In case you haven’t heard there are ‘Catastrophic’ category bushfires burning across New South Wales and Queensland at the moment. Some 75 bushfires are burning across the nation, firefighters are working to the point of exhaustion around the clock, trying to save lives and homes. People have lost their homes, lives have been lost, hundreds of thousands of hectares of bushland have been lost, but few outside of Australia know about this. They know bushfires are burning but unless you live in Australia, you may not know the full extent of how bad the fires are. I know as I’m from Sydney. My friends and family have all posted about bracing for the worst, preparing their homes, and packing their possessions in the car ready to evacuate.
But, what about international coverage?
For days the bushfires in Queensland and New South Wales have dominated the news in Australia. Few other topics have been posted on social media other than the bushfires in this region. But outside Australia, the fire has not received much attention. International Twitter users feel the same way.
A new hashtag was trending on the morning of Wednesday November 13th. The hashtag #AustraliaFires was being used rather than the past updates and hashtags we’ve been seeing of fire updates from #NSWFires and #NSWBushfires. Hashtag #AustraliaFires is a cry for global media attention.
“Australian bush fires are getting worse each day. This is so scary and upsetting and isn’t getting the media coverage needed,” one person tweeted. “The country is burning, animals are dying, people’s homes are being burnt down. This is not a joke; people need to be made more aware of this.”
Many have compared the Australian bushfires to those that ripped through the Amazon a few months ago, during which an estimated 7,000 square miles or almost 20 million hectares of land burned.
The Amazon has been called the world's lungs, and as it burned it was instantly all-over social media; there were global summits and conferences. World leaders gathered together to discuss what we need to be doing to save the rainforest and ensure this doesn’t happen again. As Australia burns, many are wondering where the viral tweets are? Where are the leaders discussing how to help? Many are disappointed with Australian leaders for not attempting to do more as half the country burns, and everyone is blaming each other.
While many are crying that they are not seeing enough global coverage, there has been global coverage. Reuters is writing updates regularly on the bushfire situation. CNN, The New York Times, CBS, Fox News and many others have all reported on Australia’s bushfires in the last two days; Bloomberg even covered Australia’s government’s refusal to address questions about the impact of climate change, while the BBC dedicated a piece to the heart-warming note left by firefighters at a property on the mid-north NSW coast. “It was our pleasure to save your house. Sorry, we could not save your sheds. Urunga RFS. P.S – We owe you milk.”
The coverage is out there – it’s just not being seen by the dozens and dozens of people urgently tweeting about it.
Potentially these tweets speak to a deeper concern about inaction on climate change worldwide. More likely, people saw one viral tweet and didn’t take it one step further. Confirmation bias is a hell of a thing.
While there have been homes lost, lives lost, animals and bushland lost, firefighters worked themselves to exhaustion and then take a much-needed break on the side of the road. As the 3,800 square miles and 1 million hectares (and counting) of land has been lost, maybe the anger is pointed at the leaders, maybe it is pointed at those who have not re-tweeted that apocalyptic photo of fire over our beloved beaches. While we are crying for global coverage, it is important to remember disasters are happening all over the world, as we speak we are reminded climate change is real. While half of Australia is on fire, Tasmania in Australia is experiencing snow, California is experiencing wildfires, and Venice is experiencing flooding as it deals with the highest tides in over 50 years. The world is experiencing catastrophe everywhere we look, and no one’s suffering is greater than another.
While Tuesday was declared a Catastrophic State of Emergency, the latest news – which has been reported by Australian media outlets – is that while hundreds of homes were destroyed during Tuesday’s catastrophic conditions, no lives were lost. All fires in NSW have now been downgraded to either an Advice or Watch and Act, while Queensland is bracing itself for a wind change.