The Summer of Smoke

Unknown-3I’ve become increasingly fixated on water.  For someone who used to whinge when it rained because I would get my running shoes wet, I have a new respect for something  I’ve always taken for granted. Rain will come, the tap will produce water, day follows night. Right?

That is until I lived in a city ringed by smoke.  Until birds dropped out of the sky and died of dehydration.  Until the bodies of flying foxes littered the roads like discarded plastic bags, dead from dehydration.  Until the day I sat at work right next to a water fountain which was turned off because of maintenance, and listened to the irritation of gym goers who simply expected cold water to fall from the tap at the press of a button.  This on a day when we were told to stay indoors because the smoke from the bushfires raging across two states had made the air quality dangerous to health.  It suddenly occurred to me.  What if one day we opened a tap and nothing happened?”

As I write this, the brief respite we had over the weekend, when a sprinkling of rain gave everyone hope, has given way to hot, wild winds which whip the dry leaves around and re-invigorate the fires which have been blazing for weeks. I can’t even begin to imagine the scale of wildlife loss or what the survivors, human or animals, face with the environment blackened around them.  I can’t even imagine, how much water has been used fighting these fires which were started by the dearth of water in the first place.  I can’t imagine life without the koala, a likely scenario in my lifetime.

I think of the absurdity of teaching an aqua class with the smell of smoke all around us.  People exercising and going for coffee while 20km away others are losing their homes as our fragile ecosystem goes up in smoke. And 20kms is not far when the winds rage, as they do today.

For the first time in my life I have become afraid of the weather.  What usually happens “over there” is now happening “over here” and it’s frightening.  Despite this, and still, developers are carving up swathes of bushland for tourists who want to come to Australia to see koalas.  The irony seems to be lost on just about everybody.

We are a selfish, self-interested species. We don’t see the dead birds in the roads who have died of thirst while we complain in the gym that the tap has run dry.  We need to realise that we are but ONE part of a complex but vulnerable ecosystem that will not survive if stay on our current course.  If the ecosystem collapses so do we.

What can you do?

Reduce, recycle, recalibrate. Stop wanting so much. Donate to wildlife funds to help protect what we have before it’s too late. And if nothing else, help us save the koalas by donating here.