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Australia needs our help

Chloé Valerie Harmsworth investigates the extent of the wild fires that are devastating land, homes and lives down under

In the past decade, numerous shocking climate-related events such as flooding, hurricanes and tsunamis have made us aware that our planet is in a dire state; but in 2019, more of us began to realise that (to paraphrase Greta Thunberg) our house is literally on fire. We watched, aghast, as the Amazon rainforest – the precious ‘lungs of the earth’ – blazed, and when thousands of homes in California were destroyed by wildfire. With all of these heart-rending stories endlessly on the news, we could only hope that the world would soon find some relief. Instead, it turned out that Australia was next in line.

The fires in Australia began in November 2019. Yet, although wildfires (or bushfires) occur in Australia every year during their summer season (December to February), this time they had started early – in September.

”At the time of writing, it was believed that 1 billion animal lives had been lost, despite the best efforts of various wildlife and conservation organisations”

In 2019, the country experienced its hottest and driest year on record (by December, temperatures were above 40°C in every state). The heat in September led to thunderstorms, during which lightning sparked fires in the dry vegetation. With very strong winds driving them forward, the fires were soon spreading fast across the drought-stricken land. As grass fires can travel up to 14mph (twice the speed the average person can run), these fires were dangerous and impossible to control. The heat and smoke created by them even started storms which set off more fires. By January 2020, it was clear that these ‘walls of fire’, which were ravaging every state in the country, were beyond anything Australia had experienced before.

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About Be Kind

Hello, In 2016, I was fortunate enough to spend a year living in Australia. I fell in love with the country – its breathtaking beaches, great coffee, perfect weather, unusual creatures and outdoors lifestyle instantly won me over – what’s not to love? Day after day we pulled our campervan up to what seemed like undiscovered bays; we walked remote bush hikes and swam in blissful lakes – it felt like paradise. As much as it is beautiful, Australia is vast – it blew my mind how much so – it’s the sixth largest country in the world, around 32 times the size of the UK. I found it hard to gauge the scale looking at a map, let alone driving across it – trips we factored hours for took days. When the news broke of the horrific bush fires happening around the country, the size and scale of them felt unimaginable. Australia is no stranger to hot weather, its climate is one of the reasons Brits and tourists flock there and why many stay. Bush fires are not new news either. But those started in November 2019, and still taking place now, are the worst on record. Temperatures are the highest ever experienced. Thousands of people have had to flee their homes. Millions of acres of land have been incinerated. People have lost their lives. A billion animals have, too. The figures are staggering. In times of crisis it’s easy to feel helpless. But, we need to get to the root of the problem – climate change. It’s not a time to sit back and watch, it’s a time for action. And the good news is everyone can do something to help. This issue is packed with ideas on how to reduce your impact, clean up your lifestyle and, in turn, the planet. If we don’t act now, Australia could be just the beginning – we need to protect our beautiful Earth. Have a great month, Phillipa Editor