Australia’s fires show how wealth inequality compounds climate disasters

Source(s)
Truthout

By Sharon Zhang

This is not the first time that Australia has been devastatingly burned. More than ten years ago, in February 2009, fires in Australia killed 173 people, injured thousands more and destroyed 2,000 homes. The day of the February 2009 blaze, which became known as Black Saturday, constituted the country’s most deadly wildfire event in history. The fires were sudden and moved with alarming speed.

[…]

The death toll is lower so far this season — estimates hover around 28 deaths so far — but the acres of land, houses and animal lives lost have eclipsed previous fires. Where 1.1 million acres and over 1 million animals were lost in 2009, this season’s blazes have burned nearly 18 million acres, over 3,000 homes and a billion (if not billions) of native animals so far.

[…]

“Many survivors will struggle with the death of loved ones; loss of belongings; loss of livelihood; lack of shelter; destruction of local environment; inadequate support by the state; loss of hope for the future; and fear,” says Sharon Friel, a professor of health policy who wrote the 2019 book Climate Change and the People’s Health. A 2016 report on victims of Black Saturday found that, five years after the bushfires, more than a fifth of impacted residents were experiencing more than double the rate of mental health issues like post-traumatic stress disorder and depression compared to the rest of the population. Those who lived alone or were otherwise more isolated from community groups were more affected, the report found.

[…]

Climate disasters are worsening worldwide and are only compounded by wealth inequality. Research has found that disaster preparedness can be too expensive for people living in poverty; evacuating isn’t possible for poor people without access to transportation or who can’t miss work; renters may have issues securing housing after a disaster. As Friel points out, “Affluent people can afford to live in insulated buildings with air conditioning and air purifiers,” whereas those with lower incomes may have to breathe the air, indoors or not. The list of impacts for the poor goes on and on and on.

[…]

Share this

PLEASE NOTE: CONTENT IS DISPLAYED AS LAST POSTED BY A PREVENTIONWEB COMMUNITY MEMBER OR EDITOR. THE VIEWS EXPRESSED THEREIN ARE NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF UNDRR, PREVENTIONWEB, OR ITS SPONSORS.
SEE OUR TERMS OF USE