The ongoing 2019 Australian bushfire season has brought about the death of 33 civilians and an estimated one billion animals. It has left thousands of families displaced and millions with health problems resulting from the intoxicating atmosphere.
So far, the governmental response to the crisis has been below average. In the midst of the crisis, Prime Minister Scott Morrison left for a vacation to Hawaii with his family, cutting it short only after a strong backlash from Australian citizens. The backlash did not only stem from his untimely vacation; the Prime Minister still supports the coal industry and has actively taken measures to counteract emission-reduction policies in the past.
The focus of this article, however, is not the internal environmental politics of Australia.
Last week, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dr. Jason Amatoury, a Biomedical Engineering Program faculty member. He is Australian and has lived there long enough to provide us with some insights into the setting that brought about the bushfires. The following is a summarized transcript of the most important takeaways from this interview.
As an Australian local, what kind of lifestyle do you think contributed to the crisis? In the sense that, we don’t recycle adequately in Lebanon, people throw trash on the streets, every household has at least two cars, etc.
I’m no expert, but I think we still have that issue in Australia. We’re used to having two cars per person. But it’s a lot better in that we use a lot of public transport. I think the public transport system is a lot better [than the one in Lebanon].
So, there’s a widespread public transport system in Australia.
Well yes in the major cities, not everywhere. Can they be reduced in terms of carbon emissions? Definitely. I mean they are actively working on it, but coal is still a big factor in producing electricity. It’s a big moneymaker for the government as well. I think emissions could be reduced with more incentive to cut down on them.
Do you think the government played an active role in managing the bushfires?
I guess the Prime Minister leaving during the crisis wasn’t a good thing, to go on holiday. Was the government active? I wouldn’t say so, no. They did blame arsonists for a lot of the fires, while real evidence that points to us wasn’t really there. Aussies didn’t really appreciate that.
What do you think will happen next?
Well, I think the outcry from the people will be very strong. I think you’ve seen the backlash on social media. I think people are a bit more aware of it now because it was so spread out. It actually started raining; it changed from fast-spreading fires to houses being flooded.
Do you see any difference between how environmental Australians were before the fires and after?
I think the crisis has pushed it (environmentalism) forward. I think most Australians are quite attentive, especially the more modern Australians. Maybe the older generation doesn’t believe in climate change as much. But no, most Australians are recycling, even the local councils are always pushing towards recycling and reducing waste. I’ll give you an example. I went back in January, so the garbage we produce has its own bin. We take it out every week to be collected. It was quite big, can’t tell exactly in liters though, but it was quite big. Now, we have a recycling bin (a green waste bin), along with the general waste bin. So, to reduce waste, the general waste bin is smaller than the recycling bin.
Do they think there’s anything Lebanon can learn from what happened?
Because cause and effect are hard to pinpoint, I don’t know what Lebanon can learn from the fires. In Australia, fires are common every year, though not as much as this year’s crisis.
What we can learn is how we’re going to reduce waste and pollution. There are incentives for people to go green in Australia. The government actually covers 50% of the cost of installing solar power at your household. […] I thought Lebanon introduced something. It used to be the case that you can get interest-free loans to introduce something in your house that has to do with saving energy. Did you know about this?
No, is that really in Lebanon?
Yes! So, before the circumstances in Lebanon, if you were going to put something that was going to save electricity or machines, or have you, for the environment, then you get an interest free loan. But is this publicized? No. I think there might be some things that try to move forward, but they’re not as publicized. […] I think that awareness and incentives are important for contributing to protecting the environment. I think a simple poster can go a long way. […] It’s a long process but I’m sure there can be strategies.
End of excerpt
This really makes us think about how difficult yet simple it is to make a difference. Simple because it only takes a little more effort than what we normally put. Difficult because it’s hard to get people to put in a little more effort. However, here is my attempt. Share this image around and try to implement it. It could help more than you think.