As we wrapped our Advent Calendar series for 2019, Katie and I discussed that in January we would present our new year’s resolutions for Reframe Waste and announce our exciting plans for 2020. However, as I find myself sitting down to write the first post of the new year, it does not feel like a time to be celebratory with bushfires occurring across the country.

I cannot turn to the future in the midst of all this disaster and loss. I have gone from feeling helpless, to angry, to sad and frustrated. I have family that are caught in the middle of all this. They have gotten safely out of the Corryong region, having to abandon their home in Berringama and hope that the firebreak will contain the front. It has been a tense few days with limited communication and watching the situation unfold over the Vic Emergency website and app’s fire map. I have cried as I have seen areas where we have bushwalked along Cudgewa Creek be covered in black, showing they have been burnt by the fires.   

An unprecedented bushfire season

The scale of this years’ bushfires is unprecedented compared to past bushfire events this nation has experienced. Some international commentators have suggested that this is the first example of extreme weather events across a large footprint from climate change. This shows that direct action is required to modify our behaviours and transition towards systems that mitigate our emissions.

When I was a teenager, I decided that I wanted to be an engineer as I thought it was the profession that I could make the most positive contribution towards protecting the community and environment from climate change impacts through problem-solving and innovation. I have been discouraged from this mindset at times during my training and career, and told to quieten down my more ‘tree-hugger’ sentiments and continue with business as usual. More recently, I have been feeling less isolated and even inspired by the number of engineers that have decided to reject this notion and signed the Australian Engineers Declare Climate and Biodiversity Emergency in 2019.

My hope is that from these dire circumstances that all Australians come together, take care of each other and are able to express their voice and sentiment about what needs to be done moving forward for climate action to prevent disasters of this magnitude. Yes, change is difficult, but a necessary and even intrinsic part of life. Implementing climate solutions is not going to require reinventing the wheel, just adapting concepts and behaviours that already exist in our complex community environments. It is about pooling our collective knowledge, skills and experiences to deliver practical, feasible and affordable solutions one step at a time.

What can we do?

For the present, if you can, the best thing to do is to donate towards the key organisations that are fighting these fires, supporting impacted citizens and wildlife:

Reach out and check in with your loved ones in person, through social media and if you’re looking to find out information about family members that cannot be contacted get in touch with Australian Red Cross for the Register, Find and Reunite service.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed from the media coverage and need to seek some support lean on those around you or contact organisations provided on Beyond Blue through online and telephone resources.

In the coming weeks, stay tuned and engaged for local activity and forums to discuss climate action in your region. On Facebook Uni Students for Climate Justice have already organised protests across the country including:

If you’re wanting to convert your feelings of helplessness into something productive, write to your local member of parliament (MP) and ask what they are going to do to assist with the fires and what steps they will be taking towards mitigating our climate impacts in government policy and measurable actions. The Climate Council has a letter template available that you can use to write an effective letter. Like any change to society that has come before, it’s through working together, making your voice heard that it can be turned into a resounding chorus for progress.

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Our thoughts go out to everyone affected by this crisis. Please comment below if you know of any additional agencies that require urgent funding, volunteers and assistance.

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