When I first heard about the Australian wildfires, I dismissed it; I thought they were just “normal” fires. And while it was sad, it didn’t occupy my mind for a long time. Then, I saw another article, and another, then it was all over Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. As it repeatedly appeared on my dash, I finally decided to research it more. While some people claimed that arson was the main cause of the wildfires worsening this year, the facts seemed to point at a greater cause. This was Australia’s hottest, driest summer, which, of course, only contributes to encouraging the wildfires to grow and spread. Why was this summer in particular so hot for Australia? Climate change. The entire world is heating up, and Australia is just a warning of what could come if we do not work on preventing it now.
The world is split down the middle. Some people are fiercely defending the science of climate change, claiming we need to act now. Others are refusing to acknowledge climate change, claiming it isn’t real or is irrelevant. However, it is impossible to deny the effect that the world heating up has had on Australia. The Washington Post reported on the fires, saying “Wildfires that have torched an area larger than Portugal, killed at least 25 people and destroyed hundreds of homes have electrified the politics of climate change here and altered the nation’s long-standing, if largely ineffective, environmental movement.” Along with the human deaths, millions of animals were displaced or killed in the fires. This is tragic. The fires have destroyed so much, and it has agitated the Australians. They have decided to take a stand against climate change through social media campaigns to raise funding. After all, why should their homes be destroyed because we are incapable of taking care of the planet? The high temperatures have mutated the fires into something far more dangerous. We need to take this warning sign before the damage becomes irreparable.
Despite Australia rallying to save their home, plenty of people are still denying the effect of climate change on the fires. However, scientists are quick to point out the correlation between rising temperatures, climate change and wildfires. Peter Gleick, co-founder of the Pacific Institute in California reports to Time Magazine, discussing climate change. According to Time, “Gleick says that the bushfires are a ‘very clear example of the links between climate change and extreme weather.’” He points out that these fires are very similar to recent highly destructive fires in Brazil and California.” While these fires were not given as much media attention as Australia, there is a visible trend starting to appear, connecting climate change to out-of-control wildfires. Brazil, California and Australia are all terrible warnings, calling everyone to notice climate change and make genuine efforts to stop it before the effects are irreversible.
Australia is not in the clear yet. The fires started around early October, and the season for bushfires continues until April. The Australian fires could continue for several months. Even with the current progression, ecologists are commenting on the recovery time for Australia. Roger Kitching, ecologist, spoke to NPR, saying, “The normal processes of recovery are going to be less effective, going to take longer…Instead of an ecosystem taking a decade, it may take a century or more to recover, all assuming we don’t get another fire season of this magnitude soon.” There is also no guarantee that there will not be another terrible fire season next year. Australia will already take a century to recover, and if we do not step up to prevent climate change from worsening, it might never recover.
It is time for us to step up and own our actions. We need to take responsibility and act now. As college students, we need to step up and inherit the earth. It is up to our generation to protect the earth before the damage is beyond repair. What is happening in Australia is tragic and terrifying. But it is also a wake-up call. It is time for us to take a stand for our homes. So reach out to your state legislator and advocate to make changes to prevent climate change. We have a voice, and it is time that we use it.