I’ve been angry about this whole fire mess since October last year. It started whilst we took a road trip from south east Queensland to central NSW. Stuck between convoys of hay, water and fire trucks. Where the land was not yet burnt it was basically dirt. Old trees that we've seen for the past few decades completely dead. I dreaded that this was the new normal.
Then the fire started affecting my home town where I grew up. My folks still have the family bush block there and are intending to return to it to retire. It then became a little more personal. My dad was out there on the front lines when it was at its peak in the northern rivers area, I refreshed that damn fire map every 5 minutes.
So I get what this feeling of helplessness is all about. I was so angry that the government wasn’t acting, and at the time they weren’t even talking about it. Passing it off as a totally normal fire season.
I feel like it’s only now that people are catching up to my anger. Probably with the prime minister heading off to Hawaii for a holiday in the midst of the disaster. Perhaps it's the political spin that is coming at us in all directions. Or perhaps its the confrontation of the devastating loss of all our beautiful wildlife.
No the PM probably cannot hold a hose or cook a sausage to save his life, but he can show a bit of empathy and respect. Neither of which he’s done to date (Sarah Wilson has a great summation here if you're interested). We’re also now seeing more people showing the devastation on social media. Not just the fury of the fires themselves but the devastating aftermath. It’s front and centre of our lives so here we are seething with anger.
The anger phase can be debilitating. That feeling of helplessness mixed with a furious need to blame someone. As they say, being angry is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. But really I don't think people want someone to blame, I think we all just want to be heard. We all want to be understood. And we all want change. We all want our leaders to stop lining the pockets of the business who keep taking our clean air and fresh water, and start caring about that.
The anger does morph into a less debilitating state and to help get past that phase I found it helpful to look for the hope. You look towards the communities that are banding together, the generosity of others, the fearlessness of these firefighters doing amazing jobs protecting communities keeping people safe. Really the fact that more lives haven’t been lost is a real testament to the bravery and commitment of these volunteers.
Once you start to see that hope you can then move onto the next phase, action.
Yes you can donate money and volunteer your time. There are loads of ways to do that. You can also write to your local MPs and demand action. You can knit/sew things for wildlife. You can go visit these communities to bring back the tourist dollar once the ash settles. You can make sure you have a fire plan regardless of where you live. Take steps to reduce bushfire hazard to your own house and help your neighbours do the same. But these aren't the actions I am talking about.
The actions I wanted to talk about move beyond this immediate crisis. The bigger picture. Contributing factors of how we got here.
I get that no one wants to give up their current lifestyle and ditch the modern conveniences that are so abundantly available to us right now. I get it. I don’t think anyone expects people to give up life as we know it. It's not about that. It’s more about making slight tweaks in our life that are manageable and achievable. If everyone was to take a few simple changes then it's going to have a flow on effect for positive change. And probably a lot quicker than a reactionary (or inactive) government.
Lately we are constantly talking about how can we avoid this in the future so we’ve looked at a few areas that feels achievable to us. Things we can do from the ground up. Here are some of our ideas:
Plant more trees
It may seem counter intuitive because it’s the trees that are burning but without trees we won’t survive on this continent. Trees are magic. We need trees for air, for water, for life. If you’ve ever sat under the shade of a Moreton bay fig you’ll feel this magic.
Australia already is one of the biggest deforesters in the world. Mainly Queensland for beef production. I’d go as far as to say this is probably a big reason why we are in this pickle, but I am no expert that is just my gut feel. We’ve basically wiped out so many trees that it’s affecting precipitation and as a result places that used to be wet dense forests are drying out. Forests that have never burnt before are now burning because they are so dry.
Growing up in the bush, our family is no stranger to bushfires and I’ve heard many stories about fires turning around and going back the directions they have come from - burning where they have just burnt, just when you think there is nothing left to burn. Yes it is an issue with the windows of hazard reduction becoming shorter, but just watch the government jump on the fuel load management and wipe out massive amounts of our forests under this agenda alone to make a quick buck in the process.
So get out there and plant some trees in your own backyard. If you rent ask your landlord if you can plant some. Trees are less maintenance than lawns just do your research on what’s best suited, there are literally millions of species and some are even fire retardant. Oh and some even feed you. If not you, they feed the wildlife. Keep them alive by putting a bucket of water in your shower and using the bucket to water the tree.
If you live in apartment join a landcare group or other tree planting groups. Failing that donate to Greening Australia.
If every family planted a single tree, that would be nearly 7 million new trees (nowhere near what's cut down each year but it's something!).
Yes I get that it is more complex than just planting a few trees as entire eco systems are being wiped out, but we’re talking about simple actions we can do ourselves in our own backyards.
Buy direct from the farmers
If you're reading this blog you're probably already growing some of your own food which is awesome. If you're still supplementing your food from farmers it's time to start giving back to your local farmers with your support. Particularly small regenerative farmers who are sequestering carbon. Support them. We need them as much as they need us. Small ethical Farmers are leaving the land in droves due to this drought, which is making way for the broad acre chemical monsters who Somehow manage to get hold of water the small farmers aren’t allowed (or can’t afford) to have.
Stop buying bottled water
There are companies that are pulling all the water out of the ground taking it away from local communities with 0 consequences. Look at Mt Tambourine, beautiful waterfalls drying up because of this water harvesting. Sucking this ground water is drying things out even more.
We live in a country where our tap water is safe to drink (for now at least, I know there are a couple of communities that this is not the case because of the drought). Use a refillable bottle. Don’t like the taste invest in a filter. Think there are too many chemicals in the water, maybe do some research on the plastic container that is holding your bottle instead.
Stop buying fast fashion
Ethics of how it’s made aside, my bone to pick is with Australian cotton specifically. Australia, a dry continent thinks it’s a great idea to grow water hungry crops such as cotton that take so much of our water. Just look at the Murray Darling basin.
Wear things until they break. Shop second hand, god knows they've got a lot of stock lying around ever since everyone got their Kon Marie on.
Switch to renewables
Switch to green power, install solar panels. Even if you don’t ‘believe’ coal is a bad idea for the environment from a climate change point of view, at least look at the amount of water is needed to rip it from the earth. That Adani deal taking 12.5 billion litres of water from a drought stricken country is madness.
You can search and compare energy suppliers here.
Start putting your money into innovative technology instead.
Want some more ideas - walking instead of driving when you can, buy less stuff, limit single use plastic and stop wasting food.
If you like breathing clean air, drinking fresh water, eating food grown in Australia... love our country, our planet, our people, your family... now is the time to use that anger to fuel the actions that can lead us hope. Let's make our country happy and healthy again.
I’d love to know if you have any ideas of small actions, please leave a comment below.