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We promise this won't (really) hurt.

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Australia Is Burning

A hundred miles off the coast of Adelaide sits Kangaroo Island. The “Galapagos of Australia,” a lot of the island is protected nature reserves. Currently, over 20,000 of the island’s 50,000 koalas are believed to have died in the island’s raging bushfires. Sadly, the tragedy is emblematic of what is happening throughout Australia right now. 

In the past few months, over over 5.5 million hectares have been scorched. Five-hundred million animals, from koalas to kangaroos and cockatoos, are dead. Twenty-four people have been killed. More than 1,400 homes lost. It goes without saying that these bushfires are the worst natural disaster in the country’s recorded history. Only the foolish (and those in the pockets of the fossil fuel industry) deny climate change is to blame. 

On January 3, Penrith, a metropolitan area in the the western Sydney shattered heat records, posting a scorching 120-degree temperature. The same day the Australian capital of Canberra hit 110 degrees, breaking the record of 109 set in 1939. When it comes to the bushfires, New South Wales continues to be the hardest hit area with no sign of relief on the immediate horizon. Communities are living in a constant state of emergency and evacuations have been the norm. Cooling temps and some much-needed rainfall helped raise spirits over the weekend, but firefighters warn it’s not having an impact as strong winds continue to drive numerous blazes. 

The images and footage coming out of Australia are heartbreaking. It’s death and destruction on a massive scale. And while it’s hard to reckon with the extent of it all and how to respond, in our own little sandbox, thankfully there are those within the surf community doing what they can to lend a hand. 

Coach to the stars Jake Paterson is leveraging his access to his stable of riders to raise some funds. 

“Planning on doing a #snaketales silent auction of signed top pro surfers rash vests to raise money for the bushfire,” Snake announced on Instagram. “Let me know who’s signed rash vest you would like to pay for and I will make it happen.”

Surf photographer Peter “Bosko” Boskovic is taking a slightly different tact, challenging his fellow lensmen and women to come to Australia’s aid. 

“I’m challenging all surf photogs and filmers Australia and worldwide to match my donation or better it for the children and adults suffering that have lost everything and have nowhere to go,” posted Bosko.

There have been a lot of messages from our favorite surf stars, pleading for their fans and followers to join them in supporting any one of the myriad of organizations that are on the frontlines both fighting the fires and dealing with its horrific aftermath.

Surfing's Instagram thought leader, Kelly Slater, posted a devastating photo of a scorched marsupial with the following caption: 

#Australia. I’m not sure a picture could better sum up the fear and devastation more succinctly. I’m no expert but from the messages and reading I’ve done on the subject, mismanagement of forest underbrush back-burning in the winter months and overall water resources have helped create a perfect storm in the face of this drought. I hope there is a silver lining and important lessons learned from the ongoing catastrophes once the dust settles. One of my biggest fears as a kid was fires and ironically enough, my mom was a firefighter. Maybe one created the other. Hoping for safety and refuge for all my human and animal friends down under. Feel free to put links and info to good charities and support groups in the comments below.

Surfing's most noteworthy author cum enviro-lord, Sean Doherty, clapped back in the comments: 

Hey Kelly, Australia has just come off its hottest and driest year since records have been kept. Two weeks back we had the three hottest days ever recorded here, the averaged maximum between 41 and 42C across the entire continent. Imagine the whole of the continental USA at 105. This of course is on the back of year after year of temperature records... and when you combine that with a country predisposed to bushfires for tens of thousands of years you’re going to have problems. Hazard reduction burns in winter are happening in smaller and smaller windows as they’re simply too dangerous, and there’s only so much these prescribed burns can do when you get to summer and you have a catastrophic 120 degree day with 50 knot winds... the fires just jump from crown to crown. The elephant in the room with the denialist government here of course is climate change and the fact they are presently supercharging it by opening up huge new fossil fuel basins. The country is really wrestling with a way ahead here. It’s tough. Well done at Pipe, that was great to watch mate.

Smoke from the fires has even migrated to New Zealand—formerly the “Land of the Long White Cloud.”

“I’m on the east coast of New Zealand and the smoke is here and getting thicker. I can only imagine the devastation across the ditch,” Ricardo Christie posted. “Let’s keep asking our leaders and politicians to get more support for the firefighters and wildlife rescue organizations who are on the ground risking their lives…If anyone knows how we can help Australia in this crisis right now, please write how in the comments so we can all band together and share knowledge with each other. I would also love to know what we can do to combat climate change together in this new year. Let’s talk about it!”

And in Hawaii, shaper Akila Aipa is heeding the call.

“Being proactive is more helpful than just sending thoughts and prayers. I would like to auction a retro fish, all the money will be donated to whichever Australian brushfire donation link you choose, starting bid is $600. We will share the build process, obviously the board will be yours to keep or we can donate the board to a donation link or family in need,” offered Aipa. You can slide him a DM to get in on the action. 

Copping a heap of heat for his response to this is Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. He was vacationing in Hawaii over the Christmas holidays, only to return home for photo ops. They didn’t go over well has Aussies, from the firefighters to the citizens, shouted him down. Everywhere he’s gone he’s been deservedly called out for his lack of response and attention to the situation. A headline for The Guardian reads, “Scott Morrison makes us ashamed to be Australian.”

The fires in Australia are of a much larger magnitude than those we saw in the Amazon and in California over the last couple of years, but they’re all part of the same trend. I lost my family home in the Northern California fires in 2017 and know first-hand more has to be done. We all have to wake up and realize the the future is here—firestorms—it’s what climate change looks like.

Useless politicians have to be voted out and new administrations better equipped to grapple with modern environmental issues must be ushered into power—both in Australia and America. Oil and coal industries have to go the way of the dinosaur as more sustainable, climate-friendly technologies replace them. Urban sprawl and development in fire-prone areas has to be better managed. More fiscal and human resources have to be dedicated to the cause. People are dying, homes are being destroyed and entire species are being eradicated because of inaction. 

Whether it’s scoring a signed rashie off of Snake, bidding on Aipa twinnie, or donating to any of the charities below*, do something.

*For what it's worth, on a recent @theswellian post, Sydney slab monger Justin 'Jughead' Allport, whose day job is that of a fireman, left the following comment:

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How you can help those affected by the Australian bushfires: 

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