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