Australia's burned areas since June 2001 are shown in red as detected by NASA's MODIS imaging sensors.

Australia's burned areas since June 2001 are shown in red as detected by NASA's MODIS imaging sensors.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Do Not Miss What Is Happening In Australia

Australia is on fire. That is not hyperbolic. Read this Twitter thread from Bodie Ashton. Some choice excerpts:

“More Aussie land is currently burning than exists in the entire country of Belgium. The smoke is causing breathing problems in New Zealand, 2,000km away.”

“One-seventh of the state of Victoria is on fire. The fire front in the state of New South Wales is so long that, if you made it a straight line, it would stretch from Sydney to Afghanistan.”

“Public buildings have been forced to close in Sydney and the capital, Canberra, because the smoke is concentrating in the ventilation systems, and is setting off building fire systems.”

“It is true that Australia has bushfires every year, but the sheer scale of this event is unprecedented, as well as the fact that the fire season is now so long that typical preventative initiatives, such as backburning, are far too dangerous.”

“The devastation in Australia right now FAR exceeds the Amazon fires or the California fires by MANY ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE, and there is no expectation that it will recede for at least several more months.”

“The average temperature across the entire country has been above 40C (105F). Australia is roughly the size of the contiguous United States. Imagine it being that temperature on average ANYWHERE in the country, from Denver to Boston, Seattle to New York.”

The Prime Minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, has been -- and this is the kindest way I can say it -- an utterly useless plonker in response, devoid of leadership, empathy, insight, or knowledge.

He went on holiday to Hawaii in the middle of the crisis. His office lied about it, and lied about his inability to get home.

He and his administration are demonstrating a total lack of regard for the volunteer firefighters putting their lives on the line to save people and property. After saying the firefighters wouldn’t get paid at all, the government has now agreed to pay those who take time off work $300/day for up to 20 days. For those who get it, it’s nowhere near the length of time necessary. For volunteer firefighters who were otherwise unemployed, it’s a total slap in the face: Not only do they not receive the money, they also lose their unemployment benefits because, while they’re fighting fires, they’re not actively looking for work.

Finally, in a classic “This is fine" move, Morrison and his administration insist that now is not the time to talk about climate change.

What does this have to do with media? What does this have to do with the Internet?

A few points:

Number one: Per his Twitter profile, Bodie Ashton is an historian and an author, not a journalist. He has just shy of 6,000 followers. But, as of the time of this writing, the first post of his thread has 189k likes and 99k retweets. Millions will have seen it. This is media in the modern age: the Prime Minister’s office can try to spin this however they like, but they cannot control the narrative.

Number two: Climate change is a global emergency that is here and now. As a result, it has to do with everything. Not just politics. Not just environmental activism. Not just corporate social responsibility. We are witnessing firsthand the devastating impact of socioeconomic systems that treat natural inputs as unlimited and treat the atmosphere as an open sewer.

We cannot discuss business without discussing the climate. We cannot discuss the Internet without discussing the climate. We cannot discuss media without discussing the climate.

Number three: If you’re still carrying some of that Christmas spirit, consider donating to the volunteer firefighters of Australia. The Guardian has a list of links.

This is not a one-off disaster. It is one of the many, many warning signs, getting louder and more insistent by the day. We cannot afford to look away.

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