Photos of fires on the front pages of newspapers all over the world ... and for me the most graphic image was of a man holding his toddler close to his chest, fleeing the bellowing smoke of fires on a Greek island. They had been burning for a week and Greek authorities had warned people against coming on vacation. But still they came from the UK, France, Denmark … from all over the world.
What will it take to stop us? I wonder. This is a question I pose to myself, as much as it is a general cry out to humanity.
It is not the Fijians or Torres Strait Islanders or the residents of Tuvalu - whose islands are sinking - who generate the carbon emissions heating the planet and causing disastrous climate change across our planet. It is us, those belonging to the middle classes in the First World.
We had a head start on industrialisation which set off the process of global warming and we have benefitted enormously through that head start, with higher standards of living, better health outcomes and a greater capacity to generate wealth. We have become accustomed to our lifestyle which we cannot give up easily. We still purchase the latest cars - large SUVs for a family of four, we fly around the world for work and holidays and add to the catastrophic amount of landfill with old appliances and furniture left for the council pick up.
But we are saddened, genuinely saddened, by the impact on the natural world. We feel sad for the Emperor Penguins in the Antarctic who lost thousands of chicks this season because of insufficient ice for them to grow to maturity.
We feel truly saddened when we hear of whales migrating back from their breeding grounds too early because the northern Australian waters are too warm. We especially feel for our gorgeous koalas who are threatened on the east coast of NSW while we simultaneously carve up what is left of their habitat with development approvals.
We look on and tell ourselves it is the councils, or the big miners, or the governments which are to blame. But we too are in collusion with all of these organisations because of the way we live.
We are like Nero fiddling around the edges as our planet burns.
Postscript September 1st:
Greece has sent one hundred extra firefighters to a major wildfire in the north east of the country as it burns for a 13th day. It has been blamed for the loss of large tracts of forest and homes as well as the deaths of twenty migrants whose bodies were found. Five hundred and eighty firefighters have been deployed to the region.
In Canada wildfires burning in the Northwest Territories and British Columbia are exacerbating what was already by far the fiercest wildfire season in Canada’s history, with more than 5,880 fires were started across Canada up until the end of August. According to the Canadian Interagency Forest Fire Centre, more than 15 million hectares have burned so far this year, with homes lost and major highways closed.
In the United States, the National Interagency Fire Center reports that 83 current wildfires have burned 622,775 acres in more than 16 states. For the year 36,957 fires have burned across more than 1.8 million acres country-wide.
The figures for many more countries can be cited. Certainly, our world is on fire and humankind will have to change its barbarous ways to save it!
Copyright: text - Fiona D'Souza; postscript - editor, cv williams; photo - Wix.
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