By Anjana Shriram
The campaign against climate change has surged to the spotlight yet again, as bushfires continue to engulf the Australian continent. The fires have destroyed more than 6 million hectares of land, destroyed thousands of homes, killed more than 27 civilians and firefighters, and claimed the lives of more than half a billion animals. They have annihilated entire ecosystems, and the United States alone has sent nearly 200 firefighters and personnel to help combat the fires. While celebrities have taken to Instagram to donate millions of dollars, the fires in Australia have forced all of us to confront our own actions. Although it is difficult to pinpoint the exact role that climate change plays in all of this, it’s safe to say that human negligence has greatly exacerbated this environmental disaster. All of us have contributed to climate change in one way or another, which means all of us have a responsibility to rectify this ecological damage.
A natural combination of high temperatures, prolonged drought, and dry air doesn’t end well when coupled with record high CO2 emissions. Dr. Imran Ahmed of Australian National University states that there is a direct link between climate change and the increasing frequency and intensity of fire seasons, “because what climate change does is exacerbate the conditions in which bushfires happen” (bbc.com). Unfortunately, the future isn’t looking very bright either. Scientists predict that if the climate crisis continues to escalate at the current rate, such bushfires will be 3 times more frequent by the end of this century. Now this has a few particularly disturbing implications. First, beyond a certain point, climate change may be irreversible. In March of 2019, the United Nations General Assembly President stated, “‘We are the last generation that can prevent irreparable damage to our planet,’” emphasizing that 11 years is all we have to “avert catastrophe” (un.org). Furthermore, combating fires requires a colossal amount of resources, from airplanes to water, to the actual firefighters and volunteers who place their lives in peril in order to protect the rest of us. And we simply cannot keep up with these fires; our current methods of combating bushfires are not sustainable, and by allocating more and more resources to combat fires, we are further depleting our planet’s limited materials.
While the Australian bushfires might not affect us directly, they must serve as a grim reminder to people all over the world of the consequences we risk facing if we don’t take action now. At the end of the day, this is the only home we’ve got; unless people and governments work collectively to solve this crisis, what is happening in Australia will become all of our realities.