Hi, I’m Elena! I’ve wanted to be an author since I was 5 years old. I'm a Best Peer Review winner! You can usually find me writing, doing homework, or procrastinating.

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Australia is burning, but we're adding more fuel to the fire

February 17, 2020

These summer holidays, my family headed down to the beach, hoping to enjoy a relaxing break from school and work. But the sky was choked with smoke and everything glowed an eerie orange. The harmful air quality confined us to the house.

We were some of the lucky ones.

Throughout this bushfire season, which commenced in June 2019, fires raged all across Australia. They destroyed almost 6,000 buildings, covering an estimated area of over 18 million hectares. There were 34 deaths from the fires, and countless lives were ruined. Not only was the impact of the fires felt environmentally and emotionally, but they caused huge economic damage, too. According to The Guardian, the cost of recovering from the 2019-2020 fires is expected to exceed $4.4 billion dollars. Australia's tourism industry has also suffered, with the bushfire crisis costing it over $1 billion in lost revenue.

Frequently, this fire season was described as "unprecedented". These fires are indeed far more extreme than any we have previously experienced. However, they were not unexpected. We were warned that, as a consequence of climate change, Australia's bushfire season would "start earlier, end later, and be more intense", according to a study by economist Ross Garnaut. This independent study, conducted in 2008 - twelve years ago - found that "this effect would be directly observable by 2020". That's exactly what's happened.

But my country's leaders blatantly ignored this. Despite scientists' predictions, they continued to behave as if nothing was wrong - in fact, they even funded new fossil fuel projects that directly contribute to global warming and the increasing severity of these fires, such as allowing Adani's Carmichael coal mine to be built. This sparked enormous public backlash, with adults, teens, and children all around the country demanding that they #StopAdani. But their pleas fell on deaf ears, and the devastatingly damaging project was allowed to commence. This lack of climate leadership was shown yet again when Australia's Prime Minister Scott Morrison avoided meetings with firefighters who were desperate for funding and support, instead choosing to go on holiday in Hawaii.

All this time, fires raged across the country, destroying lives, wiping out the precious habitat of Australia's native wildlife, killing over 1 billion animals, and blanketing entire cities in thick, harmful smoke. Communities around Australia and around the globe rallied together, donating over $500 million to help rebuild the lives of those affected by these fires. This support is inspiring, but no amount of money will save those 34 people, or those 1 billion animals. It can't change the fact that climate change is happening now, with deadly results.

This fire season was unprecedented. But in the years to come, they will only get worse. 

If we don't act now, if we continue to ignore the fact that our planet is dying and instead allow ourselves to be driven by greed and selfishness, the consequences will be catastrophic. Australia's bushfires are only one example of the deadly reality of climate change, and if we don't change our lifestyles, we will quickly find that more and more places on our planet are becoming uninhabitable, thanks to other effects of climate change such as sea level rise and the increased likelihood and severity of other natural disasters. Thankfully, there are many simple ways that you can help live a more sustainable lifestyle, and do your part to help reduce the severity of global warming. You could choose to eat less meat, buy local produce, and walk or cycle for short distances rather than drive. Or you could choose to do something bigger, such as installing solar panels or ensuring that your electricity comes from clean sources, avoiding plane flights, or purchasing an electric car. There are countless ways that we as individuals can reduce our environmental impact, and each action adds up. But as these bushfires have mercilessly demonstrated, we're running out of time.

This fire season, 34 people were killed, 5900 homes were destroyed, 1 billion animals perished, and 18 million hectares of land burned. How much more will we have to lose before we realise our mistakes, and make a change?

Baker, N. (6 January 2020). How a climate change study from 12 years ago warned of this horror bushfire season. Retrieved 9 February 2020, from 

Butler, B. (8 January 2020). Economic impact of Australia's set to exceed $4.4bn cost of Black Saturday. Retrieved 9 February 2020, from

Kelly, L. (16 January 2020). Australian tourism industry seeks urgent help as cost of bushfires grows. Retrieved 9 February 2020, from

Remeikis, A. (21 December 2020). Scott Morrison's Hawaii horror show: how a PR disaster unfolded. Retrieved 9 Febraury 2020, from 

Cox, L. (17 December 2020). 'Hugely disappointed' emergency chiefs to hold bushfire summit with or without PM. Retrieved 9 February 2020, from


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