DESOLATING bushfires in Australia (25.5 million acres).
If you want to help those affected by the Australian wildfires but aren’t quite sure how, then please keep reading for some helpful tips and links to official charities, funds and directories.
DESOLATING BUSHFIRES IN AUSTRALIA
The scene is familiar and yet something is so very different. A landscape of hills topped with thick forests of trees. Like waves the hills rise and fall into shadowy undulations, disappearing into a hazy horizon. Above the trees, plumes of smoke rise quickly, drifting towards and beyond the Pacific, some falling back to earth as thick blankets of dusty soot — choking the air. Trees once lush with foliage are blackened, incinerated and broken, some are cracked open from the heat, the insides still aglow. The fire-ravaged shells of cars conjure thoughts of some stark distant future where we have lost the battle against climate change.
But this is Australia in 2020.
Australia’s arid topographies are no strangers to fire, but what’s happening now — across a country almost the size of the USA, with scorched earth and forest covering an area the size of South Korea (25.5 million acres), and made all the worse by one of the worst droughts on record — is unprecedented.
The death toll is slowly climbing, firefighters are dying, an estimated one billion animals have been affected, and people’s homes are burning down while families can only watch as their lives are consumed by vast bellows of smoke and an apocalypse of flame glowing under the heat of the hottest and driest year on record.
The damage to local eco-systems is devastating, and the sheer horror that Koalas and other animals are facing is unfathomable and so extremely upsetting.
The conversation that surrounds the issue is torn between the politics of global warming, the extreme heat, Australia’s relationship with fossil fuels, and more generally… blame. But this isn’t the time for politics, nor the place for blame… although we should all be thinking hard about how we can minimise our footprint on the planet. But no, now is the time to do our bit to protect as much life, and as much land as we can.
HOW TO HELP: PROPERTY OWNERS
For property owners wanting to offer a helping hand in badly affected areas like New South Wales and Victoria, it’s possible to offer your property, or a spare room as emergency housing via Airbnb’s Open Homes programme. Housing is offered in different areas as the need arises, with priority given to relief workers and evacuees.
Another option is the recently set up directory at Find a Bed, a website dedicated to connecting those with spare beds, rooms and houses with those who need them — including the many pets who have been displaced by fires.
A third option is Empty Houses, that much like Find a bed has been set up in reaction to the current crisis, and are hoping to match furnished holiday homes and empty houses along the south coast of NSW to residents who have lost their homes to fire.
HOW TO HELP: CHARITIES
Red Cross Australia is currently offering evacuation and recovery hubs across Australia. There’s also a registry created to reunite families and friends who have been separated. Donations to the fund helps communities already affected by the disaster, as well as longer-term recovery programmes and preparatory schemes for those at risk. To get a little more from your donation consider also giving to The Intrepid Foundation, which is matching donations up to a total of $200,000 AUD, with all funds going to the Red Cross Bushfire Emergency Appeal.
With fires quickly spreading across Australia, the fire services have been spread so very thinly. As a result volunteer firefighters are facing hundreds of days away from their homes and businesses as they fight the blazes. To help the fire services in New South Wales — an area bracing itself for yet more devastation in the coming days — and to give financial help to the families of those who have died in service, the NSW Rural Fire Service is accepting donations here, while the CFS Foundation are taking donations in order to compensate the volunteer forces. Additionally, Nicole Kidman shared a more comprehensive directory of local services on her Instagram — handy for anyone wanting to direct their benefaction to a particular region.
The Victorian Farmers Federation’s disaster relief fund was set up to provide emergency food and water for livestock, particularly for those farmers impacted by bushfires in Gippsland and the Upper Murray.
For a more social effort look around your local city and seek out those businesses fundraising for Australia. For example, in London Granger & Co will donate £1 from every order of its popular ricotta hotcakes to a selection of charities throughout January, and Heddon Street’s Pacific Restaurant will be hosting an Australia Day barbecue brunch and charity auction with all proceeds going to the NSW Fire Service. While in Boston a group of chefs have come together to create a fundraising event at the Capo Restaurant and Supper Club.
If you’d prefer to take a more active approach, then look at volunteer programmes such as BlazeAid — rebuilding rural areas after natural disasters — or Wildlife Victoria if you’re in Australia and able to commit at least eight hours a week to the cause.
HOW TO HELP: AUSTRALIAN WILDLIFE
The extreme heat and accompanying fires have ravaged much of Australia’s eastern coastline — an area famous for the diversity of its fauna. Species such as the grey-headed flying fox have suffered exponentially with thousands of bats dying across the country, and almost 5000 deaths in the Yarra Bend park in just 3 days in December alone. To help these sweet upside down foxes, consider a donation to Fly By Night in Melbourne, an organisation run entirely by volunteers dedicated to both rescuing and rehabilitating grey-headed flying Foxes and other native bat species.
The vulnerable Koala population has been making headlines for weeks with all manner of heart-wrenching videos and sobering images of the cuddly marsupials scorched and dishevelled — some packed into cars in a desperate attempt to save them — but current estimates suggest that a staggering 30% of the population has already been killed. Adelaide Koala Rescue is nursing the furry burn victims and attempting to rehabilitate and re-home them, while this Just Giving fundraiser is raising money to buy new food trees for the Koala hospital in Port Macquarie.
A more general option is WIRES Wildlife Rescue whose (year-round) rescuers and carers have been doing heroic work rescuing sick, orphaned and injured wildlife in the badly affected New South Wales area. The volunteer workers, many of which have themselves been affected by the fires have worked around the clock to rescue koalas, wombats, kangaroos, possums, bandicoots… and have thus far managed to minimise the devastation despite facing very real threats to their own homes and lives. Another option is The WWF that is fundraising to provide emergency funds to care for injured wildlife, as well as to plant trees in Koala habitats.
Most recently, fires have ravaged 1/3 of the usually tranquil and idyllic Kangaroo Island — and completely devastated the Southern Ocean Lodge. As a habitat, the island has often been compared to the Galapagos Islands, but the fires look set to destroy many of the conservation efforts including those of a unique flock of glossy black-cockatoos and a tiny population of Dunnarts, many of which are currently missing, presumed.… And an estimated 20,000 koalas have been killed on this island alone. A Kangaroo Islands Mayoral Relief fund has been set up specifically to aid Kangaroo Island, its inhabitants and its wildlife.
DON’T ABANDON AUSTRALIA
As our earth is further ravaged by extreme weather cycles and natural disasters such as what we’re witnessing in Australia, it will become increasingly important for all of us, as travellers, to explore ways in which we can more positively impact the areas that we travel to. How can we travel more responsibly and introduce sustainability into our travels? Can we introduce these things into our everyday rituals through more thoughtful purchases and by patronising more conscientious businesses?
It all comes down to a need to do our own research, to hold our own hands, and inform our own choices.
Research responsible people running responsible businesses — whether that be travel, beauty or food and drink. When travelling look at carbon offsetting and eco options, but for now, don’t abandon Australia…. travel to Australia. Book locally-owned hotels for later in the year in those areas most affected, and contribute by supporting local hoteliers and local people.
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