At the dawn of the new decade, the world woke up to find that the lush Australian forests had turned victim to wildfires. Tragic images of red smoke, burning shrubbery and charred trees quickly found their way to the internet, painting a grim picture of the very real threat that climate change poses. Southeastern Australia is among the worst-hit areas, with Victoria recording 800,000 hectares that have been burnt by the bushfires since last November. Unfortunately, California was next in line with a reported 3.5 million hectares burned to the ground this year. In the face of a catastrophic calamity, how can you help be a part of the solution? To fully comprehend the extent of the problem, it is essential to first understand its roots.
What causes wildfires?
Wildfires are defined as an uncontrolled fire that burns through acres of vegetation, causing immense damage to the ecosystems of grasslands and quickly spreads from one patch of the forest to the other, leaving charred vegetation in its wake. The causes of wildfire are multiple and varied, both human and natural.
Among other natural catalysts, lightning bolts are the primary cause of forest fires, which is further accelerated by the dry, arid weather and strong winds that enable the weather to spread more quickly from one area. Meanwhile, in the US, it has been observed that 85% of forest fires are caused by humans. When campfires are left unattended, strong winds can cause the ignition to spark a forest fire in wildlands. The burning of debris, as well as discarded cigarette butts, can also serve as a potential catalyst for forest fires.
Places like Australia and California have a designated fire season when forest fires are expected. Due to the dry heat and lack of rain, the period from April to September witnesses higher frequency of fires. However, it has been recorded that every consecutive year, the fires last longer and leave more devastation in its wake.
How you can help prevent the next big wildfire
As the green cover of the earth finds itself increasingly under threat, it is up to each and every one of us to take action. If you’re looking for ways to contribute, here are the constructive measures that can have a long-lasting impact:
In light of the devastation and widespread disruption of human life, the first step begins by donating to a charity of your choice. As the wildfires spread through massive swathes of land this year, people living in affected areas had to be evacuated to the coastline. Various non-profit organisations, such as The Red Cross and Save The Children, are working around the clock to provide food, critical supplies and health services to displaced residents.
Once you’ve made an immediate impact on those affected by wildfires, it is time to look at the bigger picture. It helps to educate yourself about the current policies to be able to actively lend your support to measures that can usher in long-lasting change. A federal firefighter has asked for six specific reforms that can help assure the safety and health of the frontline warriors. Supplement their efforts by lending your support to the petition. (Link: https://www.change.org/p/united-states-department-of-agriculture-usda-improve-wildland-firefighter-mental-health-and-lower-our-suicide-rates?recruiter=1138062264&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=tap_basic_share)
When camping in the woods, a couple of precautionary measures can also go a long way for preventing forest fires. This involves reporting unattended fires, effectively extinguishing campfires and fire pits, avoiding the use of fireworks and disposing of cigarette butts in a responsible manner.
With small steps, we can together build up the momentum and take larger strides to circumvent the devastation caused by wildfires to the environment as well as human life.