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Feeling despair over the Australian Bushfire Crisis? 10 ways to help & cope with Climate Change Distress


Injured koala from Australian Bushfires | photo by Jade Crispo @exoticsnursejayde

Photo by Jayde Crispo via Instagram @exoticsnursejayde

I hadn’t intended to write this blog, as it’s a bit removed from the running beach/travel/baby theme, but it’s been on my mind this summer with news of the never-ending bushfires ravaging Australia, and the stories from family back home in Sydney indirectly affected by the smoke and ash blanketing the sky. The intention of this blog is to share ways I’ve found to cope with the feelings of utter sadness I’ve felt since the start of the bushfires - which can hopefully help you too.

Some background: There is a bushfire crisis in Australia at the moment. These have been the hottest, driest days on record for Australia, making it easy for bushfires to start and spread; since August 2019 the Australian bushfires have burnt more than 6.3 million hectares of land (as of Saturday), destroyed more than 1300 homes in NSW alone, taken the lives of more than 20 people, taken the lives of 3 firefighters and wiped out more than one billion animals. Recovery could take decades. The fires are so widespread, that it seems incomprehensible. More land has burned in these fires than the California fires (approximately 766 000 ha) and Amazon fires (just under 1 million hectares) combined. There doesn’t seem to be an end in sight.  Australia’s relative apathy on Climate Change Action (Australia came last out of 57 countries on climate change policy) has meant that this summer is the beginning of extremely hot Australian summers where ravaging bushfires and average temperatures of fifty degrees become the norm.  A recent article shared how pregnant women and asthmatic children could suffer long term complications if the smoke continued all the way through summer. Sydney’s air quality has been so bad that each day of breathing in the smoke is the equivalent of smoking about 32 cigarettes. The plume of bushfire smoke is so big that it’s now moved from New Zealand all the way to Chile. If this is our reality now, imagine what it would be like for our children, and our children’s future? Catastrophic and apocalyptic come to mind. With these fires burning for months now, It’s been hard not to let this news from back home get me down.

Australian bushfire artwork by Melina Illustrates via Instagram @melanippe_art

Artwork by Melina Illustrates via Instagram @melanippe_art

I’ve struggled to put a name to the feeling these fires have brought. As a mum of a two small children, and a follower of various parenting, environmental and business groups on social media, I’ve realised I’m not the only person in the same boat and it seems to be a common topic that parents are genuinely scared for their kid’s future, and feel lost and helpless as to how to help. Some emotions that have been mentioned are anger, fear, outrage, grief, loss, helplessness, utter sadness, despair, tiredness and a sense of being overwhelmed. I’ve since learnt that a collective name for the emotions associated with the threat of climate change is Ecological Grief, Eco-Anxiety, Climate Change Distress or Climate Despair. I’ve also learnt that (as with any emotion), it’s important to acknowledge these feelings, share them and cope with them so as we don’t become so overwhelmed with emotions, we end up sticking our heads in the sand, which doesn’t help us or anyone really. This is my way of coping, a blog that hopefully brings you some hope for the future, with some actions you can take (however small they may be) to help with this bushfire crisis and in the fight against climate change. Every action counts. Every small step matters. So here goes…

10 ways to help with the Australian bushfire crisis and cope with Climate Change Distress

1. DONATE items, accommodation and/or money. You’ve probably seen many donation links across your social media feed, so I won’t share each link here. They are all summed up in this article. Please beware of other donations that are not from an official organisation, as there have been 47 reported bushfire-related scams to date since the bushfires started.
2. SUPPORT in other ways. Volunteer your time. Buy from bushfire and drought affected areas; find businesses by following the Instagram hashtag #buyfromthebush and #spendwiththem. Donate blood. If you see an injured animal, call WIRES for help. Leave water out for animals in bushfire affected areas.
3. ADVOCATE. Protest against climate change. Write to your local MP urging them to take climate change action. Participate in the climate change conversation and keep this dialogue alive on social media. Vote for parties who prioritise climate change action. Demand climate change action NOW.
4. DON’T WASTE (in general) “Live the way you want to live but just don’t waste.” – Sir David Attenborough
  • FOOD. Don’t waste food. Avoid waste in the first place – buy naked (not over-packaged) foods. Buy from local grocers. Buy bulk foods if possible. Only buy and cook what you need. Eat less meat & dairy. Compost the ‘waste’ that is left over.
  • ENERGY. Don’t waste electricity / energy. Switch to a green energy provider. Turn off lights in a room if you will not be in there for a long time. Place your hot water tanks on a timer. Close windows & doors if you have the air-conditioner / heater running. Avoid driving if possible and take public transport. If cooling a room, don’t set the temperature to super cold. Offset your emissions if possible.
  • WATER. Don’t waste water. This might seem like a no-brainer in the current situation, but surprisingly some people think that this only applies in a drought situation. Build up good habits when you can so they become the norm. Change tap fittings to water-efficient fittings. Install a dual-flush system on your toilet. Reuse water from the shower (or rainwater if you have a rainwater tank) to water your garden.
  • WASTE. Don’t waste things. Avoid, Refuse, Reuse, Reduce, Recycle. This goes for everything. Be a conscious consumer. If you have to buy, buy from ethical / sustainable brands. Do you really need that ‘thing’? Think like a minimalist – it’s becoming the new normal. Think like Marie Kondo – does that ‘thing’ spark joy?. In keeping with the long-running theme of this blog, in particular, avoid anything containing plastics / microfibres if possible.
5. SHARE YOUR RESPECT & APPRECIATION OF NATURE WITH CHILDREN. (And don’t pollute). This is the easiest to do, especially if you have children, as they love learning and exploring in nature. After all, you can’t value what you don’t appreciate and love. You can’t expect future generations to value nature if they’ve never been in it or learnt to appreciate and respect nature from when they are little. So, go out with your kids, explore your local park or beach. Go camping. Go bush walking. Get into nature.
6. Acknowledge your feelings. Feel whatever it is you are feeling. Cry if you need to. Try and label your emotions, and know that it makes sense to be feeling what you are feeling. Recognise that other people feel this way too and that emotions come and go. Be kind on yourself.
7. Take a break. It’s important to take a step back from social media and the news now and then, as it can all become overwhelming and add to a sense of despair and helplessness.
8. Have fun. Remember to have fun when taking climate change action. Talk through what you are feeling with your friends, colleagues and social support network. Find like-minded people that also want to take climate change action in a positive / happy way.
9. Take care of yourself (self-care). Maintain healthy routines, get into nature, do things that make you feel good. Spend time with friends & family.
10. Focus on only a few climate change issues. When looking at climate change from a bigger picture, it can all seem overwhelming. Identify what problems speak to you, the ones that you are most passionate about and pursue climate change action there. At Mama Qucha, we are passionate about our oceans, and want to protect this precious resource.

 

What does all this have to do with a baby beach bag? A little, and a lot. I designed the Mama Qucha Nappy Backpack when my son was just one and a half, as we love spending time outdoors (especially the beach or pool), and I couldn’t find a bag large enough or organised enough to carry a whole day’s contents with me. I am now pregnant with my third child, and it is utterly devastating seeing the news and knowing that this could one day become my children’s future. What good is a great nappy bag if we can’t even go outside? NOW is the time to act. NOW is the time for change. I hope this blog brought a little bit of peace to your heart knowing you are more powerful than you think.

Useful resources:

  • For some more easy to understand future climate change predictions for Australia, visit the CSIRO’s webpage.
  • The Australian Psychological Society’s Information Sheet on Climate Change Distress 
    About the Author

    About the Author

    Founder of Mama Qucha and stay at home mum to three little ones, Francisca uses her background in Environmental Engineering and Sustainability to share with readers information about motherhood, eco-baby and kids stuff, travel, and spending time outdoors and in nature with babies and toddlers. Grab your free beach packing checklist when you subscribe to her newsletter at www.mamaqucha.com.au, read the latest articles on her blog, and follow Mama Qucha on Facebook, Instagram & Pinterest @mamaquchababy.


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