Friday 10 January 2020

and the fires rage on

The Australian bushfires have left a wake of devastation across the country, and the fires blaze on. Greater Sydney has experienced numerous apocalyptic days over the past few months but – aside from people with respiratory and cardiovascular issues – we are the lucky ones. Our homes still stand. Our businesses and jobs are in tact. We even had (nearly) blue skies over the Christmas break, making it possible to momentarily forget about the destruction of our beautiful country. But one whiff of smoky haze or quick social media check wrenches us back to reality.
Sometimes I think, “Well, soon all of the national parkland will be burnt and so at least the fires will stop.” Some sort of twisted rationale my mind has come up with to help deal with what is happening. Willing the smoke, the haze, the ash, the constant reminders that our nation burns as the climate fiercely changes, willing all of it, to stop. But I know it won’t, not yet, this is early bushfire season in Australia.

In actual fact, estimates suggest nearly half of all the country’s forests will have burnt by the time this bushfire season is over. Half. How do we even wrap our heads around what this means in terms of habitat and wildlife loss? Greenhouse gas emissions? People’s livelihoods? The Australian bush is varied, diverse, and so incredibly beautiful. Although I grew up in another incredibly beautiful part of the world (hello Rocky Mountains!), it wasn’t until I moved to Australia that I truly fell in love with the natural world. The bush is a place of magic and wonder, and I crave immersing myself in the forests on a regular basis. I haven’t yet ventured toward any burnt areas, safe in my urban beachside bubble, but accounts from people flying over the smouldering land and driving through the scorched earth are bracing me for a barren and blackened landscape, unrecognizable from the bush I know and love.

It’s near impossible, to imagine what the people who live in these areas of the country and have lost everything – their homes, businesses, possessions, even loved ones – are experiencing. There are beautiful and powerful written accounts, like this one by author Jackie French who praises the leaders who have emerged in place of our nation’s so-called leaders, that start to put into perspective what life has been like these past couple of months. And many others who highlight the very long, unknown, road to recovery for so many of these communities that have been decimated by the fires.

Like so many Australians, I’ve felt powerless in terms of what I can do to help. I have gladly donated money, knowing that is what is most needed right now, but it can feel like it’s not enough. There’s an ache to get out and be useful, and yet how can I be useful in a time like this? It’s dangerous. Fires still blaze. I have zero emergency skills, unlike the firefighters* and other first responders who are (as they so often are) the saviours of the nation.

There are, however, many clearheaded people who have already sprung into action and offer ways to be involved. Some of the initiatives that have caught my attention include:
  • Knitting and sewing for wildlife – mittens, pouches, possum boxes, nests, and more. Thousands of people from around the world are putting their knitting and sewing skills to help injured and orphaned animals recover. The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has more information on what is needed and patterns to help you create the needed items.
  • ThreadTogether is an initiative that collects unworn/unsold items from retailers to distribute to people in need. They have ramped up their efforts in the wake of the crisis to collect even more for those communities impacted directly. If you are a designer or retailer with unsold items, get in touch with them ASAP.
  •  Go with Empty Eskies campaign, a viral facebook post by Tegan Webber that urges us to head to the regions as soon as its safe and buy all the food and drinks (and everything!) we need from those communities.
  • Spend with Them Instagram campaign, partly inspired by the Empty Eskies campaign, which highlights businesses in effected areas that need our dollars to keep afloat. If you are in the market for something, why not start there?
  • Authors for Fireys  is a Twitter auction that channels funds directly to the firefighters with authors from around the world auctioning signed books, character namings, lunch dates, workshops and more. I haven’t put my hand up for this only because my book is old news, but I'll try and get myself organised (it ends tomorrow!) to offer a sustainable fashion workshop in exchange for donations.
  • Hearts on Fire instagram auction of experiences from fashion, food, travel and the arts to raise money. Incredible things up for auction here!
  • Yesterday more than 45 Australian retailers participated in the "All In" campaign, donating 100% of their profits to the Red Cross bushfire campaign. It was good timing for me - I needed some new work clothing so spent it all with the Iconic (which is also going to be offering its warehouse to store donated items over coming months to assist the charities that have been inundated with goods).

It’s hard to know what to write, and how to respond, except to say that I’m heartbroken, saddened, frightened and angry. I’ll continue to do what I can, to act thoughtfully yet forcefully for change. I’ll be at the protests today in Sydney, hope to see some of you there, too.


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