Australia’s bushfire crisis, (and why I changed my mind about donating some books)

Lisa gives good advice to those seeking to ‘do something’. Thank you.

ANZ LitLovers LitBlog

In the middle of Australia’s bushfire crisis, I wanted to do something to help.

I had this really dumb idea.  I had heard that amongst the evacuees on the beach at Mallacoota since New Year’s Day, there was a mixture of terror and boredom.  They were stuck there with nothing to do….

Some of them, I thought, must be readers.  And I have two boxes of books ready to go to the OpShop.  Maybe?

But no. The scale of the disaster is beyond comprehension: immediate relief, reconstruction and recovery is going to cost billions, but well-meaning but mis-directed donations of goods are causing real problems.  Trucks and cars bearing stuff that is not going to get used are clogging roads that need to be clear for emergency vehicles, and a lot of that stuff will end up in landfill.  The government and bushfire relief charities are asking us to donate…

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Australia burning…

I have been overwhelmed this past week.  Anxiety for friends and family living in the areas where bushfires  continue to be active, discomfort caused by the continued smoke haze that has been part of life for weeks.

And now?  The fires continue to burn (sustained rain is needed to put them out, the gallant firefighters can only hope to contain, to try to save life and property).  In the meantime, there is a growing humanitarian crisis as some of the people living in the most affected areas are stranded. Lives have been lost, homes destroyed.

And all around, there are people looking to find someone to blame.

I’m not going down the blame path: I’d rather focus on what we need to do now.  Later, when people are safe and fires are extinguished, when we can focus beyond immediate need and response, that’s when we need to look at what needs to be done differently in the future.

In the meantime, there are lots of practical and positive things people are doing to help each other, their communities and affected wildlife.  I know of  some: here in Canberra, there’s a group ensuring that water containers are out (and kept filled) for wildlife, there are groups in Queensland and New South Wales as well.  People are donating time, money and places to stay.

In such crises we see the best and worst of human behaviour.  The worst?  The opportunistic looters and scammers, those who deliberately light fires.  The best?  The rural fire fighters and those who support them (including radio operators, people preparing food), the emergency response people, the armed forces personnel who have been helping for months, the firefighters from overseas.

We have months of bushfire season to go.  Somehow,  just saying ‘Thank You‘ to those trying to keep us safe seems inadequate.

But I will say thank you, and I will look at what I can try to do to help. No photographs, though, it is all too painful.