Australia is being ravaged by the worst wildfires the continent has seen in decades, with large swaths of the country devastated since the fire season began in late July. As the death count continues to rise, and the number of people being forced to evacuate continues to rise this crisis shows no signs of stopping any time soon. Over 30 people have died nationwide, and in the state of New South Wales (NSW) alone, over 3,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged. Since September, more than 27 million acres of Australia have burned in one of the country’s worst fire seasons on record, for reference this is roughly 14 times the amount of land that burned in the California wildfires in 2019.
These fires are not only having a negative effect on the people in Australia, but also on the billions of animals and plant species that call the continent home. You may have recently seen some of the many viral videos depicting individuals interactions with koalas or other native Australian wildlife that are trying to flee the fires and the devastation left in their wake. According to recent reports 1.25 billion animals are now estimated dead, though there’s a good deal of uncertainty in that figure.
According to Manu Saunders, an ecologist at the University of New England in Australia, “The whole concept of an ecosystem is about connectivity.” They go on to say, “Across whole forests there are millions of individuals, and hundreds of different species in those forests that all rely on each other. And if you lose one, it’s like a link in a chain, you then lose the others that it is connected to.”
In the wake of this international tragedy, the source of the fires as well as the effect that climate change has had on the blaze has been disputed and argued. However, while some of the fires were a result of arson and geography: the effects of climate change on the spread of wildfires and on creating an increasingly hot and dry environment in which such fires thrive cannot be denied.
As of this time it is unclear how long the fires will continue to burn for. However, many individuals have taken it upon themselves to raise money for the people of Australia as well as environmental and rescue efforts. One notable case is an influencer who successfully raised over $700,000 by selling explicit photos online in exchange for donations. It is estimated that over 1.4 billion dollars has been spent thus far on relief, with the number continuing to grow.
As with any issue relating to climate change, if you want to help, it is important to remain informed as well as aware of the far reaching effects climate change can have.