Art by Charlie LaMountain
Former student Mia Temme’s extended family lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Although her family has not been personally affected by the fires, many of her friends’ businesses have been burned and homes have been evacuated. “When I first heard the news I didn’t know the extent to which the fires had reached, but once I read and heard more, I began to understand the huge devastation that is occurring,” she said.
With only a few clicks, numerous articles and reports show up on every search engine. Posts flood everyone’s social media feeds. All of the headlines and captions contain a few key words: “Australia in flames.” The severity and magnitude of the fires were created from multiple factors, including drought, lightning strikes, strong winds, and a record-high heatwave of about 113-120 degrees Fahrenheit this December. The fires have burned 17.9 million acres as compared to the 17.5 million burned in the Amazon Rainforest fires last year. 27 people have died from the flames, including several firefighters. In total, an estimated one billion animals have been impacted, and one-third of the koala species has been wiped out.
“Even though it is hard to see hope in something so seemingly uncontrollable, I think the way many people have come together to spread awareness is very encouraging. I have firsthand had many people reach out to me to make sure my family is safe,” said Temme.
Geographically, Australia is very far from Memphis and the St. Mary's community; however, social media has given SMS students and people all around the world an inside look into the devastation occurring in Australia due to the harsh reality of climate change.
People and entire nations have come together to help relief efforts throughout the country. The New South Wales (NSW), a state on the east coast of Australia, has 2,000 firefighters employed to aid people and animals in need as well as control the fires. The U.S., Canada, and New Zealand contributed to the power of the firefighters by sending additional workers. One of the largest donations stems from Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s donation of $2 billion in federal aid to rebuild schools, health facilities, and other vital infrastructure. In early February, the large presence of downpours at the east coast contributed to the decrease from 130 to 37 fires, but many areas continue to be significantly damaged. For instance, the recent rainfall has caused damaging winds, high tides, and power outages to now accompany the remaining fires.
Even though St. Mary’s students do not have funds equivalent to the Morrison donation, they can still provide aid in numerous impactful ways. St. Mary’s girls can spark more conversation, donate to smaller fundraisers, spread awareness on social media, and learn more ways to help out the people that are in need of assistance. To donate to the cause, click any of the following websites: WWF, Red Cross, and Direct Relief.
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