From Typical Season to Terrible Crisis: The Australian Wildfire Epidemic

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Wildfires are a common in occurrence in Australia. In fact, the country experiences its own wildfire season from April until September and local firefighters are able to effectively handle the situation. However, the devastation and destruction inflicted upon the “Land Down Under” this year has made this annual occurrence more than just a season; it is a crisis. The flames have done more than just burn land. They roared over the entire country obliterating homes, habitats, and most importantly, lives. The wildfires are the largest fires Australia has seen in decades and they are only getting worse. It is taking everything within the country’s arsenal to keep the flames at bay. The people of Australia are in for the firefight of a lifetime.

The Australian summer is brutal. Its disastrous mix of dry atmosphere, scorching temperatures and dry lightning makes this time of year the perfect time for wildfires; because of these conditions, natural causes are usually the main culprit for producing them. While fires do occur often, they are reasonably manageable and can be taken care of relatively quickly. However, reports from CNN indicate that temperatures this summer have been record breaking. The nationwide average temperature has been 113-120 degrees and, on top of that, Australia is also in the middle of the driest drought on record as well. Add in the strong winds, which allow fires to spread farther and more quickly, this record-breaking season is now leading to record breaking desolation. When asked about the true cause of wildfires, A.P. Environmental Science teacher Lidia Zamora said, “Forest fires can occur due to natural reasons such as lightning and weather. Small, natural forest fires can help burn leaf litter or help seeds germinate. Uncontained and accidental, human-caused fires are different; these can destroy an entire forest and ecosystem. If you add the effects of climate change to either of these two types of fires, you end up with an exacerbated fire – which is what we are seeing in Australia.”

The desolation has reached many places in the country over the past couple weeks. The fires have burned through Australia’s bush lands, woods and even national park areas. Nowhere has been safe, including the countries most populated cities such as Sydney. Smoke engulfed the atmosphere in Sydney to the point that the air quality reach 11 times higher than hazardous level. However, the place that has been hit the hardest is New South Wales. Statistics from Statista show that the state has over 4.9 million hectares (12.1 million acres) burned. To put this in comparison and perspective to a recent crisis, victims of the California wildfire epidemic saw 1.8 million acres of land ruined by the flames. This is only in one state. Altogether, the total number of burned acres within Australia has amounted to 26 million in 2019.

The land is not the only entity that has been lost to the fire. According to CNN over 2000 homes have been destroyed and 25 people have lost their lives. The wildlife within the area has suffered a great deal as well. Australia is home to over 600 thousand species of animals that critical to the country’s environment and ecosystem. This is why firefighters and the government of Australia have been working diligently on finding a solution to quale the blazing fires, because according to reports from Vox, totals have shown that over a half a million animals have been affected. With death reports from Vox now estimated to be at a staggering 1 billion, some specific species have been affected more than others such as koala bears. Almost a third of the country’s koalas have been wiped out due to this disaster. Junior Kara Marshall said, “I really hope that we can find a way to protect the animals that are being affected by the fire. Some of the animals that are being affected include ostriches and kangaroos on Kangaroo Island in Southern Australia. I believe that one way we can help would be to relocate many of the animals that are in the fire’s path.”

The entire world has been clamoring to put together resources and donate funds to relief efforts for these fires. So many people are pitching in their time, effort and money to put a halt to the crisis at hand. Celebrities such as Nicole Kidman, Keith Urban, Leonardo DiCaprio, Russell Crowe and Iggy Azalea have taken to social media to raise awareness. Australian billionaires such as James Packer, Michael Cannon-Brookes and Scott Farquhar have pledged millions of dollars toward the cause. Unfortunately, these wildfires are not receiving the attention they deserve. Billionaires all across the world have been called out publicly on social media for their lack of response in this situation compared to others. For example, when the fire that burned down the Notre Dame Cathedral occurred in April 2019 in the short span of a few hours, three French billionaires pledged 565 million dollars to reconstruction efforts. Yet when 26 million acres, over 1 billion animals, 2000 homes and millions of people are being affected, many people have been relatively slow to contribute to the cause.  An awful reality that must be rectified soon if this situation is to be resolved.

The tragedy taking place in Australia is extremely disheartening. Every day, the citizens of Australia are forced to sit and watch as their country is consumed by flames, leaving them with nothing but ashes. The world has to respond. This is no longer just Australia’s problem. This is humanity’s problem as a whole. It will take the effort of the entire world to out an end to this catastrophe. When asked about her stance on what is happening, senior Jayla Jones said, “I think it’s an environmental crisis that needs to be addressed seriously by everyone, not just Australia. It’s extremely tragic.” The situation may seem hopeless and desperate, but humanity always finds a way to show its resilience, strength and comradery within times of crisis. And with everyone’s help, this fiery season will soon be a distant memory in the past and out of the ashes a brighter future for the “Land Down Under” will rise.

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