A few days before Christmas, I’d ducked over to Sydney, to do some work for a London TV programme.
As we got off the plane, passengers were accosted with the pungent smell of bushfire smoke. Think of the smell you get over here from burning off, and times it by about 100!
Arriving in Bondi, I was dismayed to see the beachside suburb where I’d once lived was hidden in a fog of toxic smog. I watched elderly people walk the pavement, handkerchiefs pressed to their face. On the news we were told not to stay outdoors too long, or to exercise too strenuously.
And it got worse. After a couple of days, I felt pains in my lungs, so much so that I booked the first plane home, then had to call the London TV station and apologise that I wouldn’t be able to produce their special live event to Sydney. We then tried to change Peter’s flight home as well… tried for hours. The Qantas site clearly couldn’t handle the traffic and didn’t work. Pete called Qantas and waited for hours to talk to a human, but was kept on hold. Finally, he had to give up, forced to remain in Smogsville.
Peter stayed on in Sydney for several more days in order to produce the ITV segment, but eventually returned home wheezing.
Our trifling little health and work problems are, of course, less than nothing compared to those of people across eastern Australia, who’ve been enduring this for months – let alone those whose homes and livelihoods have been obliterated by the fires. But just those days inhaling smog in suburban Sydney helped ram home just what a momentous calamity these bushfires are for everyone in the east, not just to the towns destroyed.
Every single person is being negatively affected by this climate catastrophe in some way. Kids are crying at the sight of burnt koalas on TV; sick people are housebound, unable to go outside for fear of getting sicker inhaling toxic particles. Some are feeling anxious, some claustrophobic, some desperately worried about the effect of the toxins in the smoke on their children’s health. I have several friends in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney who are deeply depressed over what’s happening. It has been uplifting though, to see the level of help and generosity streaming in from far and wide.
Announcing his and Nicola’s generous, 70 million dollar donation Andrew Forrest was asked by a reporter about climate change. He looked into the camera and said while a warming planet was “part of that, the biggest part of that as you know is arsonists.”
But extraordinarily, just hours later, he changed his stance and had more to say about climate change.
“I would like to say, unequivocally, in my view climate change is real. I accept that the warming of the planet is a primary cause of the catastrophic events we have been experiencing,” he stated.
“I do not want people to think that criminal behaviour, while reprehensible, is the main reason for the devastation this bushfire season.
Arson may be responsible for starting fires in some cases, but it is not the reason fires have reached the proportions they have through this season and it is not the reason they have continued for so long..
I am absolutely committed to making an impact with the $70 million contribution we announced today… one of the primary focus areas for our future national blueprint to fund innovations and research, will be climate change.”
He’s perhaps the first high profile miner in WA to have acknowledged climate change is real, that it needs to be addressed.
Nicola Forrest also mentioned climate change when appearing on Today to talk about their family donation. “It’s about, obviously, climate change, we have to look at that,” she said, adding, “it’s land management, it’s people management, it’s water, it’s all the things we need to look at as a country.”
Other WA business leaders are starting to add their voices. “We believe climate change is real, we believe we have got to do things to mitigate it and we have just got to get on with it,” Richard Goyder, who chairs Qantas and Woodside Petroleum, told The West Australian. “You can’t duck and weave this stuff, you’ve just got to face into it.”
The head of WA’s biggest company, Wesfarmers, Rob Scott, told the paper, not a day goes by that he doesn’t get a letter from a shareholder urging action on climate change.“It’s an issue that is going to get bigger and bigger,” Mr Scott said.
Meantime, people around the nation are rallying to support our firefighters, help the ravaged communities, and save our burnt native animals.
Celeste Barber’s social media donation page has now surpassed $50 million, becoming Facebook’s biggest ever fundraiser. Chris Hemsworth and Elton John and Ellen de Generes have each given a million dollars.
The kids in our street have been baking biscuits and selling them to raise funds for the firefighters. The jar at our yoga class has pulled in hundreds of dollars.
Everybody is trying to help.
The big worry is, with our record high temperatures, longer, drier summers, are we doomed to experience blazing bushfires like this each and every year? What more can we all do?
We can start by all heeding the world’s scientists * who accept human-caused climate change is happening, and just go from there.
It’s unfathomable to us that so many lay people still say things like “temperatures always vary.” Last year was the hottest on record. Next time you hear someone tell you climate change is bullshit, stop and ask yourself why they know better than the scientists. Do they stand to gain financially in some way from being in denial of the grimmest reality of our time?
It was no secret James Murdoch is not a fan of his father’s media empire’s denial stance on human-caused climate change. James is currently clashing with his family over its obsession with printing the rants of Bolt and other skeptics. Does anyone really think they know more about all this than NASA? On its site, 17 highly respected scientific bodies state humans are warming the planet. I’d have more respect for the “skeptics” if they just came out and admitted the fear of having less cash is their prime motivation for denying the science. Who doesn’t want more cash? But really, folks… What to do about this catastrophic problem, which will affect all our planet’s successors, is of course another enormous challenge in itself but as our federal science minister said today, it’s a big time waster even debating climate change any more because it’s so proven. I’m actually gobsmacked that people still can’t bring themselves to say climate change is real!
(* The American Association For The Advancement of Science reports: “Based on well-established evidence, about 97 per cent of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening.” Says the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change: “Warming of the climate system is unequivocal, and since the 1950s, many of the observed changes are unprecedented over decades to millennia. The atmosphere and ocean have warmed, the amounts of snow and ice have diminished, and sea level has risen.” Human influence on the climate system is clear, and recent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases are the highest in history. Recent climate changes have had widespread impacts on human and natural systems.”)