“This Changes Everything”
This summer, the bushfires raging across our continent have already had a devastating impact on the safety and wellbeing of regional communities, and on people everywhere. Wildlife and nature are also immensely affected.
Every summer, for the past 35 years, my family and I have camped on the wilderness coast at Croajingolong, on the lands and waters of the traditional custodians of far-eastern Victoria. For me this land and seascape has been a place of respite and wonder—and a constant solace in this ever-changing world.
This year, my sister and I decided to wait until after the very hot day before heading down. We heeded requests from authorities for visitors to avoid the East Gippsland region.
And then overnight, the fire that trapped thousands in Mallacoota, also burnt out this place I have known and loved for a lifetime.
The impact on coastal heathland forests, and on the animals that live in this special place, is unimaginable. My heart breaks as I think of the pairs of Sooty Oyster Catchers that this time of year would be coaxing their single fledglings along the beach. The Lace Monitors that for eons have clambered up the trunks and branches of mighty coastal eucalypts would have struggled to survive the inferno.
Further north, communities across East Gippsland, along the NSW coast, the Snowy and Blue Mountains and up into South East Queensland, and west into South Australia and as far as the Stirling Range National Park in Western Australia have been hard hit by the bushfires. Many people have defended their homes and properties, and so far, have had success. Others are facing the loss of lives, homes and livelihoods.
We deeply respect the extraordinary efforts of those on the frontline—all the firefighters, emergency services workers, parks rangers, health practitioners, vets and community leaders who are fronting up everyday in unimaginable conditions to support communities, wildlife and nature.
We acknowledge that as custodians of bushfire affected lands and waters, Traditional Owners’ experience of this crisis is unique.
In many areas, people have been experiencing the impacts of fires since September and for many more, the threat continues. This bushfire season is unprecedented. It is now brutally clear; climate change is increasing the scale and intensity of bushfires.
Right now, there is a massive need for immediate on-the-ground action to support our communities, threatened and endangered plants, animals and ecosystems. This crisis may have caused the extinction of some species, and is likely to push many vulnerable species to the edge of extinction.
If you want to support the immediate recovery efforts, please check out this list of just some of the groups which are working on emergency response and restoration—it will be updated over time so please continue to check in.
The $2billion pledged by the federal government is not enough. To heal communities and to support the recovery and restoration of nature, a much bigger investment is required from government. We can’t let the recovery process be hijacked by vested interests. Together we must rebuild the resilience of communities and environments to be able to survive the impacts of the climate crisis.
Along with local communities, business and governments, conservation and advocacy groups have a huge role to play in the longer-term nature recovery. Right now, we are working with scientists and our analysts to make sure the real picture of devastation is known and understood. We will continue to train and support local community leaders and groups to be a voice for nature. Together, we will keep the pressure on big business and government to deliver a response appropriate to the scale of the impact the fires have had on our communities and environment.
One thing is certain: emergency intervention must not be followed by a return to business-as-usual.
You are part of this effort—thank you. Together, we will build a people-powered movement for nature. And together, through this crisis and beyond, we will support the restoration of the life that supports us all.
Please stay safe,
The Wilderness Society
P.S. One thing the 2009 Victorian bushfires taught us is that on top of all the wildlife, water and climate impacts, logging in green, unburnt forests doesn’t help communities recovering from the trauma of bushfire. It also does nothing for drawing down carbon out of the atmosphere—which is Australia’s shared, urgent and clear task for the remainder of 2020 and beyond.
Help us to protect Australia’s beautiful nature for generations to come.