Earlier this year, when a federal politician was asked whether he believed that there were connections between climate change and the bush fires over the summer, he stated that he and his party were ‘agnostic about climate change’.
It was a summer of devastation: more than 18.6 million hectares of land burnt through; at least 34 people killed; displacement and traumatisation of many Australians living in rural areas; horrific impacts on ecosystems and wildlife. As research emerged that such widespread devastation could have been prevented in some ways, as general disenchantment prevailed with the government and its handling of the situation, Australians were ready to have these conversations so that the next summer wouldn’t be worse.
However, these headlines and discussions were overshadowed and then forgotten all together as the nation began gearing up to face the onslaught of the Coronavirus. All of our discussions, conversations and headlines suddenly centered around the pandemic; as it rightfully should. We have embarked on an incredibly uncertain and unprecedented crisis and it is incredibly necessary and important to remain informed of the latest developments.
As soon as we pass through these dark and uncertain times though, we need to have a discussion as a nation, about climate change, about the bushfires that plague our nation each summer. We need to have a conversation around renewable energy and the support we need during bushfire season. It is very antiquated to be ‘agnostic’ about climate change. We cannot let our leaders use the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to refrain from creating updated and sufficient climate policies.
The coronavirus cannot be an excuse for politicians to refrain from preparing for the next bushfire season.
The climate change issue has been historically divisive within Australian politics, to the point where we lost a prime minister because of energy policy debates. We need to learn from our actions during the pandemic, a time when politicians are calling for Australians to work together and stand as a united front against the virus.
And once this pandemic is over, we need to retain these lessons in order to stand as a united front in holding our politicians accountable for their decisions and climate change policies. Choosing to remain agnostic about climate change is just another way to say that one doesn’t care about the hectares of land, the millions of people, and the large number of wildlife that will be affected.
The coronavirus pandemic is a serious issue. Lives and livelihoods are affected, and the impacts on our nation will be long-lasting: psychologically and economically. But for a government that is so interested in the economy, it would seem natural that amidst this pandemic, they don’t ignore the upcoming bushfire season and its subsequent effects on the economy. Last summer, Australia was hit with at least $4.4 billion worth of repercussion from the bushfires. With the coronavirus pandemic, we are at the very edge of a cliff leading to economic depression. We literally cannot afford to remain agnostic about climate change; ethically or economically.
Last year, the first waves of the Australian bushfire season started in September. That is five months away from now. The Australian government is working very hard to save lives and livelihoods of Australians amongst this pandemic, but there are also other pressing matters at hand that need to be dealt with to prevent further devastation and even more detrimental social and economic effects.
Refusing to acknowledge climate change and its very severe repercussions on our lives is the most backwards, un-Australian thing one can do. On our coat of arms, there is an emu and a kangaroo because these animals cannot move backwards. The founders of our nation chose these animals to be on our coat of arms because they didn’t want Australia as nation to move backwards.