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Australian Bush Fires Rampage Across Continent

| Roxie Baggott | rbaggott23@dtechhs.org | January 28, 2020 |

Koala and its baby avoiding fires. Drawing by Roxie Baggott

Embers and flames trickle into the skies of Australia as animals run from their homes, as the formerly abundant Australian forests find themselves ablaze. Currently, there are fires all over Australia, but the most devastating ones have been in New South Wales, Australia. Some blame the country’s drought, while others blame it on bigger issues such as global warming, but one of the biggest issues has been the surprising lack of knowledge.

Yes, it seems as though it’s blown up all over the internet, but the fires have been going on much longer than we have been concerned about it. There are often fires during Australian summers — December to February — and this year, over 17 million acres of land have been burned to the ground; because of this, 26 people have died and 2,000 houses have been destroyed. Though fires aren’t abnormal for Australia, these ones have been much more ferocious and have gone on much longer than usual. In addition, there are at least 140 fires burning in New South Wales, which means that the fires are concentrated in one area, and thus, harder to fight off. Though many of these fires have been caused by the hot and dry climate in Australia, around 24 people have been found setting bushfires as well, which only contributes to the devastating wildfires. 

The effects of these fires have been devastating to the australian wildlife. In fact, it is believed that 30% of the Koala population has been killed from the fires. Design Tech’s Environmental Science teacher Fannie Hsieh says, “Animal’s habitats are being destroyed, we’re losing a lot of trees [and] biodiversity, and that’s going to contribute to global warming. We’re releasing a lot of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere with all the burning, and meanwhile taking away the trees that are supposed to be sucking in that carbon.” Junior Alannah Forster adds, “Australia is home to a lot of different types of species. It’s an ecosystem that’s very different from the rest of the world, so there’s a lot of worry about [how] if those kinds of species are damaged there’s not another population to fall back on.” 

Though the environment is a first priority for many animal lovers, there are other things that are of concern in this situation as well, such as agriculture being burned down. Since crops are being burned in some places, the pricing for food is going to be higher in Australia throughout the next year, which could leave many families hungry. In addition to this, there is the mental trauma that fires can bring to people, and if it gets bad enough, citizens could end up losing their jobs and stability due to the trauma. Lastly, is the public health issues that the fires are having. Imagine the air quality in the California fires, but even more brutal; many Australian citizens are being physically harmed due to smoke being inhaled as well as burns. 

When it comes to d.tech students’ thoughts about the Australian fires, there are many who express their concerns, especially those with family in Australia. Sophomore Genevieve Crouch says, “I have family in New South Wales… the fires are nearly 20 kilometers away from my friend’s houses… It’s really touchy, it’s really hard for people I know around there.” Another sophomore with family in Australia, Sophia Wigenstam, says, “The awareness about the Australian bush fires haven’t gotten out to the media [a couple of weeks ago], even though by then the fires in Australia were far more severe than any California fire ever, and those had way more publicity.” 

Seeing the seriousness of the fires, countries have started sending out reinforcements for the Australian firefighters, who have been working non-stop in order to save lives and the environment. The U.S. has sent out fire fighters from California, and they’ve been in Australia since January 8th. Even the United Nations have gotten involved, writing news articles about it to spread awareness and offering support in other ways. 

Though most d.tech students live far away from the fires, there are still things that students, teachers, and parents can do to help those affected. One of the easiest ways to help is as Wigenstam said, “There are different organizations where if they get enough shares or get enough likes, they [will] donate an allocated amount of money that help with the fire services, with rehabilitation, with addicted people whose houses burned down.” Though this is true, students should be cautious about whether the Instagram organizations are legitimate. To do this, a student should click on the link in the bio to read up and make sure everything is trustworthy, often times scams won’t have a website or real information. 

In addition to Instagram, there are plenty of other ways to help the people and animals of Australia. Former d.tech student, Lachlan Flint — who now lives in Australia and goes by Lily Anne — says, “The main thing is, vote. Vote for people will put the environment as forefront issue, people who believe in climate change. Donate if you can, if you have money to spare, to responsive action… The main thing is [to] address the root cause, which is climate change.” 

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