Australia is in need of additional volunteers to combat the effects of climate change, according to Geoff Goldrick.
I was fortunate enough to be part of the team of Australian volunteer firefighters who were able to reciprocate the assistance Canada provided during the intense bushfire season of 2019-20. We were incredibly grateful for their support during our time of need.
In 2019, there were noticeable and concerning similarities between Australia and Canada in 2023. Both countries were experiencing severe drought and the term “unprecedented” was commonly used to describe the situation.
During the current year, Canada, Turkey, Greece, Italy, Spain, the Canary Islands, and the US all experienced significant wildfires. The summer of 2023 set a record for heat in the northern hemisphere and people were greatly impacted by the widespread wildfires.
Around the world, there were wildfires, floods, and numerous other disastrous climate events. While none of these occurrences can be solely linked to the carbon-induced climate emergency, collectively they paint a narrative that can no longer be ignored.
In a scenario where this is the future, what actions can be taken? The problem of the climate crisis can often feel insurmountable. While our personal attempts to decrease our carbon footprint are significant, they may seem insignificant compared to the enormity of the issue.
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In order to confront the challenges of climate change, we must be resilient and a crucial aspect of developing that resilience will be reviving the spirit of volunteerism.
In Australia, there is a long-standing tradition of individuals volunteering their time to contribute to their communities, whether it be through participating in fire brigades, state emergency services, St John Ambulance, Lions, Rotary, or other community organizations. However, this sense of civic duty has decreased in recent years.
Our current volunteers are aging and there is a decline in new members. The rising expenses of daily life and the stress of contemporary society make it more challenging to make time, but we cannot develop resilience on our own. We must collaborate to achieve this goal.
We require additional volunteers and they require additional assistance.
Not all volunteers are required to operate a hose. It’s understandable if you’re not comfortable driving a fire truck or navigating a rescue boat through floods. However, behind the front lines, there is a team of volunteers who handle communication, coordinate meals and emergency shelter, inform the public, and assist their community in preparation and recovery efforts.
Inquire among others, there is likely a position that aligns with your abilities and passions.
Volunteers, whether on the frontlines or in a supporting role, require assistance from their loved ones, friends, and colleagues.
Without the selfless help of my partner and family, I wouldn’t have been able to fulfill my role as a firefighter. This was especially true in 2019 when, after long days on the job, I would come home to find a warm meal, clean clothes, and loving embraces waiting for me. While I was busy on the trucks, my amazing family took care of everyday tasks, worried about my safety, and even prepared for the possibility of evacuating our own home due to fire threats. If you are unable to volunteer yourself, supporting a family member who does is just as valuable as actually being on the front lines.
If the support of my family made volunteering easier, work has sometimes been a different story. In October 2019 I wrote an email to my manager thanking them for releasing me for a few days in the previous fortnight and hoping that the worst was over. Little did I know. As the days became weeks and then months, the tensions with my city-based manager grew. It was only when blankets of smoke brought the scale of the emergency home to Sydney that the tension eased and they suggested an article about my firefighting for the newsletter. I was floored!
As volunteers we don’t expect to be paid when we respond to an emergency, but we would like to know that it won’t threaten our jobs. As an employer or manager, if you can’t jump on a truck please support your employees who can. A more resilient community benefits us all. Being a good corporate citizen is good for business.
During the winter season, I took the inland route from NSW to northern Queensland. The landscape was filled with thriving grasslands and forest understory, thanks to favorable weather conditions. As a firefighter, I recognized this as potential “fuel”. While this season won’t be as severe as the previous one, it will still present challenges. Australia has always been prone to droughts and heavy rains, but climate change has heightened these occurrences. To overcome them, we must build resilience, which will rely on the efforts of a dedicated community of volunteers.