MPG Narratives (Maria) writes about books, writing, food and the occasional random topic. Qualified PR writer, copywriter and author.
For those of us who grew up during the ‘70s and ‘80s, it was a given that most weekends we would head for the beach. Or picnics, or the park. It didn’t matter as long as we were outdoors. We arrived at many of these places on foot. In fact, it was not unheard of for us to walk an hour or more to be with friends. Did we complain about the heat? Sometimes, but the lure of the beach and the cooling waves were a powerful motivator.
The weather during summer was almost guaranteed to be sunny and hot, perfect for outdoor activities. The occasional afternoon summer storm would send us scurrying for cover or home, but much of the time it was possible to spend the whole day outdoors. Teenagers spent a lot of their time with friends because staying at home was boring. Apart from watching television, which was still black & white in some homes, nothing was interesting or fun to do. And no self-respecting teenager wanted to spend time with their parents.
Friendships were forged at the beach. Many of us had left school and were working so we made sure our weekends were spent with friends. It was a cheap way to have fun, apart from a beach towel, tanning lotion and a swimming costume, the only other expense was buying something from the kiosk. We devoured many hot chips, Chiko rolls, burgers, pies and sausage rolls. Oh, and ice cream too – paddle pops and drumsticks were a favourite. When you spend six to eight hours at the beach you work up an appetite.
There were times when someone would bring a ball and a bat. Beach cricket anyone? Whenever this happened, we all moved further down the beach to avoid hitting anyone with a wayward ball. Volleyball was played as well but for our group, cricket was the game of choice. Most days we were the last to leave the beach. We kept playing until the sun went down and our stomachs grumbled. The other great thing about being at the beach is the amount of space, there was room for everyone – surfies, families and the many teenagers who frequented these beaches every weekend. We all had our favourite spots.
Fast forward to the new millennium and our summers look very different. Especially December 2019. It was a Christmas many Australians will never forget. We all watched in horror as Australia burned with unprecedented bushfires. Our recent weather pattern of extreme heat, no rainfall and high winds led to a firestorm never seen before. Some argue that climate change is the cause. I don’t care what we call it, it is a catastrophe that should not be repeated. The statistics are awful. People killed; homes lost, livelihoods destroyed, hectares of bush and farmland lost, and our native wildlife has been devastated. Our brave firefighters worked hard to put out fires that were burning for months. How are we and the environment going to recover from this horrific bushfire season? Will our koala population survive?
These are events my eighteen-year-old self could not have contemplated back in the carefree ‘70s. Nor could I have anticipated weekends where the weather is so unpredictable that at times outdoor activities are out of the question. As I write this it is finally raining in many parts of Eastern Australia. A reprieve of sorts for our firies (firefighters), but the clean-up and restoration is going to take years. As it rains, other problems arise. Ash is being washed into our rivers, flash flooding is causing more headaches for people living in low-lying areas and the threat of landslides increases. This all adds to the already huge workload facing our firefighters.
During these fires, some of which began in June 2019 and many more uncontrolled fires during September through to January 2020, so much was lost. The statistics are horrifying -
- 75 people died Australia-wide.
- 13 million+ acres (5.5 million hectares) of land was burned. Much is agricultural land with livestock lost.
- Over 3,000 homes and buildings burned.
- More than a billion animals were killed – 800,000 in New South Wales alone.
- 471 plants and 191 invertebrates were affected by losing 30 percent of their habitat.
- Endangered species are in danger of becoming extinct.
Sources: environment.nsw.gov.au, researchgate.net, aihw.gov.au, rfs.nsw.gov.au, sciencedirect.com
The economic cost is difficult to evaluate because loss of income and productivity is not easy to estimate given the overall extent of these fires according to the Insurance Council. However, there are figures of $A4.4 billion ($2.9 billion USD) being touted and this is more than the Black Saturday fires of 2009.
Many generous donations have been given and are still coming through to organisations such as the Australian Red Cross Society. Australians are known for their generosity during times of crisis, but will these funds be enough? What if next summer is worse? How many more people will die and how many more hectares of precious bush and agricultural land are we going to lose?
These fires made world-wide news, which has resulted in many international celebrities donating. It has also caused a furore that Australians are not doing enough to combat climate change. This is a good thing because it might make our leaders stand up and listen. No politician likes being ridiculed by the international media. It is time for the leaders of this country to face reality and be proactive because climate change has to be tackled.
Water is a precious resource in Australia, and we need to stop squandering it. Infrastructure for the collection and distribution of water needs to be looked at from different angles. Are our indigenous people able to help? They know the environment and how to manage it, surely our leaders can learn from their elders. They know how to find water during drought conditions. Why not tap into this under-utilised resource?
Dams and desalination plants. Do we build more? Are they the solution or do they cause more environmental problems? There are environmental scientists who would know the answer to these questions, are our leaders consulting them? What about pipes to carry wet season rainwater from Northern Queensland and the Territory? 'Too expensive'. I’ve heard many of our leaders say this but look at the cost of the summer of 2019.
Technology is another area where emissions are a concern. How have computers and mobile phones affect our environment? What happens to all these consumable goods when they are no longer useful after only a few years? In fact, in this age of consumerism, it is not only our technology products that are at fault. Many household appliances have a shorter shelf-life than in previous decades. Who fixes dishwashers or washing machines when they break down? Some items can be recycled or repurposed but again, more needs to be done in this area.
The world is warming up and this is causing issues for our natural environs and our oceans. What is our future going to look like if we do nothing? Let’s all combine our resources and ask our governments to do something positive for the environment. We can all pull our weight by conserving water; only use your hose early morning or late afternoon, recycle as best we can and repurposing our unwanted goods. These changes are helping but we need to do more. My eighteen-year-old self had a great time growing up and I want young people in the future to have the same – a safe environment to enjoy the best time of their lives.
We constantly hear about fiscal policy and economic growth. What good are these strategies if people don’t have homes to live in, safe drinking water and temperatures comfortable to live with? It is people who work and pay taxes giving governments the funds to run their policies. How are all the people affected by these bushfires going to feel if our government keeps shouting about the economy without any consideration to the environment? Our leaders should listen to what metrological experts and scientists are saying. Also, listen to the people who are the first responders to these catastrophic events – the RFS, the SES, the paramedics and ambulance personnel. We don’t want to lose any more of these wonderful people when they are protecting us from disasters.
Leaders need to prioritise the environment before it’s too late and then the damage cannot be reversed. It’s fine to have money but if you’re breathing toxic, smoke-filled air how do you enjoy this money? Our health and the environment are linked. Unless we want more people hospitalised with breathing disorders and toxic disease symptoms, then things must change sooner rather than later. Our reliance on fossil fuels has to be moderated and more money funnelled into renewables. They say air travel is a big contributor to emissions. Has anyone thought about using renewable fuel? Can recycled materials be used to build planes? These are ideas that should be thrown around by the powers that be.
We lived through many hot summers in the ‘70s and ‘80s without air conditioning in our cars or our homes. Many of us worked in places with no air conditioning either. We survived. With temperatures rising we won't survive without air conditioning, and it is one of the contributors to climate change.
To all our leaders worldwide, think about the environment and put procedures in place to reduce Earth’s overheating. This overheating is making our weather unpredictable. We have to halt the rise of sea levels, the melting glaciers and the loss of natural habitats. Leaders have to think about the infrastructure needed and listen to environmental experts. In Australia, we don’t want a repeat of the horrific bushfires of 2019. I understand we cannot turn the clock back to the ‘70s but if we don’t do something we may not reach 2070.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.
© 2021 Maria Giunta
Maria Giunta (author) from Sydney, Australia on February 28, 2021:
Thanks Mr. Happy. We all know this is a huge issue, and whether people like change or not if we do nothing, then we are all affected. No environment, no life.
Mr. Happy from Toronto, Canada on February 27, 2021:
This is a great article!
I do not think people should find comfort in that "Australians are known for their generosity during times of crisis" because it will not help much in the long run regarding the climate. We need to change our life-styles, economies, attitude to life in general ... it's not easy at all. People do not like change. Most people like continuity, regularity and wish to maintain their status-quo lifestyle, for the most part.
Governments across the world have to implement huge changes to up-grade societies and economies to a green future. We've been destroying this planet since the Industrial Revolution at an incredible, exponentially growing pace. Thus, donations are not going to help much. We need massive structural changes on the micro and macro level.
"Are our indigenous people able to help?" - They would be if anyone's listening.
Indigenous people see the changes taking place all around the world because they live closer to nature. I have heard Inuit in Canada talk about the increase melting of the ice and warmer winters. The Eskimos in Greenland say the same but we should see this clearly too: a week ago there was a major winter storm in Texas, US. Weather patterns are all over the place. It's like we're riding a roller-coaster.
The Oceans are warming-up, changing their currents and those in turn change wind formations, as well as wind sheer. The latter in the Atlantic is helping fuel stronger hurricane activity and intensity. It's all a huge cycle and everyone on this planet will be affected, one way, or another. That is why, in a way we can really stop talking about anything else because if we do not fix this, we're more or less done with.
All the best!