Australian Efforts after The Black Summer
Updated: Apr 7
Climate change is affecting the planet in a number of ways, with devastating effects being felt daily across the world. In the past few months, the world has witnessed major ice caps melt, droughts parch, downpours flood, earthquakes destroy, locusts infest, mud slide, and volcanoes erupt all across the world. There have been so many interconnected climate events in the past year alone that are wreaking havoc in every corner of the world, with Australia still reeling from the worst bushfire season it seen in a generation.
For many around the world, Australia is associated with its unique natural wonders, and the equally astounding wildlife that populates that landscape. The Australian Bush is one of the most untamed natural wonders of the world, spanning thousands upon thousands of acres of frontier land, mostly untouched by humanity. Iconic wildlife like kangaroos, koalas, wallabies, and snakes call places like this home. These parts of Australia however are susceptible to the brutality of Mother Nature. These places are notoriously extreme at times, making these parts inhospitable for permanent human habitation. These areas are known to have seasons when the combination of dry air, intense heat, and elemental exposure lead to wildfires that raze through these lands. These incidents however have been managed by the Department of Fire and Emergency Services (DFES) and the Department of Parks and Wildlife (P&W) , limiting the loss of human and wild life, as well as preventing property damage over the years. There is an inherent seasonality to these fires, with these state-managed institutions managing to draw up models to predict and plan around these fires. Even so, there are still many challenges to controlling fires for days to weeks at a time every year.
The Nature of The Black Summer 2019-2020
Beginning in September of 2019, Bush Fire season began across many regions in New South Wales, with over 100 fires simultaneously going at any given point. Major fires were also experienced across Victoria, Adelaide, and Kangaroo Island; with more moderate fires simultaneously taking place in south-eastern Queensland, Western Australia, and Tasmania. The unprecedented number and intensity of these fires made the entire situation incredibly difficult to manage. This perfect storm of circumstances eventually kickstarted what would become the worst fire season in a generation.
Most fire seasons come, are managed properly, and go without much to worry about. Most years, it's business as usual. In 2019 however, professional firefighters and volunteers found themselves facing overwhelming odds. Issues created by the lack of manpower and resources led to a prolonged bush fire season which resulted in the loss of 33 lives, some 2,000 homes, and more than 11 million hectares of farm, forest, and bushland lost.
In the Aftermath
The ecosystem of the Australian bush is not expected to recover the way it would in years past. Apart from the loss of their natural habitats, native species have been pushed to the absolute brink. An estimated 1.25 billion animals have been lost to the fires, driving some species on the verge of extinction. This devastation is creating a sort of new normal that the country will have to adjust to moving forward.
As of early March 2020, The Australian state of New South Wales is officially free from bushfires for the first time in more than 240 days, according to the area's fire service. This comes a full five months after the beginning of the fire season. "For the first time since early July 2019, there is currently no active bush or grass fires in #NSW," tweeted New South Wales Rural Fire Service.
The last patches of fires were put out thanks in part to some extraordinary rainfall. The heaviest downpour in 30 years, putting out many of the last fires across New South Wales. This round of rain actually caused major flooding, wind damage, and extreme surf conditions, resulting in more evacuations and even school closures in the most devastated areas.
These photos were taken by Steve Ahrens, from EO Adelaide, who flew over Cudlee Creek in Adelaide in late December and early January. Firefighters were able save the town from total devastation, but at a great loss of natural resources around them. With the all clear given to mark the end of the bushfire season, many Australian eyes are looking towards rebuilding their lives. That sense of normalcy however isn't expected to come overnight, but the conversation is beginning. The path is expected to be long and arduous. The international community at large has already pledged support to the relief and rebuilding efforts, with many governments looking to help Australians get back on their feet.