Bush fires Australia 2019 Exhausted volunteer fire fighters
Everyone knows this has been a terrible spring and summer in Australia for drought and bushfires and to be honest it almost feels disrespectful to those suffering in fire regions to be having fun and relaxing at the beach with the family (like I am) when fire is raging all around the country and people are suffering. The pictures tell the story and I just can’t imagine what it’s like for these families who have had their past erased and their futures plunged into uncertainty by these catastrophic and unprecedented fires.
We all know what it means to be an Australian in tough times – the ANZAC spirit is often quoted – qualities which include endurance, courage, ingenuity, good humour, mateship, being resilient under extreme pressure and having a ‘she’ll be right mate‘ attitude. But sometimes I feel our politicians take advantage of these qualities and quite frankly, these amazingly brave firefighters and just ‘ordinary’ citizens who live in these regions suffering under extremely dangerous and overwhelming conditions, need a break.
The army was called in immediately after unprecedented floods in Brisbane in 2011. I remember saying to my mum who lived on the northside: “Yeronga is literally like a war zone“.
I felt distressed at the damage in my suburb, but relieved and almost guilty at the same time as our house was unaffected by water inundation. The only discomfort we had was we had no power for 5 or 6 days. It was in fact a special family time when we played board games around the camping light and binge-watched a TV series each night on the computer until it died and then we’d recharge it the next day as we had power at my rooms at Highgate Hill. There was only one round-about way into Yeronga and you had to plan your routes if traveling to family members who lived out of the ‘war zone’.
Our shops at the end of our street 2011
There was mud and enormous piles of rubbish built out of the memories and lives of our neighbours; there were helicopters circling overhead; and army trucks and soldiers everywhere pitching in with the ‘mud army’ (other Brisbane residents unaffected by the floods who came out of the woodwork to help their fellow citizens) to get people’s lives back in order.
The famous Brisbane mud army that rose to the challenge the floods created
The council were incredible – getting trucks to remove the rubbish from the streets to a local park area and then magically taken away and then within a week, some order felt like it was restored.
The houses at the end of our street suffered badly- people’s lives exposed wet and muddy on the footpath
I have read where some poor people have endured both floods and bushfires and they have commented that whilst they have lived through devastating floods, these bushfires were much worse, as everything has been completely erased, including the surrounding environment and the animal life that lived there. Worse still they were terrified they could be caught in the fire and burned alive. It was bad enough reading reports of the bushfire residents hearing screaming wildlife as the fires ravaged the landscape.
These survivors of these bushfires must be traumatized.
They have to be suffering psychologically as well as emotionally and financially.
How fortified would they feel if the army arrived to help?
How strengthened would their resolve be if every day on the news they saw their elected representatives travelling the country dishing up food to weary firefighters, shaking their hands and thanking them for their amazing bravery.
But wait- how could they see that? They probably don’t have power due to the fires. They don’t have TVs or living rooms anymore. They don’t have lounge chairs or platters to put their cheeses on.
God how desolate must they feel?
How relieved would they feel if they had a promise from their government that significant financial help will be provided. Personally, I am happy to give up our budget surplus to help these people through these disasters. I’ve taken a poll – all my family agree. They would understand that this is a necessary burden to our economy to give these people some hope for their future. If their villages are rebuilt and they are compensated, this will be a boost to the local economy and the national economy.
These bushfires are wrecking Australia’s bottom line and our brand. They are trashing our reputation as a tourist destination. Getting on top of them quickly and restoring faith in the ability of our leaders to lead is paramount.
It isn’t enough to say Aussies are strong folk. They’ll pick themselves up and get on with life. Whole villages have been decimated. Schools, shops, maybe even physio practices have disappeared off the face of the earth. I can’t imagine what it must be like.
There has been much criticism of the behaviour of our Prime Minister. I expect many Australians are disappointed and many others, directly affected by the fires, are feeling abandoned and others are angry. I think those affected by the fires wish he could walk in their shoes – feel their sense of loss, fear, anxiety and abandonment.
But I think he is conflicted. He has got himself trapped in a corner with nowhere to go because he has made so many strong comments about coal, climate change and the surplus and he has contested opinions about climate change to deal with within his own party about climate change and it’s impact on our environment.
Backed into a corner with nowhere to go
But it is never too late. Don’t feel trapped. It’s OK to change your tone and your opinion in the middle of an argument. People respect you for listening to the science and looking at the evidence that there is much money to be earned in alternatives to coal. It’s OK to leave the coal in the ground and forget about it – forever!
And the fact is – there is no need anymore to actually say: ‘I believe in climate change’.
It’s like saying I now believe the Earth is not flat! Believe it or not there was actually a time when the belief was that the Earth was indeed flat. Our children may not have heard that fact – the fact being that there was a time when the inhabitants of Earth thought it was flat. It sounds ridiculous now doesn’t it?
And this is what will be said in years to come about climate change. Since the seventies, scientists and vested interests in coal production have known about the effect of carbon emissions on the warming of the climate. The link below is to an excellent short video from Dr Karl that I commend to you to listen to.
I have always believed there are some things that should be exempt from government decision-making. And the impact and effect of climate change on the Australian natural environment and the potential future extinction of so many native animals, insects and amazing natural wonders like the Great Barrier Reef, should definitely make the list.
It should be left to an expert panel of climate scientists, farmers, economists, innovators, business leaders, researchers and experienced negotiators and mediators. It must be represented equally in gender. Get the brain storming going. Lock the doors until they sort it out.
The plan must have strong parameters:
The coal towns must be promised that every job in coal will be replaced with viable work in renewables and other industries which will be created. (We don’t even know what these things will be – they are still trapped in the innovative, clever brains of our scientists waiting for research funding from the government).
The farmers have to be consulted and listened to. They are at the coalface of climate change.
First nations peoples must be involved. Their skills in managing the Australian bush must be utilized. They know the land and the bush.
Why not utilize the manpower left abandoned on Manus Island. I am sure they would relish the opportunity to show that they can be useful members of our Australian community.
Let’s think out of the box. Let’s go off tangent. Let’s declare any vested interests and leave those people out of the decision-making.
And why you might ask is a pelvic health physio writing this blog?
Because I am a health professional who sees the burden of our changing climate on our health and fears for the effect of the smoke and pollutants on the respiratory system of those with asthma, bronchiectasis, chronic hayfever and other similar conditions. All that coughing and sneezing -it is a serious problem for pelvic floors believe me! I worry about a time when we may not be able to exercise outdoors anymore and the deleterious effect on our health – compromised cardio-vascular system, diminished brain health and bone density to name a few.
I am a grandmother who wonders what the future will bring for my children and grandchildren. What will be the extent of species extinction?
I am a citizen of the world and we are a part of the global community, not isolated and disrespectful of other countries and communities.
Because I write a blog and therefore I can.
But I hope it will open a dialogue, not shut down conversation or cause discontent. We must take this scary ‘new normal’ seriously.
Most importantly, I want to know when I am 90 and look back at what I have thought about or how I have acted on this climate emergency in 2019, that I didn’t choose to not ruffle feathers or upset friends, relatives or the public by saying nothing. I will know that I have tried to make a difference beyond my own individual choices such as plastic use, choosing to reuse, recycle or reduce and other ways to reduce our carbon footprint.
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and may our new decade bring us new direction and strong effective governance.