“We think most of the animals were incinerated – it’s like a cremation, […] They have been burnt to ashes in the trees.”
Sue Ashton, President, Koala Conservation Australia.
That line jumped out at me as I scrolled through today’s news. For a while now, most of New South Wales, Australia, has been burning. As of early morning today, a million hectares of land has burnt down, a number greater than the previous three years of bushfires combined. And it’s only spring. Bushfire season is only beginning in this part of the world, and even before its proper entrance, greedy fires are lapping their way into people’s homes and lives.
Yet, somehow as I read multiple articles mentioning three deaths and over a 150 destroyed homes so far, it didn’t hit me as hard as the incinerated koala bears. Though I haven’t lived through many global disasters, I have seen and heard of enough violence and terrorism to develop a mild numbness to human deaths. To me, it always felt like one group of humankind is always paying for the mindless blunders of another.
This time, however, it wasn’t just the humans. This time, for the first time in a long time, vulnerable nature is suffering from its own wrath. That article put it well too. The precise choice of words got me unawares, gripping my throat, crushing, pulling the air out of it in such a slow motion that I wished it would hurry up and get it over with. The casualness of that word threw me off balance. It made me breathe in so sharply that my eyes teared up from the pressure and the pain that shot all the way through my body.
Words are powerful. Saying that over 300 harmless, helpless, animals were crisped while they clung to their homes, paints a picture so vivid that readers would relive the moment again and again. It was strong, writing. As a writer of things myself, I admire the gallantry of whoever wrote that speech.
As a reader, listener, it triggered me. It’s made me abhor the world we live in. Although my mind accepts the direness that’s become the new normal in the state, my heart still clenches to think that at this rate, koala bears could be extinct in 30 years.
It’s scary to imagine a species that I’ve admired, photographed, and smiled at, would die out right in front of my eyes, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.
The state government has declared emergency for the first time since 2013. According to meteorological forecasts, tomorrow (Tuesday) will cause more damage than we’ve seen so far. Greater Sydney, NSW, and parts of Queensland are expecting extreme bushfires—in addition to the 60 that’re still uncontained. Over 500 schools will be closed. Millions are evacuating to safer areas. High temperatures, low humidity, ghastly winds, and catastrophe await the state as it spends another sleepless night.
And someone said the climate’s fine.