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.

Australian volunteer firefighters interviewed


Australian firefighter Brendan O'Connor and his wife Wendy

From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:

Australia: Balmoral firefighters say they were “abandoned” and demand better resources

By our reporters

17 January 2020

Balmoral Village Rural Fire Service (RFS) captain Brendon O’Connor told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) this week that authorities had re-directed firefighting equipment away from the community as it came under attack from the Green Wattle Creek fire on December 21. Balmoral is in the Southern Highlands and about 100 kilometres southwest of Sydney.

The ill-equipped local RFS unit, which is entirely manned by volunteers, desperately fought to save the settlement under conditions where it is not connected to the state water supply and quickly ran out of water. Twenty-two houses or 15 percent of the village’s homes were destroyed by the fire.

“On the Thursday and Friday [December 20] we had a great number of resources, but unfortunately a decision was made on Friday evening to remove all resources from Balmoral, including bulk water, and that was replaced with a small water truck,” O’Connor told the ABC.

“We were asked to remove our own trucks from the village, which I refused to do… We were abandoned during the fight on the Saturday until much later and we’ve been abandoned since… We haven’t seen any government agency, and it’s been too hard for them to come into the village and offer assistance.”

World Socialist Web Site reporters revisited Balmoral last weekend and spoke with O’Connor.

“For the first two weeks we were on our own with no official assistance from outside,” he said, “apart from the wider community through donations of water, non-perishable foods, clothing, bedding, toiletries, which was absolutely overwhelming. We’ve had Indian, Thai, Vietnamese restaurants feeding over 150 people so it’s incredible.

“It’s been a very different [response from the authorities]. Our local council didn’t even know that we were part of this shire. They thought we had town water and didn’t know that there was fire in their shire.”

O’Connor explained that most of the water tanks, which the village relies on for its water, were now contaminated with ash and possibly asbestos. Specialised trucks are required to vacuum the tanks, which have been requested but are yet to arrive. The RFS captain described the considerable dangers posed by dead trees and said that the main road through the village was only 80 percent safe with at least 100 more trees to be felled. “It’ll be months of work cleaning up,” he added.

Asked about Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s holiday in Hawaii, he said: “None of them [government politicians] were paying attention to what was going on. Everyone dropped the ball. It didn’t bother me that Morrison went on holidays but what did bother me is that he didn’t know about that catastrophic day. He should have put his hand up and said ‘I made the mistake.’

“There needs to be a massive inquiry into what has happened and it should not be allowed to happen anywhere again. There’s been too many failings and areas that need changing.

“They [governments] are definitely not looking after us, there’s too many hidden agendas. Things are not being done to make sure we’ve got adequate power or water. It’s scary where we’re going, and it seems to be happening in lots of countries. It’s a failure to look after the people.

“We’ve got to do what’s right for us as a community, a national community, and a world community. It’s people power that should make the decisions, not a few who live in a world very unrealistic to the rest of us. We’re just political footballs in a lot of senses but without the people moving, and their voices being heard, we will be forever put down.”

Charity lunch at Balmoral Village RFS

Wendy, 36, is a railway shift worker and an RFS volunteer. She had worked for 13 days at a time, on 8- to 12-hour shifts, since the Christmas period and said she was getting four or five hours of sleep and then going to Balmoral as a fire fighting volunteer.

“It’s like a blanket has been drawn over Balmoral. The village has been forgotten about. There isn’t the help that the villagers need and they don’t know who to contact or where to turn. They’re going through an emotional roller coaster because as yet there isn’t any counselling services being offered,” she said.

Asked about the millions of dollars donated to assist fire victims, Wendy replied: “The background story is that with big organisations and government agencies, the money doesn’t pass down to the little man. They’re there to assist themselves. The donations will basically go into a kitty and one percent, maybe a bit more, will actually come down to the brigades that have been out fighting or those who have been affected. They’ll be lucky if they see a cent, let alone a dollar.

“I’m disgusted by what happened here. The RFS captain was told that he and the brigade were not to stay and defend the village. What’s the point in having a rural fire service based here?

“Everybody here is a volunteer. It’s home and you do everything to protect and defend it for as long as you can, even if that means that the flames are coming in every which direction and you’re running out of water. These RFS guys are still standing, and they’ll keep doing it, and going against the wishes of the higher authorities.”

Asked about the government response to climate change, Wendy said: “Politicians are only about lining their own pockets. It’s all about making themselves look good and feeding crap to the public so they can achieve what they want, not what the people want. NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Balmoral had been wiped off the face of the Earth, but we’re still here!”

Elisa

Elisa, another volunteer firefighter, said: “I’m only 24 but I’ve had a lot of experience under my belt with fires for my age. I was on property protection during the fires and helping a fellow firefighter protect his home.” She said that volunteer firefighters had little sleep. Some had not slept for over 24 hours.

“The councils don’t just allow the residents themselves to protect their own homes. We’re not allowed to clear where we think is dangerous or cut down trees. The scientists just do the numbers, but the locals mainly know what to expect, they’ve been here for many years. We need to be able to back burn more often but there’s a lot of red tape with that. Some places haven’t been burnt for 50 or 60 years, that’s probably why it was so bad.

“We need more resources and a lot more access to gear. We have our protective gear but we don’t necessarily get given new ones if they’re wrecked. You have to go down to the headquarters to sign paperwork. We should at least have two sets of boots or two sets of uniforms in case something happens.

Rita

Rita, Elisa’s mother, has lived in the Balmoral area for almost nine years. “Six years ago, in 2013 we had a fire but it was nothing like this. So the warning signs were there from 2013 but RFS head office took no notice. They used a simulation to predict what was going to happen and said it’s not going to go through Balmoral.

Rita explained that “Brendon O’Connor, the fire captain, opposed the head office’s view, spoke up and basically went against protocol. He called an urgent meeting on the Tuesday afternoon before the fires. We went up to the station and he was sitting on the chair, hand on his head—a heavy burden on his shoulders. I asked ‘What can I do?’ and he said, ‘Tell people, get out and tell people’ so I went up the road and told people what was going on and that there was a fire coming.”

Referring to the government and media response, Rita said: “The media reporting is just terrible. The premier said this place had been wiped out and they just reported it. We’re the only town that doesn’t have a water supply and we ran out of water in this humongous firestorm. How can you not think about conspiracy?

“Why did Gladys Berejiklian reduce the fire budget? Why did she say Balmoral was wiped out, when she didn’t even come?”

Australian bushfire disaster survivor interviewed


Suzanne Davies, bushfire survivor in East Gippsland, Australia

By Margaret Rees in Australia:

Australia: Victim of East Gippsland bushfire voices anger over government negligence

10 January 2020

Over the past months, broad swathes of Australia have been hit by bushfires unprecedented in their duration and intensity. Millions of hectares have been destroyed, 25 lives have been lost and over 2,130 homes destroyed.

The crisis has highlighted the refusal of successive governments at every level to heed warnings by experts that fire seasons will continue to worsen. It has underscored the failure of the entire political establishment to take any action on climate change, which is a contributing factor to the blazes, and the dire consequences of the gutting of essential services.

The devastation has demonstrated the immense growth of social inequality and the chasm between big business politicians … and millions of ordinary people.

East Gippsland, in regional Victoria, has been among the hardest-hit parts of the country.

Mallacoota, a seaside town in the area, was surrounded by fires on all sides last month, trapping thousands. Scenes of hundreds of residents sheltering on the town’s main beach shocked people around the world. After weeks of being unable to leave, most of Mallacoota’s population was evacuated by naval ships and aircraft over the New Year period.

This week the WSWS spoke with Suzanne Davies, who lives with her husband at the Point Hicks lighthouse in the greater East Gippsland region.

Davies, who lives with her husband at the Point Hicks lighthouse in the greater East Gippsland region. The lighthouse is and about 95 kilometres from Mallacoota and adjacent to Croajingalong National Park, famous for its diverse wildlife.

Three-hundred-and-forty holidaymakers were staying at Point Hicks when a fire warning was issued on December 30, calling for residents to immediately evacuate. The only departure route is a poorly maintained dirt road that spans 45 kilometres to Cann River.

The Davies had to ensure that all those staying at the site, including campers in the sand dunes, left in time. After the road was cut off by fire, the Davies were rescued by helicopter.

Suzanne explained: “With the fire between Point Hicks and Mallacoota, in the morning they were shutting down all the national parks in East Gippsland, but we were told we would be fine. But twenty minutes before 5pm, I was told that I had to evacuate over 340 people, whether in the accommodation at the light station or in camps. The fire wasn’t impacting then, but there was a potential.

“So we had to tell everyone—most of whom had only arrived the day before—that they had to leave. We had people who were upset, some who were angry and others who were refusing to go. We had to be very calm and advise them. They did all go, and we stayed that night in the head light-keeper’s home.

“The next morning, at about 4 a.m., my husband woke me. Usually one of us gets up at 5.30 a.m. to monitor the weather for the government bureau. He told me to look towards Mallacoota along the ocean. Even though we were in the dark, we said: ‘Oh my god, we’re in trouble, and so is Mallacoota.’

“They choppered us out to Orbost. I couldn’t get back to Buchan, the community that I am from. I’ve done a lot of recovery following fires over the years, but nothing as big as this one. This is our whole country, New South Wales, everywhere. It was lucky we got all those people out. After the fire came, the access bridge was just twisted metal. There was no way out. The light station hasn’t been affected, but all the animals have been.

“We got to Lakes Entrance, where we have two grown-up children. Then we had to evacuate from Lakes Entrance. My husband stayed. The others came in a convoy, we’ve all come down to the Mornington Peninsula. I have to go back to Buchan.

Remains of house in Holloways Road, Buchan South

“But there were no communications. No landline, no mobile phones, no internet. So I have been here, writing offers of support. When I go back, I’ll be coordinating some of that.

“Everywhere that I’ve gone, they ask me how I am. Everywhere that I’ve gone, everyone—men, women, young people and the elderly—all say: ‘This government has to go.’

“The timber industry blames the greenies. We greenies—people who want this planet and the environment for our children, and our grandchildren and beyond—they can call us whatever they like.

“This fire has shown that it has come to a tipping point. Now people are starting to realise about Rupert Murdoch’s papers and all those Liberal-National Party idiots for coal.”

Suzanne has been a community worker in Buchan, a small town in the forest, 285 kilometres from Melbourne, since the catastrophic fires there in 2003.

“We had no communication in 2003 except landline, so we could have phone trees out to the areas. It played with everybody’s psyche in 2003 in Buchan. The recovery process was very protracted. Some people are still having counselling from 2003. This time will be way more protracted.

“One man, Mick Roberts, perished when the recent fires swept through Buchan. Two friends were helping him paint his house. They left for the river, but Mick went back for something from the shed. There was a pyrocumulonimbus cloud—like an atom bomb—the fires create their own weather. That cloud collapsed and then rained fire down on everything. People don’t stand a chance.”

WSWS reporters noted that the 2003 fires were a warning of what was to come, which went unheeded by the authorities.

Davis replied: “I reckon that’s true. In 2003, I had Country Fire Authority incident control teams from Queensland and South Australia here. They said: ‘We have never seen fires like that.’ We then had fires in 2006, 2007 and 2009.

“And the ex-fire chiefs wanted to meet with [Prime Minister] Scott Morrison earlier this year but he didn’t have time! Instead he flew to Rupert Murdoch’s party and then went to Hawaii!

“The scientists have been telling us for 35 years of the risks. We could have been the leading country for renewables. Every country has to step up. There have to be some leading countries. The US and Australia should be. The way the politics are—it is impacting totally on this climate crisis. It is all the multinationals, big business, money and greed.”

The WSWS commented that despite power lines being a leading cause of fire ignition, in most areas no attempt has been made to move them underground.

Davies commented: “My father was a local electrician in the Dandenong Ranges before the SEC [State Electricity Commission] was privatised. After the 1968 fires there, that’s when dad started to think about it.

“He went to the SEC and asked them to put all the lines underground. They didn’t listen. They never listen. He said: ‘This will cost money, but it won’t cost money in the end.’ My dad was bloody well right. I don’t usually swear but I’m angry.

“People are really hurting—communities, forests, wildlife, and water. Our country is in crisis. The trauma and the stress. In Mallacoota 5,000 people stranded on the beach. We might be able to get this government out. …

Intense smoke haze

“What gets me about the Murdoch press, the Liberals and the Nationals is that they try and instill fear in people about ‘overseas threats’. The amount of money they spend on submarines and fighter planes, and Scomo’s personal plane that costs $250 million. That is taxpayers’ money, it should be spent on internal water bombers and resources. We have an internal threat, we don’t have an external threat.”

XR activists target Australia’s London embassy demanding urgent action on the climate crisis: here.

The catastrophic fires that have engulfed large areas of Australia starkly demonstrate the failure of capitalism and its political servants at every level of government. The indifference and complacency of political leaders, towards the disaster affecting ordinary working people, is a lesson that will not be forgotten. The political establishment defends a social order in which every aspect of life is subordinated to corporate profit and the interests of a wealthy elite, regardless of the consequences: here.

In November of last year, the wildfire that started in California, U.S.A burned areas that amount about the size of Seoul and destructed over 500 buildings for two weeks. In 2018, six fires started simultaneously in southern California and spread out to the neighboring areas, burning total of 405 km2 with 86 fatalities and 200,000 victims for three days. Also, large-scale wildfires often occur in the northern inland of Russia. The forest fire occurred in July 2018 burned the total area of 3,211 km2 which is 5.3 times bigger than the city of Seoul and, the wildfire, in May 2019, started to spread out and burned down even greater land. So far, extensive wildfires such as the mentioned events are believed to be mostly caused by dry wind, however, the recent study explains that global warming is the kindling that starts such fires: here.

Australians demonstrate against bushfire prime minister


Anti-climate change demonstrators in Australia, EPA photo

This photo shows anti-climate change demonstrators in Sydney, Australia. The banner on the left says that right-wing Prime Minister Scott Morrison was bad at science at school.

Translated from Dutch NOS radio today:

Climate protests in Australia under the smoke of blazing forest fires

In Australian cities, tens of thousands of protesters have taken to the streets to demand that the government do more against climate change. They are particularly opposed to Liberal Party Prime Minister Scott Morrison, simply called ScoMo, who at the most reluctantly recognizes that there is a possible link between climate change and the devastating forest fires in the country.

An area of ​​100,000 square kilometers (about 2.5 times the Netherlands) has since been destroyed by the fires. There are 158 fires in the state of New South Wales, 39 of which are not yet under control. Nearly 2000 homes in New South Wales have gone up in flames.

There are 21 fires in the state of Victoria, which are currently more threatening than those in New South Wales. In Victoria, 240,000 people have been ordered to flee from the fire.

“Sack ScoMo”

The biggest climate protest today was in Sydney, where about 30,000 people took to the streets. In other cities, such as Melbourne, Canberra and Brisbane, thousands of demonstrators took part in the Sack ScoMo protest.

“The world is on fire and the future is at stake because our worthless Prime Minister does not know how to solve the problems,” a young woman in Sydney told reporter Roel Pauw. An older woman said: “We have drought, we have forest fires and our coral is dying. We have not done anything for thirty years. You must first accept that climate change is a fact and that action should be taken.”

“You don’t get that concern about the future out of your mind, especially if you have someone like this on your shoulders,” said a young father pointing to his little son.

The protesters chanted slogans such as Our future is burning and The liar from the shire, the country is on fire. By ‘the shire’ the demonstrators mean Sutherland Shire, the part of Sydney where Prime Minister Morrison comes from. Among other things, they blame him for the Australian government’s refusal to tackle CO2 emissions from the coal industry.

The demonstrators in Melbourne wore umbrellas because of the pouring rain. The wet weather is good news for fighting forest fires, but it is not raining everywhere.

“Even with this rain in Melbourne, we still have a long way to go to fight these unprecedented fires,” state prime minister Andrews of Victoria said in a television speech. “The coming hours will be very, very challenging. And we know that the forest fire season will last for many weeks.”

This 8 January 2019 video is called Australia’s wildlife decimated by wildfires.

‘Australian climate-denialist government kills a billion animals’


This 6 January 2020 video says about itself:

Australia bush fires have affected over 1 billion animals, pushing many toward extinction

Australia’s iconic wild animals are being caught up in the nation’s months-long bush fire crisis, with many species now in danger of extinction. The South China Morning Post spoke with Christopher Dickman, an ecology professor at the University of Sydney, who estimates that more than 1 billion animals have been affected by the widespread fires.

Translated from Roel Pauw of Dutch NOS radio today:

“More than a billion animals will not survive forest fires in Australia

Very carefully vet Jasmin Hunter and her assistants remove the bandage from the legs of a kangaroo. He is lying on a mattress with a towel over his head and is slightly numb. All forms of stress must be avoided. Whether he will make it is still uncertain.

“More than a billion animals will not survive the forest fires in Australia,” said Chris Dickman, professor of ecology at the University of Sydney. That number is actually many times greater because, eg, about frogs and bats we do not know how many occurred in the affected areas. They are therefore not included in the estimates. Just as little as fish, insects and other invertebrates.

Many animals die in the flames, or because of heat stress, and more thousands animals of will die in the coming weeks and months due to lack of food, because their habitat has also been lost. And according to Dickman, the decline will continue for years because, for example, old trees with possible nest cavities have been burned or fallen.

The ecologist fears that this catastrophe could mean the end for a number of rare animals with a small range. The long-footed potoroo, a small marsupial, is an example of this.

Scorched forests

There are animals that have just managed to get to safety, but are injured. That is why Wires (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service) volunteers drive into the scorched forests of Southwest Australia every day to look for them. According to Christie Jarrett, everything comes in such as birds, kangaroos, wallabies, snakes and squirrels.

Animals with damaged lungs, due to the inhalation of smoke and hot air, have been put to death and are given a syringe to put them to sleep. Animals with burn wounds are treated with great care. Complicated cases and animals classified as endangered go to one of the sites of the Taronga Zoo.

Uncertain whether an animal will survive

“In principle, every animal goes back to where it was found,” says Jarrett. “Sometimes that means that we have to feed it until nature has recovered. But that is not possible with all animals either. That does not work with koalas, for example. So it remains uncertainwhether an animal will ultimately survive, no matter how much time and energy we have there. have put in. ”

“Twenty years ago, scientists warned about this type of large, uncontrollable forest fire,” says Professor Dickman. “For twenty years all our advice has been ignored by politicians. I hope that after this disaster we will be invited again to talk about the policy.”

For Christie Jarrett, it starts with everyone acknowledging that climate change is a fact and that people need to change their behavior. “We need to protect those animals much better, because without them we wouldn’t be there in the end.”

This 6 January 2020 video says about itself:

Paul the koala makes miraculous recovery after rescue from Australian bushfire l GMA Digital

Paul was found burnt and barely alive in the ashes — but look at him now!

HOW TO HELP SUPPORT THE AUSTRALIAN WILDFIRES RELIEF EFFORT: here.

From daily The Morning Star in Britain:

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Australian climate activists vow to press on with protests in defiance of ‘government’s criminal negligence

AUSTRALIAN climate activists have vowed to defy politicians by pressing ahead with protests targeting Prime Minister Scott Morrison over wildfires that have ravaged large swathes of the country.

Victoria state Emergency Services Minister Lisa Neville described the demonstrations, set to take place in nine cities as “selfish and reckless,” with today expected to be a high fire danger day. …

But critics have accused the authorities of hypocrisy after the New South Wales state administration refused to cancel a huge New Year’s Eve firework display in Sydney.

Many of today’s protests have been organised under the slogan Sack Scomo – short for Scott Morrison – reflecting widespread anger at his handling of the fires.

“We’re protesting this Friday because we’re outraged about our government’s criminal negligence about the bushfire crisis, exacerbated by climate change,” said one group on Facebook.

“We are protesting to give a voice to the tens of thousands of people who want real action on climate change and real funding for relief services.”

They are organising around five key demands and calling on supporters to donate to fire relief efforts.

At least 27 people are known to have died in the fires and thousands have lost their homes. Millions of animals have also been killed.

This 8 January 2020 video from Australia says about itself:

AUSTRALIAN BUSHFIRE EMERGENCY: We are STILL on FIRE / Yasmin Scott

Didn’t feel like doing a video today. But the heartache of the destruction of what is STILL happening & we have been screaming & begging about climate change for YEARS I made this video.

AUSTRALIA ARSON MISINFORMATION UNDERMINES CLIMATE LINK Multiple Australian state police agencies have found limited evidence to suggest the major destructive wildfires in their states were ignited by arsonists, contradicting the international onslaught of misinformation suggesting otherwise. [HuffPost]

Lack of action on climate change leads to warmest decade ever recorded: here.

Australian bushfire survivors interviewed


This 9 January 2019 video says about itself:

Australian Wildfires Prove Denying Climate Change Won’t Save You From It

Climate scientist Michael Mann is in Australia, where the bushfire crisis is unfolding in real time. He says voters there need to look for ‘climate hawks‘ who can counteract the climate-denying policies of politicians like current prime minister Scott Morrison.

From the World Socialist Web Site in Australia:

Australian bushfire victims speak-out: “What is our government doing at the moment?”

By our reporters

9 January 2020

A WSWS reporting team recently spoke with residents from Balmoral, a village some 100 kilometres from Sydney, which is among the many communities ravaged by the intense bushfires of the past four months.

Balmoral has a population of just over 400 people and is southwest of Sydney, in the Southern Highlands region of New South Wales. Between December 19 and December 21, the village was repeatedly hit by fires, resulting in the destruction of 22 houses, or 15 percent of all homes in the community. The area also suffered a widespread power outage.

The defence of the community depended almost exclusively on volunteer firefighters, with little or no assistance from state or federal authorities.

In April last year, Prime Minister Scott Morrison refused to hold a meeting with former fire chiefs who insisted that the states were not adequately prepared for the coming fire season and warned that the potential destruction could surpass previous years.

Morrison’s indifference is indicative of the attitude of the entire political establishment, including the opposition Labor Party. Successive federal and state Labor and Liberal-National governments have refused to adequately fund fire-fighting forces or carry out any measures to reduce global warming that may impinge on the profits of the major corporations. As a result, the Rural Fire Service in NSW lacks necessary resources and equipment.

Remains of a Balmoral home

The contrast between the responses of the government and that of ordinary people could not be starker. Workers and volunteers in Balmoral and around the country have courageously sought to defend the homes and lives of those around them. Many have taken weeks off from work, using up their sick leave and holidays to fight the fires. Volunteers have to purchase their own equipment if they want items such as proper fitting gas masks and portable radios.

Balmoral does not have a connection to the state water supply and relies on tanks and private reserves for water. So intense were the fires that the village ran out of water on December 21 and tanks were brought in from other towns to assist, but they quickly ran out as well. The experiences in Balmoral are a microcosm of the conditions facing communities across the country as a result of the current bushfires.

Balmoral Fire Captain Brendan O'Connor

Brendan O’Connor is the Balmoral fire captain and works for the local council. He has taken at least four weeks off from work to fight the fires and called a meeting to warn residents of the fire danger and organise for people to evacuate.

O’Connor commented on the lack of payments for volunteers, stating: “There’s got to be something new. There’s thousands of firefighters on the ground every day and their businesses are suffering. I was supposed to be going to my niece’s wedding in Queensland in April but I don’t have holidays to do that now. It’s hard because we all want to do what we can, not only for our local community but for the greater community.”

The impact of the fires, he continued, “is a drain on every part of the nation, not only NSW, but we’re thinking, what is our government doing at the moment? The recovery is hard. Everything we have known and loved, most of it’s been turned upside down. About 90 percent of our bushland has gone now.”

Sydney Children's Choir

As WSWS reporters were speaking to residents, a group of school students from the Sydney Children’s Choir gave a performance at the Balmoral fire station to raise money for one of their members and his family whose house had been incinerated. The children have raised almost $10,000 for the family, who are not insured.

Residents described how they have received multiple donations of food and water, including from a Lebanese community in Sydney who drove down to Balmoral with supplies.

Donations for fire victims in the Balmoral Fire Station

Rosemary also lost her house and everything in it on December 21. She praised the firefighters and denounced the lack of resources provided to them by the government.

“The volunteers are supposed to have the most modern masks and gear and they don’t! It’s very frustrating. The prime minister said, the volunteers ‘want to be there’. These people want to save their community, that’s why they are here. That is no justification for them not being properly resourced and certainly no justification for us not to pay them,” she said. “Where in the world does this happen like it happens in Australia? We seem to take the volunteers for granted?

“They were even told to stand down and to leave the village but they wouldn’t go. In the end, other firefighters were stopped from coming in because the risk was too high. Later that night, when they finally did get through, I saw them speaking to Brendan, the captain, and crying because they tried to get here, and they couldn’t in time. It is very traumatic for lots of people.”

Rosemary

Referring to the 2009 Victorian bushfires that claimed 173 lives and destroyed over 2,000 homes, Rosemary said, “Did we learn anything from what happened in Melbourne? If they made recommendations it shouldn’t be for just one state, it’s a national issue.

“If the premier declared a state of emergency, why doesn’t she pull out all stops? We’ve seen a few suits come down to the station over the last week but they didn’t go and talk to anyone, they were just there for the camera. Politicians talk about fire plans and we are all supposed to have them but I’m not too sure that they had a very good fire plan. They didn’t plan for the worst-case scenario for this village. They just did the bare minimum.”

Rosemary and other residents were forced to take shelter in the local fire station. “The firie [firefighter] who had told me that they couldn’t save my house was standing there [in the station]… They walked me across the road and I saw my house burning down. And with what little water they had left they were trying to save the two houses on either side of mine. They [the authorities] didn’t even take into account that the village runs on tank water.

“The scariest part was being told to get some towels, wet them down and start covering the edges. I was telling myself ‘this isn’t good.’ Then the smoke started to come in and you looked up at the windows and it was just red. We could hear the fire and felt it and saw it coming towards the station. I’ve never felt so claustrophobic in my life.

“The generator went out, which not only operated the lights but also the sprinkler system on the roof. I heard that we had to be water bombed. It may well not have burnt down but I don’t know how well we would have survived with the smoke and the heat.”

Paul, a Balmoral resident, school principal and veteran firefighter who volunteered during the 2001 and 2013 fires said, “Nothing compares to what we saw. We were attacked by fire from every direction possible. It was determined to get us.”

“My plan was to stay at all costs. I had a sprinkler system on the house, I have a fire pump, and I had done preparation around the house. That would have worked if it was a normal bushfire but the conditions we had on Saturday were just unbelievable. I dread to think how high the flames were.

“At that point I thought this is not defendable so I went to plan B and jumped off the veranda, put the sprinkler system on, and ran up to the Landcruiser. As I drove up both sides of my driveway were on fire and that was within 20 seconds of the fire coming out of the gully.

“When you think about 140 houses and two trucks, the resources just aren’t there. I saw footage of choppers waiting their turn to drop their bucket into a dam and fill it up. On that Saturday afternoon, we ran out of water. There wasn’t enough to fight the fires.”

Paul

Paul, 51, described the frustration of many residents over the authorities’ failure to mitigate the effects of bushfires. “The fuel load in the bush was nearly knee-high so when you get really hot days and there’s a fire you can’t stop it. There’s only one way you can get rid of that fuel, you’ve got to burn, there’s absolutely no choice in that.

“I know people have been trying to burn for years, they have been approaching the local fire brigade, but they have to go further up the food chain, so in the end it’s bureaucracy and red tape preventing it happening.

“I’m disgusted with it. I’ve come this close to losing everything. I’ve lived in the surrounding district all my life and they always back burn. Every year the firies have their set routines but that doesn’t happen anymore. The last time would have been 10 years ago in Tahmoor…

“It’s a whole host of events all rolled into one creating catastrophic conditions, climate change, global warming, whatever they want to call it. We’ve been through tough times before but nothing like this. The size of fires is unprecedented. All the resources are stretched to breaking point.”