Wildfires Continue to Rage in Australia

Heidi Banaschak, Staff Reporter

Design by: Robert Kanehl

The Australian wildfires have been taking over the media, with headlines being updated every hour and posts being spread around online, attempting to bring awareness to the disasters. Currently, 24 people have been killed by these fires, 2,000 homes destroyed and over an estimated one billion animals dead.

Raging mainly along the eastern and southern coast, the fires have been able to touch every state in Australia. About 15.6 million acres of land in Australia have been scorched, damaging not only the people’s homes, but the crucial homes of every species in Australia.

Australia is known for housing some of the most unique and rare species on the planet, with only 300 species being habitable to Australia. With the fires, habitats are being demolished and food and water are becoming scarce. Therefore, animals are being forced to relocate. The famous koala bear has been named “functionally extinct” with the loss of their habitat space.

Australia has been witnessing the earliest effects of climate change. The country was hit earlier in 2019 by the drought season, which was followed by a weather phenomenon known as the Indian Ocean Dipole. This weather pattern casts hot, dry spells across the country. Due to climate change, the patterns have increased in temperature. By the end of 2016, Australia had experienced its hottest and driest year on record. However, not only is the climate to blame, but also humans. 

Police in Australia accused around 24 people earlier this week of deliberately setting bushfires. Bushfires are helpful to farmers by demolishing large plants, and then using the clear, fertile land for more crops. Though this is not the only reason one may start a bushfire, police have also taken legal action against 183 people for not complying to a total fire ban, or discarding a lit cigarette or match. 

The government of Australia has faced clapback earlier on in the season when they were accused of ignoring the fires and for not doing enough against climate change. Lately, Prime Minister Scott Morison has started a funding for volunteer firefighters. Morison has also promised $1.4 billion for the aftermath of the bushfires.

Volunteer firefighters rates have increased. With many volunteers out to work everyday of the week with their lives at risk, it is unclear if Australia can continue to depend on an unpaid firefighter force. 100 volunteer firefighters from the United States were sent over earlier this month to help fight off the flame.

Celebrities are finding ways to help in the battle as well. Actor Chris Hemsworth donated $1 million, while Leonardo DiCaprio’s environmental organization, “Earth Alliance,” has pledged $3 million to the Australia Wildfire Fund. Influencer Kaylen Ward has even gone as far as to offer explicit pictures of herself for every $10 donation. Ward was able to raise “hundreds of thousands” before Instagram shut down her account. 

The media has been flocking to share information on different organizations civilians could support and donate to. Volunteers have created care packages that have been sent to Australia to support firefighters and animals rescued from the bushfires. 

January 2020 has been the third month of the Australian bushfires, with more than 100 fires occurring across the country. With both people and climate change being accused of influencing the disaster, the government is starting to pay more attention to their burning country. Both animals and people are without homes, but with the spread of awareness through social media, hopefully Australia can be reformed.