As catastrophic fires burn out of control across large areas of Australia, decimating wildlife and ancient forests as well as taking out homes and humans, it’s hard to imagine that anyone can still deny the reality of climate change and the environmental crisis that we have created. Yet it’s also hard to imagine that conservative politicians are going to do a u-turn. Most of them have been elected on manifestos that aim to reassure us that we don’t need to worry our pretty little heads or change our habits – if we just keep consuming and driving and going on holiday, everything will be fine. Other people might suffer a little bit, but not us. Well, apart from the Australians, but they’re all Aussie battlers, aren’t they – not afraid of a bit of hard work and anyway they’ve got the fireworks and the cricket to distract them from Armageddon.
I’ve got family in Australia. Some of them have lost property, some have had to defend property, all of them are choking on smoke and worrying about when – or if – it will ever end. And even if it does end, it will start again: bushfires are indeed “normal” in Australia. But not for this long; not this extensive; not this overwhelming; this is not normal, but it probably is the new normal. What do you do, then, when your country is on fire? Move? To where – a nearby Pacific island that’s watching itself disappear under rising oceans? Or better, move out the government – a government that continues to support coal mining and is selling off the water of the driest country in the world to international companies.
The fires in Australia are symbolic of where we’ve come to as a society: we’re out of control. We have damaged the planet and ourselves so badly that we can’t act responsibly anymore. Instead of responding to the national crisis, we are letting off fireworks (can’t disappoint the tourists!) and playing cricket. Instead of talking about changes that need to be made, the prime minister is asking people to be patient. I’d like to see him being patient when his house is on fire.
I’m angry; from the other side of the world, what I can do? I’m sending messages of love to friends and family, and donating to wildlife rescue organisations. I’m also standing with Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion, and with the millions of us who want real action, real change, even if all we can do now is mitigate the damage. We know the truth, we have the science, now we have the fires. It’s beyond the time for being patient. We must all do whatever we can to ensure that 2020 not the beginning of Armageddon, but the dawn of a decade of hope, responsibility and change.
Happy new year …