest estimate in New South Wales alone is half a BILLION native mammals, birds and reptiles have now been killed by the fires. Who knows yet how many farmed animals have also been killed. This tragedy is heartbreaking beyond belief! A popular scapegoat has been “the greenies” because they were instrumental in stopping too much preventative fuel-reduction burning of leaf litter, to prevent the obliteration of native flora and fauna. There is a (wilfully) misguided belief by many that this is to blame for these extreme fires, rather than climate change. Here is a link below to a very good article that explains how blaming ‘the greenies’ is woefully inaccurate. It was written five years ago, as an explanation of the difference between Fuel Reduction Burning and Back Burning, but most Australians seem to be unaware of the difference. Some bullet points are:
    1) Fuel Reduction Burning is a preventative measure
    2) Back Burning is an emergency measure
    3) Fuel Reduction Burning can only be applied to open landscape, and huge areas of landscape need to be burnt for it be an effective means of wildfire control. It can’t be done it wooded areas.
    4) Repetitive Fuel Reduction Burning can decimate native flora and fauna, and prevent them re-populating the area
    5) There is a real risk of the fire becoming uncontrollable
    6) Smoke pollution is a serious side effect of Fuel Reduction Burning
    7) In regards to woodlands and bush areas, the crowns of eucalyptus trees can combust in extremely hot weather
    https://theconversation.com/explainer-back-burning-and-fuel-reduction-20605

    1. The scale of the disaster on Australian wildlife is really distressing. I wish there was something I could do to help them.

      That’s a good article about the difference between backburning and fuel reduction burning. Thanks for sharing. This article is also good:

      https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/nov/12/is-there-really-a-green-conspiracy-to-stop-bushfire-hazard-reduction

      Sadly, it won’t stop people from blaming the Greens because they won’t read it.

      I realised recently that there isn’t a single Murdoch news source that I read. I get my news from The Conversation, The Guardian, The Independent, The BBC, SBS News, and The ABC. Most Australians will be reading Murdoch-owned newspapers and online media.

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