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Wildfires have been ravaging Australia since September. People are using social media to help raise awareness about them.
Thousands of homes have been destroyed, and 17 people have died as a result of the fires, which are being exacerbated by climate change.
The disaster has led #AustraliaBurning to trend, with many using the hashtag to inform followers of the fires.
“One of these images is a glimpse into a dystopian nightmare where humanity limps toward extinction along with its collapsing biosphere. The other is from that Blade Runner movie with Ryan Gosling,” Twitter user @JamesColton wrote, along with side-by-side images of an Australian city ravaged by the fire and a still from Blade Runner.
The two images look eerily similar.
One of these images is a glimpse into a dystopian nightmare where humanity limps toward extinction along with its collapsing biosphere.— Jim Barton (@JamesColton) January 2, 2020
The other is from that Blade Runner movie with Ryan Gosling.#AustraliaBurning #ClimateEmegency pic.twitter.com/3OGCAvLNYS
Campers at Lake Conjola got pinned between the fire front and the lake as the fire went from ‘watch and act’ to near death in a matter of minutes.#AustraliaBushfires #australiaburning #ausfires pic.twitter.com/TqUqUqfe8I— Peter (@Peter93005600) January 2, 2020
“At first glance I thought this was a painting. But it’s not. It’s the apocalyptic horror that our Australian friends are having to live through. Devastating lives and wildlife. Truly heartbreaking,” Twitter user @clairerendall1 wrote, along with another photo of Australian citizens huddled together as the fires take over their town.
At first glance I thought this was a painting. But it’s not. It’s the apocalyptic horror that our Australian friends are having to live through. Devastating lives and wildlife. Truly heartbreaking. #AustraliaBurning pic.twitter.com/HM7yLMQHfX— Claire Rendall (@clairerendall1) January 2, 2020
Australian magpies mimick sounds heard frequently.— Dr Lauren Gavaghan (@DancingTheMind) January 2, 2020
Now, in part wonder of nature, & in part devastating indictment, it mimicks emergency vehicle sirens, sounding nature’s own apocalyptic scream for 500 million animals already dead. #AustraliaBurningpic.twitter.com/uBhEya4yVk
In the hot, dry weather during the summer, Australia quite commonly experiences bush fires. Under ideal weather conditions, bush fires play an integral role in its ecosystem. Eucalyptus trees depend on bush fires to clear away vegetation beneath them, which would otherwise inhibit their growth. Eucalyptus trees, along with other species, also rely on the flames to trigger the release of their seeds.
However, in less than ideal conditions–high temperatures, drought, or an overabundance of rain–the fires can turn deadly.
As global temperatures rise, this is becoming increasingly common, as made evident by the current fires.
“To put it all in perspective.. this is a catastrophe!” Twitter user @TheFlemishSeth wrote, along with a chart comparison of catastrophic fires, like the Amazon fires. The Australian fires have reportedly burned twice as much land as the Amazon fires.
I try keep Twitter light, but:— Jandles (@Jandles__) January 2, 2020
8 people have died, 17 missing, estimated 500 million animals dead, fires 11x bigger than those in the Amazon (which got worldwide coverage), yet hardly anyone outside of Aus knows about it and our Prime Minister is doing fuck all #AustraliaBurning pic.twitter.com/ATnsXk7Y6x
“2019 saw South American Amazon burning, Central Africa burning, Madagascar burning, Indonesia burning, Eastern Europe burning, China burning, Siberia burning and now #AustraliaBurning. At what point do we say there might be deeper problem here that needs addressing urgently?” Twitter user @Mckendrick36 asked.
- 17 people confirmed dead— Meanwhile in Canada (@MeanwhileinCana) January 2, 2020
- 18 missing
- half a BILLION animals killed
- thousands of homes destroyed
- 5 million hectares burned#ClimateAction isn't costly, the devastation caused by inaction is.
Photo by Martin Von Stoll of Diamond Beach, Aus.#AustraliaBurning #cdnpoli pic.twitter.com/aSYIc7A23z
2019 saw South American Amazon burning, Central Africa burning, Madagascar burning, Indonesia burning, Eastern Europe burning, China burning, Siberia burning and now #AustraliaBurning— Spar4 (@Mckendrick36) January 2, 2020
At what point do we say there might be deeper problem here that needs addressing urgently? pic.twitter.com/OxQpmmpoDE
“And so it begins, panic buying of food, people queuing to use a public telephone, roads blocked, no water, no electricity, mass extinction of species and environs. Welcome to the climate change world they’ve been telling you was coming for 50 years,” Twitter user @shayne_chester wrote.
Another one of Maluabay beach in Australia.— StanceGrounded (@_SJPeace_) January 2, 2020
People forced to seek refuge on a beach.
LOOK AT THIS! Looks like end of times.
And people still out here denying Climate Change.
THIS SH*T IS NO JOKE!
My prayers are with the people of Australia 💔🙏🏽🤲🏽😭 pic.twitter.com/WnWMrhFWIw
... and so it begins, panic buying of food, people queuing to use a public telephone, roads blocked, no water, no electricity, mass extinction of species and environs. Welcome to the climate change world they've been telling you was coming for 50 years #AustraliaBurning pic.twitter.com/eKq2iJWmVY— ☪️ shayne_chester_Dip_FA (@shayne_chester) January 2, 2020
I think we need to take charge, and put #GlobalWarming to a stop, animals are dying as we speak, in fact, I think about 200 animals die every second (Excluding house pets) because of #ClimateChange, #AustraliaBurning because people don't care about it. pic.twitter.com/XT5cBPuJx4— Goro (@Gorothedude) January 2, 2020
Many Australians are expressing feeling “ignored” by the rest of the world, claiming the fires have received inadequate press coverage and far too little foreign aid.
“WHERE THE FUCK IS OUR GLOBAL SUPPORT?!???! HOMES AND LAND AND ANIMALS ARE LITERALLY FUCKING BURNING!! YOU ALL CRY OVER THE NOTRE DAME AND AMAZON BUT WHEN IT COMES TO US, SILENCE?!!?!?! WE NEED HELP,” Twitter user @alibeath96 wrote.
There’s been some help from the US, but mostly Canada— Robert Robinson (@rnlrobinson) January 1, 2020
As a @Telegraph subscriber, they’ve only this morning started covering the bushfires after trying to ignore it for days.— David Ghosh (@MrInclusive) January 2, 2020
Some people on centre right do actually care about the planet. Take it seriously! Should be a headline! Daily! #AustraliaBurning
Is it just me or why isn't more coverage of #AustraliaBurning?— Tascha / Kyena (@Tascharoe) January 2, 2020
Over 11.3 million hectares of land burning, 480 million animals expected dead. 13 people dead and more missing.
480 MILLION ANIMALS ESTIMATED DEAD. So many people volunteering.
Where is the media support? pic.twitter.com/Xl0YdzWtlI
WHERE THE FUCK IS OUR GLOBAL SUPPORT?!???! HOMES AND LAND AND ANIMALS ARE LITERALLY FUCKING BURNING!! YOU ALL CRY OVER THE NOTRE DAME AND AMAZON BUT WHEN IT COMES TO US, SILENCE?!!?!?! WE NEED HELP #RFSNSW #AustraliaBurning #dismisstheprimeminister https://t.co/a1gW1IPZVO— Ali Beath (@alibeath96) January 2, 2020
Many are directing their anger at Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who reportedly took a Hawaiian vacation in the midst of the crisis. He has been heckled by some Australians; one Australian even refused to shake his hand in an incident caught on camera.
“This is like watching Boris Johnson meeting folks during the election. Don’t make the same mistake as the UK of re-electing a man who also couldn’t give a toss about climate change Australia. #AustraliaBurning,” Twitter user @BenJolly9 wrote, along with the footage.
PM Scott Morrison ignored expert warnings, left to Hawaii amidst ravaging #NSWfires, refused to acknowledge climate change, partied at Kirribili while #Southcoast burned, and now smugly tries to dig himself out at the worst press conference #AustraliaBurning #AustralianFires pic.twitter.com/J5Lj26pDpi— Dr Bel Townsend (@BelTownsend) January 2, 2020
This is like watching Boris Johnson meeting folks during the election.— Ben (@BenJolly9) January 2, 2020
Don’t make the same mistake as the UK of re-electing a man who also couldn’t give a toss about climate change Australia. #AustraliaBurning
Morrison further enraged Australians when he refused to cancel a New Year’s Eve firework display in Sydney, claiming a “show must go on” attitude would demonstrate Australia’s resilience.
On top of concerns about the fireworks potentially exacerbating the fires, many believe the display is disrespectful to the victims.
“It was self indulgence, recklessness and total disrespect to victims. Our PM threw a fireworks watching party with his rich elitist mate then went to the cricket the next day. He is a revolting excuse of a man,” Twitter user @KimaR87 wrote.
Was he also playing a fiddle?!— Gina Ross (@GinaRoss19) January 1, 2020
Many of us tried to stop the fireworks, people who think it was disgusting and disrespectful to set of fireworks. It was approved as "safe" to do so. I put on a countdown on the computer, refused to watch such a heartless display that had total disregard for victims.— Kima (@KimaR87) January 2, 2020
It was self indulgence, recklessness and total disrespect to victims. Our PM threw a fireworks watching party with his rich elitist mate then went to the cricket the next day. He is a revolting excuse of a man.— Kima (@KimaR87) January 2, 2020
Siobhan Ball is a historian, archivist, and journalist. She also writes for Autostraddle and bi.org