Organizations appeal for donations, overseas communities unite
A red sun glows over New South Wales (NSW), Australia as the most catastrophic fires in the country’s history ravage the soot-stained earth. Millions of animals flee the forests and plains to escape the bushfires singing over 24 million acres of Australian landscape (larger than Long Island and Manhattan combined).
An estimated one billion animals have already perished and as Australia is just beginning their summer season, the flames show no signs of stopping.
After a record-breaking heat wave and high winds swept through the country of Australia in 2019, bushfires broke out all over the continent, concentrated in the states of NSW and Victoria. Though untouched by the blaze, Sydney, Australia’s most populated city, suffers under the gray-painted skies.
Cadi Rowlands moved to Sydney about four years ago from the UK. Residing with her Australian partner and their two-year-old son in Lane Cove on Sydney’s north shore, the trio makes plans to head back to the UK in the next six months.
“We feel extremely lucky not to have had fires where we live but I have been anxious about it happening in our area,” Rowlands said. “Everyone you talk to seems to know someone who has been directly affected by the fires. I cannot imagine the fear, pain and horror experienced by those people.”
In the following tweet, World Wildlife Fund thanks supporters’ for their donations over the past months.
Thanks to supporters’ urgent donations, we’ve been able to deploy vital emergency funds to @ZoosVictoria to support their veterinarian staff who are currently in bushfire zones treating countless injured wildlife. pic.twitter.com/WZ2LLUhgFC
— WWF_Australia (@WWF_Australia) January 16, 2020
The visibility in the Sydney area grows increasingly worse and citizens refrain from spending extended amounts of time outdoors. Rowlands describes her living situation amongst the severe air quality and weather conditions.
“There’s dust and ash from fires everywhere; on our washing, in the house,” Rowlands continued. “I have a young child and I am pregnant with my second and I worry about the effect the smoke must be having on children and old people. You see so many people wearing masks now to protect themselves. It looks and feels quite apocalyptic.”
Wildlife Information Rescue and Education Service (WIRES) is the largest wildlife rescue organization in Australia and works with over 2500 volunteers to rescue and care for native wildlife, 365 days a year.
With over 30 years of experience, the charity receives up to 95,000 calls a year about rescue advice or assistance. Their responsibility has grown as the wildlife already struggling through the drought battle the 2019-2020 bushfires.
Zoologist Anna Felton has worked with WIRES for eight years, primarily serving communities in the NSW area. Amidst the fires’ devastation of millions of animals’ natural habitat, Felton encourages young people to educate themselves on this issue.
“The future is pretty unknown at this stage,” Felton said. “We are currently just in rescue right now under the current circumstances and then plans will be put in place based on what we find for longer term sustainability.”
Millions of koalas, kangaroos, wallabies and other native Australian icons perish in the flames that consume NSW. According to World Wildlife Fund (WWF), Kangaroo Island in South Australia has already lost 50 percent of their koala population.
Battalion Chief of Communications for CAL FIRE in Riverside, CA, Lucas Spelman has 24 years of experience fighting forest fires, three of those years working with the US Forest Service. As he reflects on the past California wildfires, he compares the impact to those of the Australian bushfires.
“Over 25 million acres is where Australia is at right now,” Spelman said. “When we had a really bad fire season two years ago, we didn’t even get to two million. What concerns me is the physical and mental effects that these fires are having on the firefighters as they’ve fought the fires for this long.”
In the following podcast, junior Addison Schultz interviews sophomore Skylar Higginbotham about her thoughts on the Australian bushfires.
This season’s bushfires have been responsible for the death of over two dozen people and the destruction of over 1700 homes. Many link these surplus of fires to climate change and the severe drought plaguing the country.
Permanent resident of Australia Jessie Rudd has lived in Curl Curl, Australia with her Byron Bay-born Australian partner for the past four years. While her area of residence has not faced evacuations, the city suffers in the smoke.
“Australia is mostly rural,” Rudd said. “There are only five major cities in the entire country which makes firefighting a resource-intensive endeavor. There is concern this Australian way of life will be increasingly at risk from worsening fire seasons.”
Rudd was evacuated due to fires while visiting friends in Crescent Head on the NSW mid coast in August. Firefighters warned the group then that it was too early to be experiencing fires and voiced concern that summer would present climate challenges.
“I have friends and family who’ve defended their properties from fire,” Rudd continued, “were evacuated, spent days without knowing if they had a home to return to and those who’ve lost everything.”
The current digital age allows celebrities, charities, support groups and many others to offer support, relief and encouragement to victims in Australia. Organizations like Spend With Them, Hillsong Global Appeal and WWF provide aid to thousands of sufferers.
In the following tweet, flyers advertise an FC school fundraiser to raise funds for victims of the Australia bushfires.
— The Feather Online (@thefeather) January 13, 2020
From across the continent in Western Australia, Perth native Rhiana Beattie suffers from smaller flames sparking in the national park land near her home. Though less consistent than the NSW fires, the flames in the surrounding areas present evacuation threats.
“We did have a very bad fire just north of our city recently which caused for emergency evacuations being announced over the radio,” Beattie said. “I think it is a big wake up call that we need to take better care of our planet and really think about animal agriculture and how it affects our climate.”
As the fires continue to spread, students and organizations unite to raise funds for relief efforts in Australia. From a school lunch fundraiser to global bushfire appeals, communities are rising up to combat the flames from overseas.
Sophomore Skylar Higginbotham observes the universal connection that the fires have with people around the globe. She is encouraged by the numerous organizations, schools and celebrities contributing to relief efforts.
“I feel like this is a human issue,” Higginbotham said. “It’s not just like it’s happening in our country, and it’s sad for anybody whether you live close or far. It’s cool to see people who have influence on social media posting about it and making people more aware.”
Students can get involved with the efforts to save Australia by donating online to various charities or participating in school fundraisers. Check out the Hillsong Global Bushfire Appeal or Australian Red Cross to discover ways to donate.
Special thanks to Curl Curl resident Jessie Rudd for providing two of the pictures used in this piece.
To read more about the 2019 California wildfires, check out California wildfires devastate communities, impact Sebastopol resident.@thefeather, Instagram @thefeatheronline and Facebook @thefeatheronline.
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