Adults keep saying we owe it to the young people, to give them hope, but I don’t want your hope.
I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic.
I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis.
I want you to act as if the house is on fire, because it is.Greta Thunberg
I spoke with two old friends last night. One works for the Australian Government, managing parks and wilderness areas, and one is an environmental scientist who was also once a park ranger. They are knowledgeable men, who care passionately about the natural world.
We were actually talking about Christmas, and the possibility of catching up – even virtually – but then the conversation turned to K’gari – also known as Fraser Island. Fraser Island is the world’s largest sand island, and it is UNESCO World Heritage Listed because of its unique ecosystem. It is the only place in the world where rainforests grown on top of sand dunes, and it features many different mini-ecosystems, including fresh water dune lakes, heathlands and dense forests that are home to thousand-year-old trees in the Valley Of The Giants. Fraser Island was my home for two years, back in my twenties, and both my friends have lived and worked there too during their careers.
Fraser Island is on fire right now. Six weeks ago, an illegal campfire sparked a bushfire. The fire is catastrophic and has not been able to be brought under control because of the difficult conditions and the wilderness location. Fire crews and national parks are working tirelessly, but they are not winning, and current weather conditions are also against them. There are so many reasons why this fire is burning hot and fast and out of control. One of them is global warming. The fire has already burned half the island. It’s a very hot fire, and even ecosystems that are designed to withstand fire cannot stand up to this kind of heat intensity. It will create devastating change in this ecosystem, and for all of the creatures who inhabit it.
We talked about climate change. We talked about the catastrophic fires Australia experienced last summer, in which one of my friends lost his family home, and we nearly lost our own. We talked about the drought that can no longer be called a drought here in Australia, because it is clearly climate change. We talked about how little the natural ecosystem seems to be valued, although it is the thing that fundamentally supports us all.
We became very sober as we talked.
One of my friends (the one who lost his home, pets, and some human friends to last year’s fires, while he was off fighting the fire on another front) began to cry. At first silent tears ran down his face, but he kept on talking. My other friend and I were teary too.
But then my friend began to sob. Finally, he howled.
When he could talk again, he said quietly, ‘What do we have to do to make people understand that we are at crisis point? How long will it take before anyone takes this seriously?’
None of us had an answer.
My friend wasn’t crying for himself. He was crying for our planet. He was crying for the mass destruction, the extinctions, the catastrophic events that keep happening at an ever-increasing pace.
The crisis is here. The crisis is real.
Greta was right. Our house is on fire. And there is no Planet B.
Today I grieve for K’gari. I grieve for our planet.
How did we end our call, my friends and I?
We pledged to plant more trees. More trees. More trees. To do what we can do, and then a little more.
We also pledged to keep pressuring our government to change its policies, to do more, to treat this climate crisis as the emergency it is.
A few weeks ago it was Supercell storms. Now we are in the grip of a heatwave. Fires are burning all over Australia, and Summer has only just begun. It is devastating to watch our natural world go up in flames. Is this the way every summer will be, now?
We all must act. We’re almost out of time.
Soberly, and with a heavy heart, Nicole xx