The celebration of the new decade was quickly interrupted by multiple global issues reminding everyone that a happy new year also welcomes new problems. Tuning back into the online social world to discover rumors of World War III may have been jarring for those who decided to ring in the new year with a social media cleanse, but nothing surprised the public more than the news of the raging wildfires consuming Australia. Although the fires were spreading for quite some time, the rest of the world was unaware of how severe the situation actually was until Australians themselves decided to take initiative across all forms of social media. Once the news went viral, everyone's feed became a positive resource that provided ways for any person to aid Australia. Of course, with such positivity, there was also an equal amount of anger towards governments around the world, climate change, and antagonizing the wealthy to donate money to the cause. Although there were some users who strayed from the main topic of the wildfires, in general, social media gathered the needed attention towards helping Australia. Social users supporting this cause and spreading throughout different platforms represent a benefit of the internet that not many people think about, which is that social media can be useful in more ways than just easily accessible entertainment.
Due to dry heat during the summers, Australia experiences wildfires every year. What differentiates this year’s from the others was its record-breaking uncontrollable nature and devastation. The fires began in nearly every Australian state but affected New South Wales the most. With at least 28 people dead, over 3,000 homes destroyed and an entire ecosystem wiped out. In an article from CNN, they express how the fires in multiple states impacted the continent as a whole, “Blazes have torn through bushland, wooded areas, and national parks like the Blue Mountains. Some of Australia's largest cities have also been affected, including Melbourne and Sydney -- where fires have damaged homes in the outer suburbs and thick plumes of smoke have blanketed the urban center. Earlier in December, the smoke was so bad in Sydney that air quality measured 11 times the ‘hazardous’ level”. Even though the fires were under control, Australia experienced another form of strange weather almost immediately after. Nonstop rain and thunderstorms, along with cases of hail, swept across many of the major cities and states that were affected by the fires. Those who once worried about their houses and land being burned were now having to deal with their cars being destroyed by large balls of ice falling from the sky. The New York Times reported the unpredictable weather patterns in an article published earlier this week saying, “Hailstones were as large as baseballs. Wind gusts topped 70 miles per hour. In some areas, an inch of rain fell in just 30 minutes. A few places experienced flash flooding. Thousands of people were left without power”. To make matters even worse, during the storms that ravaged through cities, New South Wales, where the fires hit worst, was clouded by a wall of dust. There is no explanation as to why this Australian summer has been more intense than the rest. Many have equated this devastation as the latest proof of climate change, meaning that what happened in Australia can, in turn, happen across the globe. Those who have continued to ask for assistance in recovering their land have also pushed the rest of the world to think more carefully about how we take care of our planet. Although the wildfires have negatively impacted Australia, they have also encouraged a new outlook on climate change around the globe and what every single person can do to help in such a huge crisis.
Nothing brings social media users together like a controversy. Although the Australian wildfires gained much support and relief throughout all social platforms, there are always users who use one world problem to address another. This idea is not always a bad thing and can lead to educational debates about what important topics humankind puts above others, but in this specific case, some were inappropriate. Twitter feeds were constantly being spammed with Australian wildfire relief hotlines, donation websites, and updates on events as they were occurring. Overall, Australians were the ones who had to take control of the situation and publicize the intensity of the fires over the internet, finally gaining them the attention they deserved. Inconveniently at the time, United States news broadcasts were solely covering the confrontation that developed out of nowhere in Iran, so the wildfires were basically unknown to everyone. Once the news broke out over Twitter about the fires, everyone was quick to take action to assist, but they were also quick to complain about other global issues. For example, many Twitter users were spamming famous people, specifically The Kardashians, who posted their thoughts and prayers to Australia without taking any action. This caused many people to use the fires as a way to insult the rich, which strayed from the main topic but also peer-pressured some of those famous accounts to donate money. Others complained that the internet cares more about koalas than people, referring to the conflict in Iran, and some were irritated with the fires clogging their timeline.
Although it is expected for the internet to take such topics to an extreme, the majority of users saw the importance of supporting this cause and did everything they could to repeatedly spread the word. Throughout all of this negativity, Australia was able to obtain relief from numerous global sources to get the fires under control, and they will continue to through their extreme summer. Even though the fires were managed, Australia still needs relief for their environment to help grow back shrubbery, bring back their vibrant wildlife, and assist those who lost their homes and families. For those wanting to help, here is an article that provides seven links to various credible organizations that are focusing much of their time on long-term relief. Whether it’s for the families, the trees, or the koalas, Australia needs our help. Donate here: https://www.nbcnews.com/better/lifestyle/how-help-australia-bushfire-survivors-firefighters-wildlife-ncna1111751
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