Vast swaths of Australia are burning with thousands of people under evacuation orders since fires began in November. A record summer fire season (Australia’s summer is December-February) has charred 15 million acres, destroyed 2,000 homes and killed at least 25 people. Fires are burning across the rest of the country in an area twice the size of the U.S. state of Maryland.
A three-year drought preceded the crisis, raising concerns about the effects of climate change. In addition, police have arrested and charged 24 people since early November for purposely started fires.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government was committing an extra 2 billion Australian dollars ($1.4 billion) toward the recovery effort in addition to the tens of millions of dollars that have already been promised. Morrison has been criticized for not acting swiftly enough to fend off the crisis. Australians in the coastal town of Cobargo blamed Morrison for ignoring them because they are lower-income and therefore have few resources, including firetrucks.
- Focus question: Why are wildfires so dangerous and destructive?
- What are the causes of Australia’s wildfires? Who is affected?
- What has the Australian government’s response been? What about the international community?
- Why are animals and plant life in grave danger during wildfires?
- Why would anyone purposely start a wildfire? What did the report say about climate change’s role in the fires? How could you learn more?
- Media literacy: Where else have you heard about Australia’s wildfires? Do you think the situation is getting the attention it deserves? Why or why not?