Horrific Australian Bush Fires, a way to help, and a chance at a t-shirt

"Have you been following what's happening in Australia?"

That was the question I asked my morning class, even though it has nothing to do with the topic of the day's session. I was very pleased to see most of the heads nod and the hands raise in answer to my question. My students knew that the Australian state of Victoria is being devastated by wildfires that have killed at least 181 people and untold numbers of livestock. The fires have turned to ruins whole towns, with people trapped and unable to flee in time. It's awful to contemplate, but there is strong reason to suspect that at least some of the fires were set intentionally - arson on the scale of mass murder. And the on-going drought and heat-wave (a plausible consequence of climate change) are exacerbating the situation. Temperatures in Victoria have been upwards of 45 degrees Celsius for over a week. (And Victoria is the southern, temperate, more humid part of the country). The Boston Globe has a series of incredible and awful pictures from the fire scorched areas.

As shown below, NASA has released some satellite imagery of the area, showing the regions burning and the massive extent of the smoke plume. (Click on the image for the full-sized version, a false color version, and the NASA description.)


But what can we do? We're a world away. Fortunately, we can do something - we can give to the Australian Red Cross, which is on the ground, helping victims of the disaster. And our good friends at Yellow Ibis really want to see that help gets to those who need it. They contacted Alice and I and asked us to host a fundraiser for the victims of the bushfires - they'll donate 2 of their Darwin t-shirts in a drawing open to anyone who donates to the Australian Red Cross between now and midnight Thursday (Feb 12 - Darwin Day). In order to be eligible for the drawing, all you need to do is go to the Australian Red Cross page, make a donation, and then email your receipt to "science (dot) woman (at) gmail (dot) com."

So please give as you can.

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Thanks again Sciencewomen! And the two winners will get to pick whichever style of Darwin Tree shirt they would like. :)

I know these are difficult economic times, but even a very small donation is helpful and appreciated by the Australian Red Cross. On top of the rising death toll, many of the survivors had little to no warning before having to run for their lives, and they will be needing ongoing support.

As an Australian I was interested to read this because I've been wondering what sort of coverage the fires are getting internationally.

I know that the Ash Wednesday fires in the early eighties received significant coverage around the world. We lived in Britain at the time, and I'm told (I was five years old) that several friends phoned us out of concern for us as the local Australians, fearing that we might have lost friends, family or property through the devastation they'd seen on the news. The scale of the fires was incomprehensible to our British neighbours, though at the same time their impression of it was rather exaggerated (I understand that some imagined the whole country to be ablaze).

So two and a half decades on, I'd been wondering what the international media has been making of the current and much more severe fires and what impression the public has of this, and your blog post goes some way towards answering that question.

(For my part, living in a different part of the country, I too only know what I've seen on the news.)

Lots of coverage in NZ, but we are practically cousins. Terrible terrible news.