For anyone who has been following the news lately, you would know there are currently several bush fires burning across Australia. When I say several, I mean hundreds. Many people have lost their homes, almost half a billion animals have perished, and millions of hectares have been completely burnt. It’s scary, it’s devastating, and it’s stressful.
Canberra, where I live, is far enough away to not be in immediate danger (at this stage), though it’s close enough to be swamped with smoke from these fires. The density of the smoke has depended on the severity of the fires, temperature, rainfall, and the change in winds. Some days it has been a mild haziness in the distance, other days you haven’t been able to see 500 metres in front of you. Most days, the safest thing to do has been to stay inside and not be outside unless you absolutely need to be.
The smoke has been coming in and out of Canberra for the past month, and it has become something of a novelty to see clear blue skies. As I type this there are blue skies outside, though I’ve read that the air quality is still not great. While I would love to go for a walk or run around the nearby lake, this morning I played it safe and just went to the gym.
The past week I have been on pre-booked leave from work, and it has truly tested my sanity and sense of independence as I’ve been cooped up inside. Watching Netflix gets old after a while, so I’ve been doing a bit of baking, cleaning and house sorting here and there. I haven’t done as much reading as I probably should have, and it think it’s because I’ve been feeling so down, on edge and anxious that relaxing with a good book just hasn’t appealed.
While I am grateful that I can remain in my home and don’t have to evacuate, it has certainly been a testing week for my mental health. It’s times like this you realise how sunshine and fresh air are so important for your physical and mental wellbeing. Being able to step outside and go for a walk is something many Australians take for granted, and it’s something many haven’t been able to do lately.
The exhaustion of fighting a natural disaster is something I cannot fathom, and I take my hat off to the brave firefighters who are doing exactly that. I hope this is all over soon, not just so I can go outside, but so that every person who has been involved in managing and responding to these bush fires can have a rest. The damage to our natural environment is hard to comprehend, and I hope we can come out of this with a renewed sense of urgency to look after our dear planet Earth.
If you are like me and feel helpless about the bushfires, you can donate to any of the following. Every little bit helps. Note these are just some of the many organisations assisting with relief and recovery.
WIRES – Help native animals survive and recover. The website is currently re-directing to a Facebook-based fundraiser.
Australian Conservation Foundation – Australia’s national environment organisation. Independent, non-partisan and funded by donation.
Red Cross Disaster Recovery – Providing psychological first aid, working at evacuation centres and helping people to get in touch with their loved ones.