WATCH — ‘We can’t treat it as normal’: Fires continue to devastate Australia

Story by CBC Kids News • 2020-01-15 09:43

Bushfires started earlier than usual this year

Ivy Moore’s backyard is lined with charred, burnt trees.

It’s not the same space the 17-year-old remembers from her childhood.

Fire threatened her house

A burned forest

The charred remains of Ivy Moore’s backyard in Port MacQuarie, Australia. (Submitted by Ivy Moore)

In November, a bushfire reached her family’s property in Port Macquarie, New South Wales, Australia.

“[I was] sitting in class and not knowing if I’ll have a home to go back to,” Ivy told CBC Kids News.

Luckily, the fire didn’t reach her house and everyone in her family was safe, but the drama was impossible to escape.

Map showing location of Port Macquarie, Australia

On one day, her entire school was confined to the gym.

“There was so much ash falling that it was like a health and safety hazard. They couldn't have us outside,” she said.

This photo was taken from the top of Ivy’s Street in November 2019, looking at her property, which is covered in a cloud of smoke. (Submitted by Ivy Moore)

What it’s like now

It’s been almost three months since that moment, and although the fires have subsided in Port Macquarie, smoke still hangs in the air, Ivy said.

“There’s still a lot of smoke and there’s still small fires,” she said.

A koala recovers from burns at the koala hospital in Port Macquarie, near Ivy’s home. The clinic has been inundated with donations in recent months, and the team that works with the koala shas been ‘absolutely blown away’ by the support, according to their website. (Nathan Edwards/Getty Images)

Fires are burning across parts of southeastern Australia, and Canada has sent firefighters to help put them out.

“We’re still keeping an eye on the fires,” she said.

Scientists say climate change is a factor

Bushfires are common in the summer in Australia, but this year, they started earlier than usual and have been more intense, in part because of extreme heat and drought.

The dry weather is partly caused by a natural weather phenomenon called the Indian Ocean dipole, but climate change is also to blame.

An orange and yellow sky over a forest

The bushfires in November were so intense in Port Macquarie that the sky turned orange. (Ivy Moore)

The Earth’s warming temperatures makes it easy for bushfires to spread.

Despite this, climate scientist Nerilie Abram told Thomson Reuters that Australians have been “caught off guard.”

“The scale of this disaster is something I couldn’t have imagined, and it’s the same for a lot of people in Australia,” she said.

Fighting the new normal

Ivy has been amazed at how quickly she’s gotten used to her reality.

“There's still smoke covering everything,” Ivy said. “People just don't notice it. I’m breathing it in now and I didn’t even realize.”

That’s a feeling she wants to fight.

“We can't treat it as normal. If we choose normal, then we'll stop fighting back and stop trying to stop it. And just accepting it is the worst thing we can do.”

Ivy is a singer, which has made living with smoke especially difficult. (Submitted by Ivy Moore)

Ivy called out the prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, for taking a holiday in Hawaii recently, and not pledging enough to fight climate change.

“In the height of the bushfires, [it] was ridiculous leaving his country that he's supposed to be leading and protecting the people,” she said.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, centre, visits a property affected by fires on Jan. 3 after he returned from his holiday in Hawaii. (James Ross/AAP Image/via Reuters)

Abram and Ivy agree that this fire season could be the tipping point in order to convince world leaders to take action on climate change.

“I really hope that the world sort of wakes up to what's happening,” Ivy said.

“Obviously these bushfires are affecting Australia now, but climate change is affecting everyone all over the world.”

Hear what Ivy has to say about the bushfires

With files from Thomson Reuters

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