Australian Wildfires: The Climate Catastrophe of Our Century

February 11, 2020


In late December 2019, catastrophe struck Australia. Record-breaking fires blazed across the whole continent, burning over 20 million acres of land, killing at least twenty-five people, and destroying over 2,000 homes. The wildfires have spared no one - Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison included.

While families desperately evacuated on boats, fleeing the toxic smoke from forest fires, Morrison had secretly taken a family vacation to Hawaii. His absence brought an outpouring of criticism and rage from many people—including, of course, Australians themselves. Morrison is the leader in Australia’s Conservative government and refuses to acknowledge climate change, proving to many people that he is ignoring the impacts of this global phenomenon. Given the terrible cost of the wildfires and his apathy towards it, Scott Morrison should step down from his position as Prime Minister.

Not long after the public caught wind of Morrison’s “escape,” I interviewed other students in order to get their views on this situation. One of the students I interviewed is Jason Price, a freshman. When asked about his opinion on the situation around the Australian Prime Minister, he said, “I think Scott Morrison is an embarrassment to Australia and should resign. He just went off to Hawaii while his country was on fire. He didn’t even try to look like a decent leader in a crisis.”

Another student I interviewed who had a similar opinion was Valerie Laurianti, a junior at the Hawken Upper School. Valerie said, “I think in this day and age with the physical and very real implications of climate change killing our environment and people, it is imperative that we have politicians who acknowledge these dangers and take serious actions to mitigate their harms. With the fires we are seeing now in Australia, I believe that their Prime Minister has a responsibility to his people and country to take the crisis as a sign of needing to make serious change, and fast. If this isn’t a role he can step up to, another person should fill that role.”

To me, being able to acknowledge and act on real harms are two very important qualities in a leader. These are also the same qualities of what a good leader should be in the Hawken community and beyond.

The next person I interviewed was someone who is very passionate about spreading awareness about the effect’s climate change has on the environment. Lola Garlicka is a junior at Hawken and one of the leaders of Friday’s for Our Future, a club that focuses on spreading awareness of climate change. When asked about her stance on the Australian prime minister, she said, “Although speaking is very important, we have to take more action. Many people are sharing photos of koalas burning and saying how terrible it is, but they’re not actually taking action to stop this from happening. It can be very easy and simple tasks like reducing meat consumption, carpooling to school, or convincing a parent to drive instead of taking a plane. It’s just small changes like these that make a huge impact even if people don’t think that way.”

Lola sends a really important message. You don’t need to do something extremely big in order to help the climate. I believe everyone in the Hawken community should try to do something to help, regardless if it’s something big or small.


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