By Brianna Coffey
Tearing across an entire continent, the Australian wildfire is undoubtedly the worst seen in decades, leaving mass amounts of loss, death and destruction in its wake. The fires have left bushland, cities, wooded areas, suburbs and national parks reeling under the devastating flames.
In an article written earlier this month, ABC News stated that since September, the fires have decimated over 3,000 homes and destroyed more than 26 million acres. The major cities of New South Wales, Melbourne and Sydney have suffered for months under the weight of devastation. According to CNN, the air quality this past December surpassed the hazardous level by 11 times due to the billowing fumes.
The first cause of this catastrophe is that the hot, dry weather of this past year has resulted in high temperatures, as Australia is in the midst of one of its worst droughts in decades. The Bureau of Meteorology reported that this past spring was the driest in Australia’s recorded history. Some areas experienced temperatures above 120 degrees Fahrenheit, breaking the record for the highest nationwide average temperature.
The New York Times reported that “climate change is bringing longer and more frequent periods of extreme heat,” which “makes vegetation drier and more likely to burn.”
Dr. Mark Gathany, associate professor of biology at Cedarville University, explains that a large issue in the spreading of the fires is “spotting,” in which a small part of the flame could ignite on something nearby, such as another home. While much is being attempted to prevent further damage, he admits that these situations “are cases where doing the best management of your property may not matter in the end.”
Human activity is another factor that contributed to the fires. According to a recent New South Wales police statement, the department has charged over 20 individuals with deliberately starting bushfires, and nearly 200 have received indictments for “fire-related offenses.”
Dr. Robert Paris, associate professor of biology at Cedarville, drew attention to the fact that while some causes that sparked the catastrophe have been traced back to human activity, thousands of firefighters have risked their lives for this cause.
“Yes, there are some humans who are causing problems, but there are many others who are helping remedy the problem,” Paris said.
These individuals are risking their lives to rescue those of others at great personal cost. According to CNN, about 2,700 firefighters from different countries are on the front lines battling the flames.
In an interview with CNN, one fireman, Daniel Cardenas, expressed his desire to serve, stating that “just seeing the amount of destruction that’s happening and knowing that they need help makes you want to volunteer.”
In the midst of this crisis, many within Australia and around the world are rising up to offer their time, money, possessions, and service to the multitude of those in need. According to the New York Times, many organizations are making an impact through their work on the victim’s behalves.
One of these organizations, the Australian Red Cross, has currently enlisted well over a thousand staff members and volunteer workers. They are housing survivors in over 60 evacuation and recovery centers. Due to the complications that come with storing and delivering physical donations, Salvation Army Australia encourages donors to send financial donations instead, which gives the recipients liberty to invest their money where they know it is most needed. Another organization called GIVIT: Goods for Good Causes matches donations with specific item requests, such as gas pumps, car batteries and fence posts.
Similar work is being done for the animals whose homes, food sources, and species have been devastated by the fires. As recorded in the Washington Post, over 1 billion mammals, birds and reptiles, many of which are found nowhere else on our planet, have been impacted or killed by the flames. The effects of the fires reach far and wide, also impacting “plants, fungi, insects, other invertebrates, amphibians, and bacteria and microorganisms that are crucial to these systems,” states Manu Saunders, a researcher and insect ecologist at the University of New England in Armidale.
USA Today reports on a myriad of organizations that are joining forces to aid the animals in crisis, one of which is the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital in New South Wales. This organization raises money to care for rescued koalas and also focuses on education and research about this species. The World Wildlife Fund holds a similar mission and fosters a long-term goal of planting 1,000 trees when the fires die down to create a koala habitat.
While calamities like the Australian fires are devastating, Dr. Paris commented that they point to the truth that our world is marred by sin.
“Catastrophes like this are the effect of living in a fallen world,” Dr. Paris stated. “Like Paul says in Romans, the whole creation is groaning. We always think of the effect the fall has on humanity, but sin has affected all creation, and all creation is looking forward to getting out from under that one day.”
Although this disaster is devastating and the victims’ suffering is difficult to imagine, living in the midst of pain, trials, and other effects of the fall serves as a constant reminder that this world is not our home.
Brianna Coffey is a freshman Professional Writing and Information Design major and off-campus writer for Cedars. She enjoys writing and spending time with people.