Since the summer 2019, Australia has been hit by devastating bushfires, burning over 10.3 million hectares, killing over 25 people and almost a billion animals. Only in the state of New South Wales, more than 3,000 homes have been destroyed or seriously damaged. Learning these numbers is important to understand the problem but it won’t tackle it from its roots.
The situation has been portrayed in a very simplified way by the mainstream media, almost hiding the root causes of the fires and shifting attention to pop stars and sports players donating money to support the victims. This therefore, has resulted in the inaction of the Australian government and has clearly proven the general passiveness of the international community towards the issue of climate change.
Australian Prime Minister, Scott Morrison has faced a lot of criticism due to his apparent failure to anticipate the bushfire crisis and reluctance to accept the connection between the crisis, climate change and the neglect of aboriginal people’s hazard reduction traditions.
Australia was colonized by the British in 1788, with the existing indigenous population being faced with violence, decimation and the adoption of forced Western lifestyle, which included the riddance of traditional burning culture and hazard reduction procedures based on generations of observing nature. Aboriginal fire management involved the burning of bushland areas under controlled conditions to reduce future hazards. It is safe to say then that the aboriginal relationship with land protection was interrupted by colonization practices such as displacement of indigenous populations from their homelands or forced assimilation. And this shift of approach has perdured until today.
But climate change is also partially to blame. Australia is hotter and drier than it once was and wet winters are no longer able to control the dry landscape that is now burning across the country. Longer and hotter summers are a growing reality, and we can no longer continue to overlook this.
For too many years, we have ignored our responsibility to take care of the environment and to take the necessary steps to prevent the consequences we are seeing today. Until the world realizes how much of an emergency we are facing, we will continue to experience catastrophes like the fires in Australia. So it is now our obligation to stop clinging on single and ineffective solutions and instead start looking for more localized and experienced-based approaches, such as listening and cooperating with those who have a genuine respect for nature.