13 January 2020

Australia is burning: A simple guide of what is happening and how you can help

Note that this blog addresses some of the reasons why the bushfires are happening, why they are so severe and how it is linked to Climate Change. This is a very complex topic and we acknowledge not all elements, reason, and events are addressed, however, we have included links to reputable sources throughout the article where you can learn more about the situation. We also provide links to organizations that are supporting the relief effort where you can donate to help.

What is happening in Australia?

Australia is battling extreme bushfires and the Climate Crisis is making the season longer and more dangerous. The effects of extreme heat and widespread drought have been devastating to the entire nation with over 2,000 homes already lost, 25 people losing their lives, and the conditions are only getting worse. The University of Sydney has predicted that since the bushfire season started in September over one billion animals have died. According to The Guardian, more than 6.3 million hectares (63,000 sq km or 15.6 million acres) of land have been burned so far and the air quality has been one of the worst in the world.

This is a Global Climate Crisis

Climate Change is well and truly on the Australian doorstep, and as fires burn all around the country, we need to work together to ensure we contain rising temperatures. As a global network, being aware of the need to be sustainable and climate-friendly is not new for us. We have always understood the importance of supporting like-minded ventures and partnering with organizations that are advocating for Climate Action is a part of the Impact Hub DNA. 

Why is this bushfire season so severe?

Australia has always been a hot, dry country with flammable plants that make it prone to bushfires. But what makes this season different is a combination of factors.  Scientists say that Greenhouse gas emissions are having a direct correlation to the severity of the fires. Rising sea temperature and the lack of rain since January 2017 has been attributed to the Indian Ocean Dipole. On the other side of the world, this has also led to severe flooding in East Africa. This shows that this is a global challenge, not just a national disaster. 

Making a commitment to Climate Action

While the Prime Minister’s response to the crisis has been under fire by the Australian people, the states of New South Wales and Victoria have declared a state of emergency. This is a big step in admitting that an innovative and more nature-friendly approach is needed and highlights how important it is to create change from the policy level. Climate change is real and we need to be more bold and direct with our actions. This is why in September 2019 we, as the Impact Hub network, made public our Climate Commitment to the world. We pledged to ‘foster climate change actions’, ‘put the planet first’, transit to zero waste practices’ and ‘raise awareness and inspire others and each other’. We have hosted calls to share our knowledge and best practices across all our locations and through these conversations, we have set goals and made plans to take our commitment to climate to fruition. We have always been committed to supporting social entrepreneurs working on projects that address environmental issues and inequalities, so today we raise our voice to a climate issue that cannot be ignored

Who is fighting the bushfires?

Professional firefighters and thousands of volunteers (3 of whom have died in the line of duty) are at the frontline of the fires. Countries such as the US, Canada, and New Zealand have also sent firefighters to help. Australia’s police, military, and navy have been called in to support the rescue and evacuation efforts to warn people about the approaching danger and to get them to safety.

How  to help the locals

It may be tempting to donate goods such as clothes and blankets, but charities are often overwhelmed with donations and do not have space and resources to sort through it. Donating money is the best way to make a difference, especially if you are not in Australia. The charity or organization you choose to donate to will then allocate the funds according to what is needed to help the most. 

Also, think about the bigger picture that goes beyond immediate fire relief. Rebuilding the land, reviving animal life, re-establishing businesses and re-building the local community is a long term strategy. The recovery is long and complex, but the charities know best what needs to be prioritized and how to work with the money they receive to overcome the situation in the long term.

To help you decide where you would like your money to contribute, we have made a list of charities that are focusing on helping people and animals who are directly affected by the bushfires. Whatever amount you are able to contribute to the relief effort makes a big difference. Every cent counts!

Help the Wildlife

Wires (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) helps rescue and care for injured New South Wales wildlife.

Port Macquarie Koala Hospital treats injured Koalas and rehabilitates them to go back into the wild. You can help the hospital by donating through their gofundme campaign.

The Australia Zoo Wildlife Hospital, which was started by Steve Irwin, is helping animals, particularly grey-headed flying foxes (a species vulnerable to extinction) affected by the bushfires, recover.  

Help the Community 

FRRR (The Foundation for Rural and Regional Renewal) uses donations to give grants to local not-for-profit groups for community-led projects that tackle the most important needs that arise in the area 12-18 months after the disaster. 

The Salvation Army is helping fire-affected communities and exhausted frontline responders such as firefighters by providing them with meals. 

Help local Business 

Spend With Them: This is a social media page that has been set up by Turia Pitt and Grace McBride to encourage people to buy from fire-affected businesses to help them recover economically and stay in business.  

It’s not only about supporting Australia to overcome the bushfires but also thinking about the future and how our lifestyle has a direct effect on the environment. On an individual level, we can make choices that lead to a more sustainable lifestyle. Being conscious of our dietary and consumer habits already helps with the Climate Crisis and to prevent more fires and other disastrous weather events like this one from happening in the future all around the world.

Join us in taking a stand for the planet!