This summer has been devastating for Australia. Over the past few months, the world has watched in shock as 17.9 million acres of beautiful land burned. New South Wales has suffered some of the worst damage, with at least 12.1 million acres affected1.
National firefighters are fighting valiantly to control the blaze. While annual fire seasons are the norm in Australia, this season’s unprecedented bushfires continue to rage.
Why is this fire season so severe?
Various factors have increased the size and intensity of this year’s fires, including:
- Widespread drought
- High winds
- And exceptionally hot temperatures2
Heavy Losses to Property, Wildlife, and Natural Resources
Australia’s rich natural environment provides a home to between 200,000 and 300,000 species. Many of these creatures are found nowhere else.3 Famous residents include koalas and kangaroos, but lesser-known animals like the marsupial mole and red-barred lizard also play an important role in the country’s ecosystem.
Despite the efforts of emergency services to contain the fires, significant losses in human life, animal population, and land have occurred. Experts estimate the loss of wildlife to be in the millions.
How has the world responded to this crisis?
As the bushfires continued to spread, awareness grew on an international scale. Many countries have offered aid such as food, financial resources, and personnel. Vanuatu, a tiny island in the Pacific, pledged nearly $250,000 to support Australia in its time of need.4
Celebrities including Chris Hemsworth and Cate Blanchett used their influence to raise awareness and donate financially. And concerned people around the world have knitted items such as bat pouches and koala mittens to protect vulnerable animals.
The Road to Recovery
In the heat of a crisis, like these disastrous bushfires, global interest increases. But once the peak danger ends, news coverage dies down—and the world’s attention often goes with it. Unfortunately, this may be the time when affected areas need help the most. The long-term recovery process brings its own unique challenges.
What comes next for Australia?
It will take time, cooperation, and significant resources for Australia to rebuild after this season’s fires. The long-term effects encompass crucial aspects of the nation’s overall welfare.
Long-Term Impacts of the Bushfires
Property, Homes, and Land
Thousands of buildings and homes have been lost in the blaze. Rebuilding neighborhoods, businesses, and communities is a massive undertaking for the nation. Many individuals affected by the fires will be starting over completely.
In addition, the country’s arable farmland will also suffer as a result of the fire’s wide reach. Pastures, grazing territory, and crops have burned. Efforts to reclaim this land may further strain the nation’s water resources.5
Australia’s fauna—including animals, insects, birds, and fish—have suffered greatly. With millions of animals already dead or wounded by the bushfires, the devastating impact of this disaster is clear. And surviving animals will face habitat loss, dwindling food and water sources, and disrupted natural behaviors.
17.9 million acres’ worth of plants has also been destroyed. These delicate ecosystems are slow to recover, and some may never return to their original state.
Biodiversity is in decline globally. Since forests are home to a large percent of the world’s species, the damage to Australia’s precious natural resources affects us all.
Rebuilding after a widespread disaster has staggering costs. Australia will face the need to salvage damaged homes, forests, and businesses. With vital industries such as farming and tourism impacted, the country may find its income stream reduced.
Wildfires often alter the soil composition and watershed processes for decades.6 Some aftereffects of fires can be positive. For example, decomposition can aid in creating fertile soil, and fire can bring about renewal and change.
But severe, extensive burns like this season’s bushfires have far-reaching environmental consequences. These problems stretch beyond the borders of Australia itself.
Ash from the fires pollutes water supplies and communities. And in the last three months alone, carbon emissions from the fires have risen to what Australia typically emits in a year.5Rising carbon levels contribute to climate change, which could increase the likelihood of more large bushfires in the future.
After a natural disaster, communities may face lingering physical and mental health concerns. Smoke from the fires has worsened air quality throughout the country—and the smoke continues to travel to neighboring nations as well. In addition, the trauma of losing homes and livelihoods often creates a negative mental health impact.
Some of the repercussions of disasters like these fires are plain to see. Others may not be so easily visible. But all of the challenges facing Australia are real.
How You Can Help Australia Recover from the Bushfires
- Donate financially. There are well-established organizations working in the country to help meet immediate and future needs. You could organize a fundraiser, start an office donation pool, or give in memory of a loved one. In our global community, working together to rise above challenges can be empowering and unifying. Here are just a few of the ways you can lend a hand to help Australia rebuild in the aftermath.
- Donate clothing and supplies. Before donating physical items, be sure to do your research. Excessive physical donations can overwhelm emergency services and take up room needed for sheltering displaced citizens.
- Share your voice. Inevitably, other crises will fight for the world’s attention. In the coming weeks and months, you can continue to spread awareness for the recovery efforts in Australia. You can share your voice through social media, with family and friends, and in the workplace.
- Strengthen the country’s economy. Strained resources and economic stagnation are major obstacles after a crisis. You can encourage growth by:
- Purchasing Australian-produced goods
- Supporting Australian businesses
- And visiting the country to increase responsible tourism.
The Power of One
In the face of an overwhelming disaster like this season’s bushfires, it can be easy to feel like you can’t do anything meaningful to help. Australia is a stunning, expansive nation—but it is made up of individuals like you. And individuals standing together can create a force more powerful than even the most devastating tragedy.
Find a way to reach out and help Australia this week. You could do something as significant as a financial donation or as simple as discussing the fires with your friends. Your voice and your efforts matter—and you can make a difference.
We would love to hear your thoughts on the road ahead for Australia. And if you have any more ideas on how each of us can lend a hand, please share them with us in the comments!