It feels very strange in Melbourne today. It’s drizzly and dark, and the weather is cold enough to require central heating and winter pyjamas, but the air is absolutely permeated by smoke – from the Tasmanian fires, we are told, though it could just as easily have been from the ones in Gippsland or in northern Victoria or on Kangaroo island. There are fires in every direction, and yet we are safe, and can go about our lives as normal, except for the stinging in our eyes and throats, the tightness in our chests from the smoke.
I almost welcome it, though. We’ve had several days of truly glorious weather over the last week (not consecutively, and none of them like any of the others of course – this is Melbourne we’re talking about), and it has felt so surreal to be able to go outside and enjoy the beautiful weather when all this devastation exists just a few hundred kilometres away. (Clearly, the Catholic upbringing which I did not have has still managed to give me an over-inflated sense of guilt about ever enjoying myself).
Anyway. I’ve been meaning to write some letters to politicians, but I’ve been running into difficulties, because my letters to Morrison keep on coming out as ‘Dear Prime Minister, Please get f*cked. Sincerely, Catherine,’ or sometimes ‘Dear Prime Minister, What the f*ck is wrong with you?’, which are certainly sincere statements of personal belief, but perhaps not very productive.
I did finally manage to write something slightly more useful, however, and since I thought that some of you might be sharing my difficulties, I figured I’d follow tradition and put my letters here for anyone to use as a starting point for their own missives. Per my usual disclaimer, they are far from perfect. And per my usual encouragement, they don’t need to be. Don’t be crippled by the need to make everything exactly right. The important thing is to send *something*.
Please note, incidentally, that I’ve seen a few people saying that emails sent through the form on the Prime Minister’s website are not being read, and that it is difficult to get through to him on the phone. I don’t know if this is true or not, but just in case, let’s break out the envelopes and stamps for this one.
If you can’t bear to write to politicians right now – and honestly, I can’t blame you for that – I’ve also provided some more links at the bottom to charities and other organisations you might want to support.
And of course, wherever you are, I hope you are staying safe from the fires and the smoke, that your loved ones are also safe, and that you have the things you need.
A letter to Prime Minister Scott Morrison (which does not really convey my true feelings, because those would probably get me arrested)
The Hon Scott Morrison MP
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Prime Minister,
Thank you for your recent pledge to permanently increase funding for aerial firefighting in Australia. I was particularly pleased to hear your acknowledgment of the link between climate change and bushfires – at a time of such catastrophe, it is so important that we pay attention to the science.
I urge you to end subsidies to coal mining, and use the money saved to invest in both renewable energy and in the development of technologies that will help Australia adapt to the climate changes that have already taken place.
I also urge you to stop selling our water to international companies, for mining or for other purposes. We are too dry a continent to send our water elsewhere, especially now.
Finally, I urge you to meet with Indigenous leaders, and consider incorporating traditional practices around fire management into our fire policy. Our first Australians have been observing weather patterns here for longer than anyone else, and their insights may be valuable.
I believe that we are at a turning point in this country, and that the ability of future generations to live here is now at stake. We need to respond with compassion, with creativity, and with attention to the data and good scientific practice. Most importantly, we need to respond with haste – so that our children and grandchildren will still be able to call Australia home.**
* well, maybe not the first bit.
** yes, I know, but I bet he likes twee. I may change that bit, though.
A letter to the Opposition Leader, Anthony Albanese (because while he is certainly a better alternative than Scott Morrison, that’s a pretty low bar, and I’ve been pretty frustrated with the Federal ALP of late)
The Hon. Anthony Albanese, MP
PO Box 6022
CANBERRA ACT 2600
Dear Mr Albanese,
I am writing to urge you and the Labor Party to disavow the coal mining industry. The ALP has some excellent policies on climate change and renewable energies, but they are of little use as long as we continue to make the problem worse by burning coal ourselves, or selling it to other countries to burn.
I understand that employment is an important issue, and we absolutely need to take care of those workers currently employed by the mining industry, offering assistance with re-skilling or redeployment. I believe that Labor is the party that can do this. But the mining and burning of non-renewable resources is at the root of so many of our environmental problems, and we need to stop supporting it.
On a related note, I really do feel that Labor could find more productive things to do in this crisis than blame the Greens for not supporting Rudd’s legislation back in 2008. It is so important that the parties which support the science on climate change work together to come up with practical approaches to mitigation, rather than wasting their resources sniping at each other. The threat to our environment, and indeed, to human life, is frankly catastrophic, and we cannot afford to be divided in the face of it.
A letter to Daniel Andrews (because I’ve been fairly impressed with him, and want to encourage good behaviour)
The Hon. Daniel Andrews, MP
1 Treasury Place
I am writing to thank you for the work you have been doing to get resources where they are needed both for fighting the bushfires and for disaster relief. I also appreciate your ongoing communication with the public, to keep people informed of new threats and of what is being done to help.
I hope that when this crisis is over you will continue to lead Victoria, in implementing climate change mitigation policies, improving our disaster response, and moving away from coal and towards renewable energies.
Some excellent links by excellent people
- Here’s a blog post outlining lots of different ways you can help the people and animals affected by bushfires. There’s a pretty strong emphasis on wildlife rescue and rehabilitation, but I promise there are no traumatising photos of injured animals. Highly recommended!
- Here’s a good run-down of things to do and also things not to do – take a look at it before you get too creative donating things second hand.
- Do you like books? Authors on Twitter are holding a fundraising auction for the CFA. Look for the #authorsforfiries hashtag. You can find more information on the fundraiser and how it works here.
- If you are a crafty sort of person, the Animal Rescue Craft Guild is looking for people to sew, knit and crochet a variety of pouches, blankets and nests for injured animals.
- Plan a holiday this autumn or winter in a fire-affected area, and plan to spend big. Buy food and wine from the region. Eat out. Check out the local attractions. A lot of the communities that have been burnt out rely heavily on tourism for their income. So let’s give them some. (But please, wait until April or so. You don’t want to become another body in need of feeding and evacuation during the fire season.
- This is an interesting article on Indigenous fire practices, and I thought it might interest some of you.
- And to end on a lighter (?) note, I’m getting a grim sort of amusement out of the ‘Shit! I smoke!‘ app, which measures your air quality in cigarettes per day. (Currently, Melburnians are smoking 6 cigarettes today, all made from the finest quality Tasmanian forests. I think I’d really rather leave the forests where they are.)