Fires and Devastation In Australia: Who Is Responsible?

(reprinted from Issue No. 148 — Jan. 17, 2020 — of the IWC Newsletter)

Fires in Australia that began in July have increased to the present day. Climatic conditions have produced temperatures of 48° celsius, or 118 degrees farenheit, without respite. In these conditions the firefighters have been overwhelmed by the amount and levels of destruction attained.

An emergency control agency has been set up, and international assistance from U.S. and Canadian squadrons has been needed. Twenty-three people have died, more than 1,500 houses have been destroyed, and 100,000 head of cattle, 8,000 koalas, and 500 million wild animals have been destroyed in New South Wales alone. Cultural losses to indigenous populations have not been estimated yet.

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The area burned in the state of Victoria alone is more than twice the size of Haiti. It is about the size of Holland in New South Wales. Hazardous smoke has affected major cities, to the point of overwhelming the capital city of Canberra with the worst air quality in the world. Qantas airline flights were cancelled last Sunday, and the navy’s largest ship was deployed to evacuate the population to a village in New South Wales. In some locations, air evacuations are not possible.

Politically, Prime Minister Morrison secretly went on holiday to Hawaii before Christmas, at the time of the worst forest fires in the country’s history. This information came to light on the same day that two firefighters were killed while trying to fight the fires. This led to strong criticism of the government’s handling of the situation, forcing Morrison to immediately return home to the affected areas, where he was denounced by the affected residents who called him out because they believe he did not take the disaster seriously, given his statements dismissing the link between the fires and climate change.

Thousands of people took to the streets in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide to demand concrete action on climate change and to condemn the government’s handling of the country’s current crisis. Demonstrators carried banners that read #sackscomo (Out with Morrison!), a slogan that has become popular in these days of crisis.

The banners also called on the government to eliminate fossil fuels and provide support to firefighters and affected communities. During the 2018 campaign, the Morrison government and the Liberal coalition supported giving Adani[1] the permits to develop one of Queensland’s largest coal-mining projects.

Weather conditions this week offered a small truce with light rains. The weather this week has provided a small respite, with some rain, but not enough to stop the fires, which continue to ravage the country.

From a correspondent in Australia

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[1] Adani, or Adani Group, is an Indian multinational conglomerate active in the production of electricity, particularly from coal. (Editor’s note)

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