Australia’s bush fires will have long term health and environmental consequences


David Gray

Firefighters have spent the past two months battling widespread bush fires in Australia.

Australia is in deep trouble. Wildfires have been burning since Nov. 11 in the Ravensbourne area, burning more than 49,000 acres of land and destroying almost 900 homes in the process. It was estimated that the bush fires have killed 1.25 billion animals leaving many species extinct. People tend to be asking the question “How will Australia recover?”

Bush fires are nothing new to Australians, but those in the past  have not lasted longer than a few days or maybe even a week. But the current bush fires have been going on for months, and are having a devastating effect on residents. The long term effects of these bush fires will result in the risk of multiple cancers and chronic health conditions. The air quality is so poor that breathing it  is said to be as bad as smoking 37 cigarettes. A study in China found that vulnerability to a high concentration of ultrafine particles called PM2.5 (which is found in wildfires) is associated with the increase of the risk of a stroke. 

Australia has a wide variety of captivating animals, making it one of the most astounding biodiversities in the world. The continent has been isolated from parts of the world allowing for evolution to occur in new ways along with the process of natural selection. But now, Australia’s animal diversity is threatened by the continuation of bush fires spreading faster each day.

Different animals have different ways of dying from the fires based on their characteristics to how they react. Jessie Yeung from CNN says “Some animals, like koalas and kangaroos, are primarily killed directly by the fires – for instance, by being incinerated in flames or choking on smoke.” These animals do not have a chance to escape the smoke as fast as others can. The effects could last decades because forests take years to re-grow. 

Due to global warming and climate change, Australia is becoming more airless and warmer than the global average. Parts of the country are drying out faster than others, leaving only flames behind. The Guardian magazine claims that “Australia has a ‘massive adaptive program’ ahead to prepare for future protracted bush fires and subsequent air pollution, a professor of pyrogeography and fire science has warned.” 

Scientists say that it’s too late to have a plan of action to prevent climate change, but there are other effective precautions people can take in order for people to adapt and  manage to the new environmental conditions. One such precaution would be retrofitting houses so they are heat and smoke-proof.