One of the most peaceful trips I ever took was the one to the Australian Outback. Uluru loomed large in my mind ever since I saw pictures of it in an encyclopedia as a child, and seeing it in front of me reminded me of how delicate our planet is sometimes–how it is a force beyond our reckoning and yet so pliable to our wants as humans.

Bushfires aren’t always a bad thing. Just like other ecosystems, sometimes there needs to be death before there can be growth. Sometimes, this death has been caused by humans (like the fires started by the Aboriginal people over thousands of years) and other times, by natural occurrences. The world is always in flux–adaptation is needed in order to survive.

australian bushfires
Photo by Manuel Meurisse.

However, the devastation occurring at this moment from the fires in Australia is more than just the planet trying to find a natural balance. With more than 75 percent of the country reporting worse fire conditions this year and people losing their homes, this is more than just the world righting itself after a few changes in temperature. We are creating a planet that is more difficult to live on day by day.

The entire continent has been affected with temperatures increasing up to 34 degrees fahrenheit higher than average. Rainfall has decreased dramatically in several areas of Australia, and as these changes become more intense every year, it is almost impossible not to feel hopeless about our earth and its future. What could one hundred people do? What could a single individual do?

Awareness is the first step to understanding these changes and how they affect environments and living things within them. Animals and the environment are suffering the most, with 1.5 billion living things dying and unable to understand what is going on. We are losing people too–26 at the writing of this article (and hopefully no one more). 

Once we are able to understand why this is happening, we can make steps toward preventing more devastation. Australia has been one of the areas most affected by climate change, and where it is located on the planet traps carbon emissions more than other places might. This is one of the reasons why it is on fire, as well as other forms of environmental strife.

So what can we do to help? Whether we choose to knit new pouches for baby kangaroos or we donate our time and money to organizations that are working to find solutions, we are doing something. It might not seem like a lot, and the overwhelming horror of the death and destruction the fires have left behind might seem larger than anything we can possibly do, but small actions are sometimes the most effective. They’re the ones that need to be completed first before we can move onto bigger issues.

It also invites a larger conversation about how we approach our relationship with our planet on a global scale. We need to make these fires the forefront of our issues. We need to do more than throw our hands up in despair when we see our world on fire around us. Whether this is through politics, amongst family and friends, or on social media, it’s up to us to help when it is needed and to take these concerns globally.

australian busfires
Photo by Daniel Sessler.

One of the reasons I found the Outback so peaceful was it is inherently tied to our primal relationship with nature. There is something very profound about the red dirt covering the ground, the sky going on seemingly forever. For me, knowing a place I felt most connected with the earth was experiencing has been difficult, and I can only imagine what it must feel like for those who call it home. Australia is a place unlike any other and we must do what we can to help it remain that way.

While I stood out underneath the stars of the Southern Hemisphere, Uluru looming in the darkness, I was reminded of a quote from Bruce Chatwin’s “The Songlines” about his time experiencing the continent of Australia and its emotional power:

“Life is a bridge. Cross over it, but build no house on it.”

It’s time for us all to cross over and demolish our houses if we care about our home.

If you would like to assist those dealing with the consequences of the Australian bushfires, you can donate and find out more at these organizations:

Header photo by Ondrej Machart.