Social Media Shines Light On Australian Wildfires

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Photo from Wikicommons

In this picture, it shows the absolute destruction these devastating wildfires are doing to the wildlife in Australia.

Samantha Grunden, Opinions Editor

As the Australian wildfires rapidly spread so did the support on social media for those affected. The fires actually started in 2017, when extreme droughts were in Australia. The drought continued into 2018 and the fires began in the 2019 bushfire season. The recent coverage from celebrities and news outlets during the first days of January has called for a flood of sympathy on social media. Celebrities have been using Twitter frantically to publicize their donations and inspiring others to donate as well. Some celebrities have even spoken out in public at events and award shows. P!nk, a pop singer donated $500,000 along with her prayers and shared links to a few places for her fans to donate. Keith Urban, Chris Hemsworth and dozens of other celebrities have all made contributions and are using their platforms to spread awareness about these fires.

In the past, the drought increased the fire’s chances of spreading. By November 2019, the Eastern side of Australia was called into a state of emergency and engulfed in flames. Following this, United States firefighters were deployed to Australia to help in December 2019. Unfortunately, the fires produce enough smoke to create clouds that lead to thunderstorms, causing more fires ultimately. These fires are self-producing and spreading rapidly. As time passed the fires spread from the east to the southern part of Australia. People who didn’t evacuate early on are trapped in eastern parts of Australia, and at least 28 people have died due to the fires. It is predicted the fires are to continue for weeks to come. 

News coverage has shown tourists in Southern Australia had to evacuate their towns and campsites to nearby beaches for cover. Many boat owners evacuated to their boats altogether. The tourists describe the sky as orange or even red. A lot of Australia’s citizens are covered in ash and wearing face masks at all times to prevent smoke inhalation, as of early January, according to The New York Times. Over 2,000 homes have been destroyed and 15 million acres have burned. That is roughly about 14 million football fields in comparison. Many farming communities in Australia have also suffered due to the death of cattle, according to CNN. Some farmers losing all of their cattle, which means losing their financial income and personal resources.

Humans aren’t the only ones suffering, “a whopping one billion animals estimated to have perished across Australia”, The New York Times reported on January 11th. Many feeds on social media websites such as Tik Tok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook have been flooded with news updates and sad stories of Australia. A video of a Koala begging bikers for water has been covered by huge news outlets and gone viral across the globe. The defenseless are targeted by these fires because it is their natural environment. Social media has helped spread the word and sympathy to many people who didn’t even know what was happening. Scientists assume over half of the koala population has perished, leaving those who have survived to have burns and other injuries. Due to the lack of natural resources, large groups of camels have been invading towns in search of water. Over 10,000 camels had to be killed by the Australian government to prevent harm to children from these animals. 

However, there are ways to help. Our community especially has recently been interested in helping Australia considering the constant social media coverage. The West Springfield Senior Center’s sewing group is making mittens for the animals that have burns on their paws. Many volunteers in Australia suggest people to make mittens so they can put burn cream on hurt animals without the animals attempting to rub it off. On January 14th, a 22News article explained a local business in East Longmeadow is helping Australia. The business, named “Little Bins, Little Hands”, creates stimulating activities for children. The owner, Sarah McClelland, created an “Australian Animal Activity Pack” full of educating activities for kids to do, and 100% of the proceeds go to Australian wildlife. There are a lot of resources for common citizens to help. Save the Children is a foundation that is building safe play spaces for the kids of Australia and are accepting donations. To help the wildlife population you can donate to Port Macquarie Koala Hospital or even follow their social media page on Facebook to have updates on the relief efforts. There are hundreds of ways to help and with the involvement of social media, it’s easier than ever.