Just weeks after headlines repeatedly linked the unprecedented California wildfires to climate change, there appears to be a chilling repeat occurring, only in relation to the unseasonal New South Wales (NSW) bushfires. As a result of lengthening dry seasons, rising temperatures, intensifying winds and dead plants serving as fire fuel, intense high-risk fire and “catastrophic” seasons are becoming the new norm. Albeit, how much catastrophe needs to occur before we, particularly those in positions of power, adequately address the reality of climate change?
Of course, with increased discussion of the link between the fires and climate change, comes deflecting politicians and government bodies remaining simply unaccountable for their inaction, denying the worsening conditions that dryer, warmer temperatures bring. Some normalise fires as being expected events that occur annually, as they always have. What they often fail to acknowledge is the upward trend of fires increasing in frequency, size and ferocity; a dangerous combination, as observed in California.
Greg Mullins, former Fire and Rescue NSW commissioner and councillor on the Climate Council, recently published an article in the Sydney Morning Herald reporting that a similar trend is currently occurring in Australia, with fires burning “in places and at intensities never before experienced”, including rainforests in northern NSW, tropical Queensland, and the formerly wet old-growth forests in Tasmania. He acknowledged the occurrence of the word “unprecedented”, and expressed hopeful confidence that the national government will finally see the obvious and understand the meaning behind this word.
Journalists and activists have expressed caution when linking the current catastrophic fires with climate change, in respect of those who are currently in crisis. Yet, the local NSW radio reports that those who have evacuated their homes in NSW have started, or are planing to start a petition with homemade signs to raise awareness of climate change. Think about that; these community members are using their diminished energy and resources to beg the politicians and government to adequately and appropriately address climate change.
A rise in, “if not now, then when?” posts are disseminating on Instagram, alongside the hashtag #AttnScottMorrison to call the Prime Minister of Australia to take action to *actually* address unsustainable greenhouse emissions, and to commit to genuinely moving towards renewable energy. Australia’s commitment to the G20 has already been scrutinised, despite their high solar energy and wind potential, there is still a lack of evidence of intentions or progress away from coal and gas, nor toward a zero-carbon economy as they actually could.
What’s holding countries developed and capable countries such as Australia and America back? Simply put, unaccountable, irresponsible and unethical leadership that does not reflect the values of their citizens. California alone has a steadily increasing number of nonprofits working to reduce carbon emissions, despite negligence from the Trump administration. We optimistically believe that more citizens and community members would be on board if they weren’t so confused by the mixed and dismissive messages that are, and have been for some time, reinforced over and over again.
Other than unwillingness, there is nothing stopping such leaders to follow in the footsteps of New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinta Arden, by replicating her zero-carbon bill that has been passed in parliament. This commits NZ to new climate laws to reduce carbon emissions to zero by 2050, in line with the Paris climate agreement. Australia and America too, can be “on the right side of history”. Although it can be tempting to shy away from political issues, we must demand action and responsible actions from government as the carbon containment is frankly not possible without actual policies enforced.
Over the last few months, during climate marches and activation, Sarah Wilson has called out for seemingly shy influencers to take a stand for the environment and climate change action. Already there seems to be a shift, perhaps due to ‘The Greta Effect’, as we are seeing more influential people starting to speak up. Maybe it’s becoming cool to care. Either way, if like us, you care, and want to see not only more awareness, but also bolder action in addressing climate change, you may consider signing this petition on change.org requesting for politicians to meet with emergency experts to discuss firefighting resources, climate action and a national emergency summit to address the current situation in Australia.
*If you would like to donate to support the current NSW bushfire crisis, particularly to the firefighting heroes, please refer to the links below:
- To donate to the NSW Rural Fire Service, refer to the details here.
- To donate to the Australian Red Cross, refer to the details here.
- To donate to the WIRES Wildlife Rescue Emergency Fund, refer to the details here.
To join the conversation and to let us know how you get involved, head over to @plantd.co. We’d love to hear from you!