Bushfires in Australia

Australia is on fire. Since their start in October 2019, bushfires in Australia have burned an area about the size of West Virginia, killing at least 25 people and an estimated one billion animals according to the New York Times. At least 3,000 homes have been destroyed, and the economic damage from the fires could be as much as 3.5 billion dollars.

Dr. Christina Lommatsch is an Assistant Professor of Learning Technologies at the University of Canberra. She has lived in Canberra, the capital of Australia, for one year. The air quality in Canberra is an extreme health concern.

“Currently, I wear an air pollution mask to go to and from work and daily check the status of the fires,” Lommatsch said. “We also minimize opening any windows or doors that go outside to keep smoke out of our office buildings and homes.”

Many of Lommatsch’s colleagues who live in more forested areas have evacuation bags and are ready to leave at a moment’s notice. She has a bushfire evacuation plan, as recommended by emergency services and has stocked food and water in her home. She has also been trying to lessen her power consumption because of the current strain on the power grid in Australia due to the heat wave in the country.

“[The Australian fires] are unprecedented,” Mr. Ryan Miller, the school’s IB Environmental Systems teacher said. “[Australia] has never had this volume and intensity of fires, to the best of my knowledge, on the continent. The intensity of the fires can certainly be attributed to the drought conditions that [Australia] has experienced. That’s caused the fires to be more intense, to be more widespread and to be more destructive.”

Mr. Miller explained that although wildfires are necessary for a healthy ecosystem, the reason these fires are so harmful is because of extended drought in Australia. The drought in Australia is the result of shifting weather patterns attributed to climate change. Unfortunately, this has caused the fires in Australia.

“People in Australian Capital Territory (ACT) are certainly paying more attention to the fires [than other climate-related issues] as they are so close to home,” Lommatsch said.
However, it is not just people in Australia who are paying attention to the fires. Australia has gained massive social media attention and many celebrities are donating money to the cause. Student activists across the world have marched for climate change, demanding that their political leaders take action against this crisis.

Lommatsch encourages donating to the Red Cross, donating goods and services to GIVIT, and donating to the ACT wildlife website.

“I have seen people spending and sending money to help with the wildlife issues [in Australia],” Mr. Miller said. “You certainly could look at it from the standpoint of climate change and adjust your lifestyle to where you are living a life where carbon is [not] being emitted more and [not] contribute to climate change.”