I Didn’t Believe in Climate Change Either — Until I Was Choking from the Smoke of Australian Bushfires
It can take a fresh lung full of bushfire smoke to force you to take action. Better late than never.
I’m going to be real honest for a second. Until recently, I was a climate change skeptic. The Al Gore documentary “An Inconvenient Truth” came out in 2006 when I was a young whippersnapper and its message was lost on me.
Around the same time I was working for a company that sold environmentally friendly products as a salesperson. My day job was to spread climate change fear and then to go home in my gas-guzzling car, thinking it was all a myth that I could get rich off. It was a naive idea at best.
All through my 20’s, experts have been talking about climate change. All the signs were there; they just weren’t visible in my hometown of Melbourne. Even after three trips to China, where I visited some of the most polluted cities in the world, my only reaction was “Not my city, not my problem.”
Then in 2016 when I visited California and got badly burned in 25-degree celsius weather crossing the Golden Gate Bridge while visiting tech company’s for work looking like an Australian tomato, the message was still lost on me. Not my city, not my problem. This year is different.
This year it is my city and it is my problem.
As I walk outside, there is smoke haze everywhere. The Australian Bureau of Meteorology at the time of writing says the air quality in my hometown is “Hazardous.” This is the most extreme status they have in their status collection.
30-minutes outside leaves you coughing and with a sore throat. My gym smells like a bushfire. My clothes smell like I have been camping next to a bonfire. Every business in my city has some form of bushfire appeal. If you buy a coffee, $1 goes to the bushfires. If you buy a t-shirt, you help a bushfire victim. If you log on to your internet banking, you’re asked by your greedy bank to donate to the bushfire cause.
There are signs of climate change all around me. Because when it’s your city, climate change becomes your problem. And in this case, my problem.
Now we could just keep ignoring the problem (I’m an expert, remember?), but that won’t work. Social media has meant that politicians can’t escape the issue. (Trust me, our Prime Minster tried and look at Twitter: #SackScoMo #AustraliaFires are both the top two trending hashtags.)
There are protests all over Australia because of the bushfires. For the first time ever, my vote in the next election, that would normally be a donkey vote, will be going towards the party that has the best campaign on climate change. My girlfriend, who has been an Australian resident for only a few months, will be doing the same.
This is what is happening in Australia. People like me have woken up.
It’s not just Australians either. There are 5225 Climate Strike events in 156 countries, on 7 continents and counting.
Even a group of former Australian fire chiefs led by fire fighting legend Greg Mullins have got together. Greg and his team have been watching the bushfires for decades and seen the bushfire season get longer each year. It is at a point where they can’t keep up and no matter how much money is thrown at the problem, the solution remains out of reach — for now.
They are experts in their field and are saying that the Earth is warming up and it’s what is responsible for the recent bushfire crisis. “Our Leaders Refuse To Listen” was his comment recently in an interview on Youtube.
Buying a Tesla is not enough either. Small changes are not enough and what we need is real change. We need to look at the facts and see the devastation. We need to be open-minded and be prepared to accept that as humans, we are responsible for what is happening to the Earth.
Don’t wait for climate change to reach a city near you, like it did for me, before finally deciding to make up your mind and do something about it. The damage to the environment, at the current rate, won’t take until after your dead for you to see its consequences.
I’m looking out the window today and climate change is in my backyard and in my lungs.
What is happening to the environment is all of our problem. Climate change will be the biggest debate of this decade and it has already begun.
It’s time for us to stand up and face climate change once and for all. We can reverse the damage and change our ways, but only if we stop being ignorant the way I’ve been since 2006.