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How to Help Australia Recover from Bushfires

It’s only the start of bushfire season in Australia, and this year is already one of the worst on record. The latest reports estimate that over one billion animals have died—which is heartbreaking as many species aren’t found anywhere else—and nearly 30 people are reported dead as well.

Are the Australian bushfires normal?

Wildfires like this are becoming more and more common as the climate changes and we experience higher temperatures and for longer periods of time, and longer dry seasons coupled with drought conditions. This has an effect on regions across the globe, as we’ve seen this past year in California and even Siberia. (The fires in the Amazon were mostly man-made, as cattle ranchers burn land to clear it for grazing.)

In crises like these, it can be overwhelming and hard to know what to do to help. We’ve compiled resources for you to help directly, and to help avoid this in the future by doing what you can to reduce climate change.

How to help the Australia fires:

There are national and local organizations working in Australia to help fight the fires, rescue animals, and provide relief to those affected.

Organizations working to fight Australian fires:

  1. County Fire Authority (Victoria) | Helps the state-run (mostly) volunteer fire department fight to contain and stop the spread of the fires.
  2. NSW Rural Fire Service (New South Wales) | NSW has been one of the hardest hit areas with fires, and this helps the firefighters control the fire. You can choose to donate to the Rural Fire Service or a local fire brigade.
How to Help Australia Recover from Bushfires
via Unsplash

Organizations rescuing and rehabilitating animals affected by Australia’s fires:

  1. WIRES (Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Services) | WIRES is a wildlife charity, and they are working to rescue, care for, and rehabilitate as many native species as possible.
  2. Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital | Steve Irwin’s wife Terri owns the wildlife hospital and they are working hard to build new spaces for animals injured and displaced by the fire.
  3. Tolga Bat Hospital | Flying fox bats are a native fruit bat and have been dying by the thousands each summer from higher temperatures, and the fires are stressing an already endangered population. This hospital rescues, heals, and re-releases bats into the wild when they are ready.
  4. Koala Hospital (Port Macquari, NSW) | The hospital rescues and treats koalas as well as working to preserve their habitat and educate the public.
Organizations to help Australian recovery
Saeed Khan/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images, via the New York Times

Organizations to help Australian recovery:

  1. Red Cross (Australia) | The Red Cross supports thousands of people affected by the fire, and provides resources for evacuation centers and recovery hubs.
  2. First Nations (Indigenous Communities) | A member of a First Nations group has started a gofundme page to help with indigenous peoples who have been displaced by the fires, and who’s sacred lands may have been burned in the fire. Donations offer culturally sensitive, direct support to people affected.
  3. FRRR (Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal) | This nonprofit provides grants to community-led organizations to provide for needs occurring after a natural disaster.
Residents look on as flames burn through bush in Lake Tabourie, Australia
Residents look on as flames burn through bush in Lake Tabourie, Australia, on January 4, 2020.
Brett Hemmings/Getty Images, via Vox

The above organizations are who you can support that will help with an immediate response to the fires, but the best thing we can do is to minimize our impact on climate change, and push governments and companies to do their part as well. As long as temperatures keep rising, and we have these longer, drier seasons across the globe, fires will continue to devastate entire regions.

THE BEST THING YOU CAN DO TO HELP AVOID WILDFIRES IS TO TAKE ACTION ON CLIMATE CHANGE.

Changing your habits is necessary to create a climate-conscious society, but we also must make large scale changes in order to reduce the most drastic effects of climate change—now and for the future.

How to reduce your contribution to climate change:

  1. REDUCE YOUR MEAT CONSUMPTION As mentioned earlier, deforestation and fires set to clear forested land for cattle grazing was a major cause of the Amazonian wildfires. Cutting forests for cattle grazing (which happens all over the world, not just Brazil) is detrimental for a few reasons.
    • Trees and large forests are one of our best resources for capturing CO2. They take up carbon, or sequester it, and consume it as a nutrient to grow. (Not to mention, they provide oxygen that we need to survive.)
    • When trees are cut down, they release CO2 into the atmosphere, increasing the amount of greenhouse gases.
    • Cattle are also the #1 agricultural source of greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere, worldwide. Their bodily functions produce and release methane gas, which is nearly 30x more potent in the atmosphere than carbon.
  2. TAKE PUBLIC TRANSIT If you live in an area that offers public transit (trams, buses, trains) using that or walking/bike riding instead of driving or ride-sharing can help decrease your carbon footprint.
  3. CHANGE YOUR BUYING HABITS What we buy, individually and as a societal group, influences market-wide changes that help push us in a more sustainable direction.
    • Reduce your plastic consumption wherever possible, especially single use plastics. Even if it’s recyclable, it takes resources to produce it and recycle it. Plastic is derived from oil, so anything you buy that contains plastic adds to our dependence on fossil fuels. Cutting plastic use means being conscious of whats in your take out containers, packaging, grocery bags, vegan leather/fur goods (many are plastic-based), clothing (polyester is plastic), shoes, jewelry, etc.
    • Buy local. The shorter the distance to get from source to your home, the smaller the carbon footprint.
    • Support brands that take into account the environmental impact of their product and it’s manufacturing process. Make sure the brands you buy from have strong environmental values/protections in place, they use eco-friendly materials and source them responsibly, and they account for the end-of-life use of their product (can it be sent back and recycled, composted, repaired, etc.?). If you need help finding brands like this, check out our eco-friendly gift guide. Good on You is a great resource for clothing brands, as well.
  4. VOTE We need massive changes on a societal level. Electing politicians who are educated about climate change and understand the threat it poses to human life, AND who are willing to do what is necessary to combat it is absolutely essential to making progress. Before you cast your ballot, make sure you know the candidates’ stances on environmental issues—whether for a presidential election or your city council.

If you want to get involved in and take action on these issues, download POINT from the App Store or Google Play to find opportunities to volunteer for great environmental and crisis relief organizations.

TAKE ACTION FOR THE THINGS YOU CARE ABOUT.


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Header image credit to Anthony Hearsey. This is a 3D visualization of the fires in Australia. NOT A PHOTO. This is made from data from NASA’s FIRMS (Satellite data regarding fires) between December 5, 2019 – January 5, 2020. These are all the areas which have been affected by bushfires, but not all the areas are still burning.

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