Australians demonstrate against pro-bushfire government


Protesters march in Melbourne, Australia

From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:

Australia: Thousands protest government inaction on bushfires and climate change

By our reporters

22 January 2020

On Saturday, several thousands of young people demonstrated in Melbourne, the Victorian state capital, in opposition to the official response to the ongoing bushfire crisis across the country.

The protests reflect the deep hostility and distrust that ordinary workers and youth have for successive Labor and Liberal-National coalition governments who have refused to act to mitigate bushfires or take any action on climate change, which is contributing to the severity of droughts and fire danger.

Like earlier rallies, the events were organised by Uni Students for Climate Justice …

Socialist Alternative’s Cormac Ritchard told the Melbourne rally: “If the Liberal MP who follows Morrison won’t [tackle climate change]—and they won’t—then we’ll sack them as well. And if the Labor Party government that comes in after them won’t do it—and they won’t—then we’ll sack them as well.” …

Kath Larkin

Socialist Alternative’s Kath Larkin—a leading figure in the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU)—also spoke at the Melbourne rally. Larkin denounced the “so-called Labor opposition,” as well as the Morrison government

She singled out the United Workers’ Union … and the RTBU for their statements of support for the protest. …

In Melbourne, Socialist Equality Party (SEP) campaigners and World Socialist Web Site reporters found a warm response from workers and youth at the rally for a revolutionary, internationalist and socialist program.

Josh

Speaking with WSWS reporters, musician Josh said: “The government isn’t doing anything about the fires. ScoMo went to Hawaii and left us to burn. There wasn’t enough done to reduce the impacts of it. And they saw it coming for a long time and did nothing.” …

Jennifer (right)

Jennifer works in philanthropy and attended the rally with Mark, and daughter Rose. She said, “The government is not doing nearly enough. They’ve got a ridiculous position about climate change, complete denial, in bed with the coal industry. We vote against it whenever we can but it’s clearly not enough. So we want to keep sending a signal that we’re unhappy.”

Angie (left)

Victoria University nursing student Angie told the WSWS: “The fires are happening and the government doesn’t seem to be doing anything at all. You can only do so much raising money on social media. Climate change is real and it is going to have a terrible impact on future generations. It all comes down to money and how much they can make. But what is the point of improving economically if there isn’t going to be anywhere to live?”

Marcus (right)

Marcus noted that “the fires are definitely climate change-induced, I think we have to stand up to the government and actually demand that they do something. I think the response is focussing on emergency and disaster planning. I see that as a Band-Aid effect. I think you have to get to the root cause, and the root cause is climate change.”

Jessica

High-school student Jessica, originally from New Zealand, said she thinks “climate change is the biggest issue we are facing. I think there is too much greed, and profit is prevalent. Once there is money and power—there’s too much. I think that climate change is not unconnected. Everything that happens has to take into account climate change. Social justice has to be tackled.”

Matt, from the outer-eastern Melbourne suburb of Boronia, told WSWS reporters: “The situation is getting worse. I don’t think politicians want to hear about this. In Australia we have a Prime Minister who brought in a lump of coal into the parliament. I vote Labor but I don’t think any of the parties have made climate change a priority. Even the Greens and independents do deals that do not assist this cause.”

Matt (centre)

Translator from Britain, Maddy, said: “I’m interested in the issue of climate change. I’ve read about it and it’s scary. I’ve come to realise that it’s an unavoidable symptom of the capitalist system which is based on exploitation and maximising profits, as if there are no consequences.

Maddy (right)

“It’s going to take a huge movement of people to change this. Political leaders are trying to appease business. I think that Scott Morrison is corrupt and the ALP still supports coal despite everything that has happened. In the UK the ruling party doesn’t take any actions on climate change.”

She added: “The way it is framed is that ordinary people have to keep making changes, but even if we recycled everything it wouldn’t stop climate change. This has to come from government policy.”

AIR TANKER FIGHTING AUSSIE WILDFIRES CRASHES, KILLING 3 U.S. FIREFIGHTERS Authorities have confirmed three U.S.-born crew members have died after an air tanker crashed in the Snowy Monaro region of New South Wales while fighting bushfires. “Our hearts are with all those that are suffering what is the loss of three remarkable, well-respected crew,” said fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. [HuffPost]

Australian workers to pay as bushfire disaster intensifies slump: here.

Australian bushfire smoke kills


This 17 January 2020 NASA video from the USA says about itself:

The local impacts of the Australian bushfires have been devastating to property and life in Australia while producing extreme air quality impacts throughout the region. As smoke from the massive fires has interacted with the global weather, the transport of smoke plumes around the globe has accelerated through deep vertical transport into the upper troposphere and even the lowermost stratosphere, leading to long-range transport around the globe. The smoke from these bushfires will travel across the Southern Ocean completing a global circumnavigation back around to Australia and is particularly pronounced across the southern Pacific Ocean out to South America.

By John Mackay in Australia:

Smoke haze from Australian bushfires pose serious public health threat

18 January 2020

Australia’s intense and prolonged bushfire crisis poses a significant public health threat, with major cities still experiencing unprecedented elevation in pollution.

Health experts continue to issue warnings about the negative effects of the high levels of air pollution. Australian Medical Association (AMA) president Dr Tony Bartone warned in a press release early this month that the duration and intensity of smoke exposure presents “a new and possibly fatal health risk that most of us have never faced before.”

The denser smoke haze and longer periods that people inhale it, Bartone said, means “there is a much higher risk that previously healthy people will face developing serious illness.” The AMA also stressed that respiratory health may not be the only health issue, predicting the mental health burden from the disaster on the community will be considerable.

The high level of smoke haze is unprecedented. Over the New Year period, air quality in Canberra, the national capital, reached 23 times the level considered hazardous and the worst rating to date in the city.

Canberra was registered as the worst polluted city in the world, beating Sarajevo in Bosnia Herzegovina, Lahore, Pakistan and New Delhi, India. The highest rating recorded was 5,185 on New Year’s Day, more than 25 times above the minimum hazard level of 200.

A few days before these high levels were reached, an elderly woman died after going into respiratory distress as she disembarked from a plane onto the tarmac at Canberra airport.

At its peak the poor air quality forced most of Canberra to shut down, including many businesses, shopping centres, the city’s museums and public galleries. Postal deliveries were cancelled. Canberra Hospital closed some medical and diagnostic procedures due to smoke impacting on the facility and equipment, such as medical resonance imaging (MRI) machines.

At Batemans Bay, 150 kms from Canberra, where hundreds of houses were incinerated on the New South Wales south coast, the concentration of smoke particles was nearly double that of Canberra.

In Sydney, Dr Tim Senior a General Practitioner who works at a medical clinic in the western suburb of Campbelltown, located not far from serious fires to the city’s south-west, told the ABC: “The smoke has hung around and there’s not been any relief.” We’re seeing more people coming in with respiratory symptoms—mainly coughing and a bit short of breath”

He also described how many people attending his clinic were suffering chest pain, sore eyes, runny noses and sore throats. However, it is not only patients with pre-existing conditions that have been affected. Dr Senior stated: “Some people who don’t have a history of asthma are feeling short of breath and [are] actually having to try using inhalers for the first time.”

When asked about how other communities are coping with the effects of poor air quality the doctor said: “I know it’s much, much worse for people I have spoken to down on the [NSW] south coast, where the capacity for [health] services to see people and handle their health problems has been really limited.” He continued: “It’s putting pressure on the healthcare system across a really broad area of Australia”.

The fine particulates from smoke from wildfires has been known to contain a mix of chemicals that are a concern to public health, such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, ozone, fine particulate matter, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds.

While some facemasks—such as P2 or N95—have been recommended as possibly helpful for those with existing lung disease, they have significant limitations in being able to provide complete protection and can make breathing more difficult.

A study published last year in the journal Occupational and Environmental Medicine revealed that inexpensive facemasks provided only limited protection against air pollution in Beijing, one of the world’s most polluted cities, due to poor facial fit. Masks that provide more comprehensive protection are bulky and more expensive.

Sotiris Vardoulakis, a professor of global health at the Australian National University, told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC): “[T]he general message is we need to minimise exposure and there are different ways of doing that. On days with high air pollution, it’s better to spend more time indoors.”

Dr David Caldicott, a consultant emergency physician at the Calvary hospital in Canberra, told the media that there have been increased emergency admissions by elderly patients, asthmatics and those with other respiratory problems.

“The psychiatric element associated with the potential threat of fire,” Caldicott added, “is something that’s often forgotten when people are focusing on respiratory disease.” He also warned that staying indoors for extended periods can have a negative impact on mental health.

The Royal Australian and New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists has raised concerns about the high levels of air pollution on mothers and their unborn children. College president Dr Vijay Roach told the ABC: “Exposure to air pollution in pregnancy has been linked to increased rates of preterm birth, decreased birth weight, hypertensive disorders of pregnancy and gestational diabetes.”

Health experts are uncertain when the real extent of the effect of smoke exposure will present in the population.

Professor Bin Jalaludin from the Centre of Air Pollution, Energy and Health Policy research at the University of New South Wales told the Sydney Morning Herald: “What we’re finding now is that air pollution tends to affect all parts of the body… There is increasing evidence around air pollution and neurological conditions, for example Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s.”

In September last year, the AMA, in line with similar positions taken by both the American and the British Medical Associations, declared climate change a “health emergency.” It pointed to the “clear scientific evidence indicating severe impacts for our patients and communities now and into the future.” In 2015, the World Health Organisation stated that the evidence is “overwhelming” that climate change is the greatest threat to global health in the 21st century.

Dr Allison Hempenenstall of the Australian College of Rural and Remote Medicine recently told the Guardian newspaper that there was “a united strong voice” demanding government action. “[W]e need to push for governmental change, prioritising climate change policy which is something that the government isn’t doing at present… the health implications of climate change are only going to be fixed by addressing climate change itself.”

Consecutive Liberal and Labor governments have done little to address climate change and deliberately disregarded the warnings of more severe weather events. The parties of big business will continue to ignore the scientific evidence and demands by health experts to address climate change, for the same political reasons in order to defend the profit system.

The author also recommends:

Australian bushfire catastrophe exposes the contempt of the ruling elites for working people
[8 January 2020]

Australia: Toxic air from bushfires rated a “public health emergency”
[23 December 2019]

The World Socialist Web Site recently interviewed Dr Luba Volkova, a senior research fellow at the University of Melbourne, about Australia’s bushfire crisis: here.

North American black-footed ferret endangered


This 12 January 2020 video says about itself:

The Most Endangered Animal In The World | Prairie Bandit | Real Wild

Their habitat once stretched across the Prairies. But when humans wiped out the one thing they eat, the black-footed ferret disappeared. The only native North American ferret, this mysterious animal became the most endangered species in the world.

Schoorlse Duinen sand dunes, arrival


This 2017 Dutch video is about the Schoorlse Duinen nature reserve.

This area has the highest coastal sand dunes in the Netherlands.

We arrived there on 17 January 2020. During a short walk, I saw a flowering common daisy.

Stay tuned, as there will be more on this blog about this area!