let’s chat about the australian bushfires because it seems to be underplayed a lot. the current fires are bigger than both the california fires of a couple years ago and the amazon fires of last year.
so bushfire season is a relatively regular event in australia, and since 1851, they’ve accounted for 800 people dying and millions of animals. the current fires are in southeast australia, where bushfire season stretches from december to march. yes, we’ve just begun.
so far, the fires have burned about 24,000 square miles. 2500 buildings have been destroyed, 1300 homes, and 25 people have died (6 still missing). half a billion animals have been impacted so far.
how did this start? in early november, a catastrophic fire danger was declared (this level was just introduced in 2009 – this was the first time using it). a total fire ban was put in place for seven regions, including sydney. remember: it’s mid-summer down there, and new south wales is reaching temperatures upwards of 110º and HIGHER. the heat, combined with recent drought made the area one big piece of kindling for any sort of arsonists, despite the fire ban. (a few people have been charged with arson).
in addition to the fires causing havoc on the area they’re burning, pushing people out of homes, and causing species to possibly go extinct, the fires are also billowing 250 million tonnes of CO2 into the air (as of jan. 2). new zealand, 1000 miles away, is getting smoke effects. glaciers in new zealand got a brown tint due to the smoke. two of the world’s worst air pollution days were during these fires. usually, new forest regrowth would absorb any CO2, but this amount would take decades, and experts aren’t even sure if forests are able to fully regrow due to the drought that’s been going on.
the government has gotten some severe pushback – the PM was in hawaii while the fires were happening and some firefighters died, and new south wales cut funding on fire services. 100,000 residents have been evacuated, and tourists were told to get out – access and supply routes could be cut off by fire. people are taking shelter and evacuating to beaches in areas where it is too late to leave. in victoria, people are evacuating to navy ships to sail toward melbourne. electricity and communications are down in several small towns along the coast.
today it rained in a couple locations, so that’s good news, but temps are set to rise later in the week. there are also two huge fires that could meet and create some sort of megablaze.
this is the part where i talk about climate change. about how it means extreme weather (while we’re getting a polar vortex in november, australia’s seeing record heat and super-drought conditions). about how all this smoke in the air is not good for anyone. about how extinct species is not cool. (well, unless it’s a jumping spider that can kill you with a look, like they have in australia.)
but you know all this.
so here’s how you can help:
i donated to WIRES just now. $1 AUD is about 70¢ USD.