This ongoing tragedy began as a series of wildfires that started in the summer of 2019. USA Today reported that as of Jan. 11, 27 people have been confirmed dead. The alarming frequency of these fires have indicated that climate change is to blame. According to the European Union’s Copernicus Atmosphere Monitoring Service, the fires have released 400 megatons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, further contributing to the global warming crisis. Vox.com reported that on Saturday Jan. 4, Sydney and Canberra, Australia, experienced their highest temperatures on record; the whole country is experiencing a severe drought.
It is also said that the policies of political leaders are to blame for the increased amount of bushfires. This has led to an increase in criticism of the Australian government’s ability to deal with this crisis. Experts have also repeatedly called upon the government to review building standards in order for there to be larger buffer zones between the bush and the properties. The strength of the properties will help them to remain standing after a fire so that fewer people end up homeless as a result. Because of the government’s constant reliance on the armed forces, along with resources and firefighters from other countries such as the United States, Canada, and New Zealand, calls have also been made for a paid fire service that barely relies on volunteers.
Along with the human death toll, Australia’s most beloved cultural symbol, the koalas, have also been affected by the fires. Wildlife experts state that drought and a lack of underground water are responsible. As a result of this, koalas are dying of hunger and thirst. Experts are also worried that the population may not recover from the fires. The beloved animal is also an important part of the country’s tourism industry. Deborah Tabart, Chairman of the Australian Koala Foundation, told Upworthy.com that, “Australia will be losing millions of dollars. Koalas bring in 3.2 billion per year from tourists hoping to see some.” She goes on to say that, “it is unlikely that tourists will come anytime soon.”
In an effort to urge people to donate to the desperate cause, New York City has taken the initiative of planting plush-toy koalas all around the city. One of the masterminds behind this was freelance photographer Jeremy Cohen, who teamed up with Cummins & Partners; a NYC advertising agency. “Friday morning at the crack of dawn, the @cumminsandpartners__nyc team and I rented a van and drove all over NYC to place dozens of stuffed koala plush toys to poles and trees to help spread awareness about this tragedy.”
There are many ways to donate to the cause, either financially or physically. Officials recommend donating to the Australian firefighting services, donating a home to a family in need, or donating to the Australian Red Cross, where more than 18,600 people have already received some sort of aid. According to PBS NewsHour, the Australian government has already taken the initiative: “Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he is dedicating an additional $1.4 billion to rebuild infrastructure and buildings that have been destroyed.”