Australia Fire Crisis: PM Morrison Cuts Vacation Short After Two Firefighters Die
Two firefighters died Thursday battling wildfires fueled by a record-breaking heat wave in Australia, prompting Prime Minister Scott Morrison to return home from a Hawaiian vacation he had been much criticized for taking.
The firefighters were 32-year-old Geoffrey Keaton and 36-year-old Andrew O'Dwyer, and both of them had young children, The New York Times reported. They had been battling blazes southwest of Sydney when their truck struck a tree and rolled off the road, the New South Wales Rural Fire Service (NSW RFS) said in a statement. Three other firefighters traveling in the truck were also injured.
"Our hearts are breaking," NSW RFS association president Brian McDonough said in a statement reported by The New York Times.
The 2 firefighters killed in a vehicle accident last night are Deputy Captain Geoffrey Keaton 32yrs & Firefighter A… https://t.co/lJwU9BXEed— NSW RFS (@NSW RFS)1576793235.0
The two men were the first firefighters to die during this Australian spring's historic fire season, according to The New York Times, but their deaths bring the total fire death toll in New South Wales up to eight since October, Reuters reported. Ten firefighters were also seriously injured Thursday.
The news prompted Morrison to announce he would return from a family vacation in Hawaii.
Morrison's absence sparked protests outside his residence in Sydney Thursday. One protester carried a sign reading, "ScoMo, where the bloody hell are you?" borrowing a slogan from a popular Tourism Australia ad campaign. #wherethebloodyhellareya also trended on Twitter, according to The New York Times.
Let’s face it. This is what @ScottMorrisonMP really thinks!! #Nero #NotMyPM #bullshitboy #wherethebloodyhellareya https://t.co/xTsgnWYDtM— bmac (@bmac)1576805532.0
Morrison announced he would return soon after the firefighters' deaths were made public.
"Over the course of the past week I have been taking leave with my family. Our leave was brought forward due to the need to cancel our scheduled leave in January because of our official government visit to India and Japan at the invitation of PMs Modi and Abe," Morrison said in a statement reported by The New Daily. "I deeply regret any offence caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time."
But it isn't just Morrison's absence that has some Australians upset. It's also his lack of action on the climate crisis that makes extreme temperatures and fire seasons more likely.
"We're not offended. We're terrified and we're furious," Greenpeace Australia Pacific wrote in a Facebook post responding to Morrison's return. "The country is on fire, the sky is poison, it's the hottest day we've ever recorded and you're failing us. This is climate change. Do something about it."
Australia is one of the top greenhouse gas emitters per capita because of its reliance on coal, and the government approved a new coal mine in the state of Queensland in June that will be built by Adani Enterprises, Reuters reported.
Fires have been burning in Australia for months and have consumed more than 700 homes and millions of hectares since September, BBC News reported.
But this week's blazes have been made worse by record-breaking heat. The country broke its record for hottest day on Tuesday when it recorded an average temperature of 40.9 degrees Celsius. It then broke that record the next day, recording an average temperature of 41.9 degrees Celsius, The Guardian reported.
Based on preliminary analysis, yesterday, Australia recorded its hottest day on record. The nationally-averaged max… https://t.co/MmlIFhFY0u— Bureau of Meteorology, Australia (@Bureau of Meteorology, Australia)1576734744.0
"It is frightening and a little frustrating, but this is what climate scientists have been saying for decades," University of New South Wales climate scientist Dr. Sarah Perkins-Kirkpatrick told The Guardian of the extreme heat. "I'm bordering on saying 'I told you so' but I don't think anyone really wants to hear that."
New South Wales is the state most impacted by the fires, according to BBC News, and a state of emergency has been declared there as around 100 blazes burn. Fires also ignited in Victoria and South Australia Friday when temperatures reached higher than 47 degrees Celsius in some places. In South Australia, asphalt on roads even began to melt, The New York Times reported.
Also on Friday, smoke from the New South Wales fires reached Melbourne in Victoria for the first time, according to BBC News.
Smoke is extending over #Victoria this morning from the #nswfires and the Gippsland fires, reducing visibility to a… https://t.co/1BOtEjDR09— Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria (@Bureau of Meteorology, Victoria)1576800617.0
"It's come a very long way to get here," a Bureau of Meteorology spokesman told The Australian of the smoke.
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This week marks the official start of fall, but longer nights and colder days can make it harder to spend time outdoors. Luckily, there are several inspiring environmental films that can be streamed at home.
1. Kiss the Ground<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="ccc5f0c92a5603e68aec39e56b0db02a"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/K3-V1j-zMZw?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 22</strong></p><p>Between <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wildfires-california-washington-oregon-photos-2647585008.html" target="_self">wildfires devastating the U.S. West Coast</a> and <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tropical-storm-beta-landfall-2647760268.html" target="_self">storms battering the Gulf</a>, the impacts of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/climate-change/" target="_self">climate crisis</a> can feel overwhelming right now. <em><a href="https://kissthegroundmovie.com/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">Kiss the Ground</a> </em>offers an alternative to all of the bad news by focusing on solutions.</p><p>The film, directed by Josh and Rebecca Tickell and narrated by Woody Harrelson, explains how we can heal the Earth through "regenerative agriculture," farming practices that draw carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and into soil as a way to restore soil health, which in turn boosts ecosystems and food supplies.</p><p>"<em>Kiss the Ground </em>shows how feasible it is to make these changes at a grassroots level immediately and make a truly substantive impact with low cost and easy to implement solutions," Executive Producer RJ Jain said in an email. "This is why I got involved."</p>
2. Public Trust: The Fight for America's Public Lands<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="5338f7a2931e356910026e5fd76fac56"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/jsKMTAaj_wQ?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: YouTube</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Sept. 25, 2 p.m. EDT </strong></p><p>This <a href="https://www.patagonia.com/films/public-trust/" target="_blank">award-winning documentary</a> tells the stories of Indigenous activists, journalists, whistleblowers and historians working to protect America's <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/public-lands" target="_self">public lands</a>. The film focuses on three political struggles: the shrinking of <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/bears-ears" target="_self">Bears Ears</a> National Monument in Utah, the mining of Boundary Waters Wilderness in Minnesota and the opening of the <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/Arctic-National-Wildlife-Refuge" target="_self">Arctic National Wildlife Refuge</a> to fossil fuel exploration.</p><p><em>Public Trust</em> was directed by David Garrett Byars and produced by Jeremy Rubingh. Patagonia Films, Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard and actor Robert Redford are executive producers. It will be <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OGjnIG7puzY" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">released</a> on YouTube in time for <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/national-public-lands-day-2640656776.html" target="_self">National Public Lands Day</a>.</p><p>"Our country is fortunate to have millions of acres of public lands, including National Parks, Monuments, Wildlife Refuges and Wilderness set aside for future generations," Redford said. "Sadly, these lands that belong to you and me are under unprecedented threats from the greed of big corporations, eager to weaken restrictions in the pursuit of profits. Many of our current politicians are also to blame. <em>Public Trust</em> tells the story of citizens who are fighting back. It's a much-needed wake-up call for all of us who want to preserve our unique and wild cultural heritage."</p>
3. David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="156438a30836a765d7a92982545fc334"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/B_OFZvAd05Y?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p><strong>Streaming On: Netflix</strong></p><p><strong>Premiere Date: Oct. 4</strong></p><p>Beloved nature broadcaster <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/David-Attenborough" target="_self">David Attenborough</a> has spent his career introducing viewers to the wonders of our planet. In recent years, his footage of albatrosses swallowing <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/tag/plastics" target="_self">plastic</a> in <em>Blue Planet II</em> has been credited with <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/2018-fighting-plastic-waste-2624606566.html" target="_self">helping to ramp up</a> the global fight against plastic pollution. Now, in this <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">World Wildlife Fund</a> (WWF)-produced <a href="https://www.attenborough.film/" rel="noopener noreferrer" target="_blank">documentary</a>, he reflects on the defining moments of his career and the devastating changes he has witnessed.</p><p><em>David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet,</em> which was also produced by Silverback Films and directed by Alastair Fothergill, Jonnie Hughes and Keith Scholey, features an intimate conversation between Attenborough and Sir Michael Palin as the broadcaster reflects on his life and a career that took him to every continent on Earth. In addition to streaming on Netflix, the movie will be available in select theaters starting Sept. 28.</p><p>"For decades, David has brought the natural world to the homes of audiences worldwide, but there has never been a more significant moment for him to share his own story and reflections," WWF executive producer Colin Butfield said in a <a href="https://www.wwf.org.uk/updates/david-attenborough-life-our-planet" target="_blank">statement</a>. "This film coincides with a monumental year for environmental action as world leaders make critical decisions on nature and climate. It sends a powerful message from the most inspiring and celebrated naturalist of our time."</p>
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By Maria Trimarchi and Sarah Gleim
If all the glaciers and ice caps on the planet melted, global sea level would rise by about 230 feet. That amount of water would flood nearly every coastal city around the world [source: U.S. Geological Survey]. Rising temperatures, melting arctic ice, drought, desertification and other catastrophic effects of climate change are not examples of future troubles — they are reality today. Climate change isn't just about the environment; its effects touch every part of our lives, from the stability of our governments and economies to our health and where we live.
<p>Why environmental refugees flee their homes is a complicated mixture of environmental degradation and desperate socioeconomic conditions. People leave their homes when their livelihoods and safety are jeopardized. What effects of climate change put them in jeopardy? Climate change triggers, among other problems, desertification and drought, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/environmental/green-science/deforestation.htm" target="_blank">deforestation</a>, land degradation, rising sea levels, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/flood.htm" target="_blank">floods</a>, more frequent and more extreme storms, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/earthquake.htm" target="_blank">earthquakes</a>, <a href="https://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/volcano.htm" target="_blank">volcanoes</a>, food insecurity and famine.</p><p>The September <a href="http://visionofhumanity.org/app/uploads/2020/09/ETR_2020_web-1.pdf" target="_blank">2020 Ecological Threat Register Report</a>, by the Institute for Economics & Peace, predicts the hardest hit populations will be:</p><ul><li>Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa</li><li>Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, Chad, India and Pakistan (which are among the world's least peaceful countries)</li><li>Pakistan, Ethiopia and Iran are most at risk for mass displacements</li><li>Haiti faces the highest risk of all countries in Central America and the Caribbean</li><li>India and China will be among countries experiencing high or extreme water stress</li></ul>
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In his latest documentary, My Octopus Teacher, free diver and filmmaker Craig Foster tells a unique story about his friendship and bond with an octopus in a kelp forest in Cape Town, South Africa. It's been labeled "the love story that we need right now" by The Cut.
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