Wildfire season in Australia has brought human and environmental tragedy. It also has sent a warning to us all. “There's a huge, really very important message for everybody in the world looking at these fires,” Matthew England, a professor of oceanography and climate at the University of New South Wales, explains in the final episode of Global GoalsCast’s Season Three. “This is a glimpse into our future. we only have to take warming levels of the planet to about three degrees Celsius, which we're not far off… We're a third of the way to that warming…(and) the summer we've just had will be basically a normal summer event.”
In fact, 2019 was the warmest driest year ever recorded in Australia, with temperatures 1.5 degrees Celsius above the average in the late twentieth century. Edie Lush and Claudia Romo Edelman speak with Australians to understand the impact of these fires. Catriona Wallace, the founder and director of Flamingo Ai, a machine learning company, describes the flaming hell that consumed both her family farm and the neighborhood around her family summer home. “It's like driving through something from a Mad Max movie or through an apocalypse,” she reports. “It's something quite terrifying and extraordinary to experience.” The frightening experience has prompted her to focus her skills in Artificial Intelligence on creating tools to prevent or alleviate fires. She notes, too, that with men in charge things aren’t going well in Australian climate policy. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of coal and had a major hand in derailing the 2019 climate talks in Madrid.
Wallace says a new approach is needed, to balance the influence of the coal industry with the needs of other Australians. Wallace, one of the first women to have a company listed in the Australian stock exchange, points out that women are skilled at this broader, multi-stakeholder approach.
Empowering women to steward the planet is the goal of Pollyanna Darling, founder of the Australian chapter of TreeSisters, a global organization that raises funds to reforest the tropics and encourages women to seek leadership roles in protecting trees, forests and the overall environment.
“We have a political environment that's not particularly favorable to environmental protection and care of the earth, which, because a lot of our economy's based on resource extraction,” Darling says of Australia.
“From a TreeSisters perspective, one of the things that we have made it our mission to do is to help human beings to remember who and what they really are. And a part of that is remembering that we ARE nature and that without a healthy, thriving earth, we actually have nothing.”
Claudia points out that the United Nations has put Sustainable Development Goal 13, climate action, at the top of the Global Agenda. All three of our guests say they hope, and even sense, that the wildfires will encourage stronger action to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
Actions you can take are proposed in this episode by Rob Galuzzo, from the Lion’s Share, a project co-founded by UNDP to encourage corporations to pay into a fund for conservation and environmental protection every time they use an image of an animal in their advertising. Mars Corp., the candy-maker, is a founding partner.
In addition, Pollyanna Darling urges everyone to plant trees in their community and support TreeSisters (treesisters.org) in its work restoring tropical forests.
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