The day dawned ... except, it didn't. The air was thick and yellow-hued. The birds were silent.
'It almost looks like an Australian bushfire sky,' I thought. 'But those fires are over 2000km away in a different country. It can't be that.'
But it was. It is. And it's been a very unsettling way to ring in the new decade - a visceral reminder of how precious our world is, and how connected we all are ... and how badly we are failing our own habitat and the other animals we share it with.
I've seen a lot of people sending thoughts and prayers via social media, but I don't think thoughts and prayers will do a lot. What we can send - those of us with $5, or $50, or whatever to spare - is cash. And if you don't have any spare cash at this rather financially draining time of year, I have some other ideas further down.
Half a billion animals are reported to have died in this year's Australian fires. It just doesn't bear thinking about.
I didn't spot any organisations committed to restoring the bush, but these two organisations might be worth checking out:
Help the people displaced by fires
What else can we do?
Climate change has made these bushfires more catastrophic than they were in the past. It is up to all of us to do our best to reduce our impact on the environment.
- Vote responsibly. Voting in your own personal interests is a dick move, and it isn't actually in your interests anyway. Voting to help secure the health of the environment, people and animals around you is where it's at.
- Reduce our own carbon footprints. We can't all do all of these things, but we can pick some: Eat less meat and dairy, drive less, buy second hand / quality (say no to 'fast fashion'), plant a vege garden, give up appliances you don't need (how many people really need a clothes dryer?), use video technology instead of taking flights for business purposes. Find some other tips on Stuff, The Huffington Post and The New York Times.
- Reduce our impact on the earth in other ways. Remember the Five Rs (refuse, reduce, reuse, rot, recycle), be a more efficient power user, buy less stuff, compost your food waste, buy from companies with values that match your own, and work for companies with values that match your own (and if they don't, why not see if you can change them?). Get your workplace or school involved in initiatives such as Veganuary or Plastic Free July
- Advocate for change. Voting is important, but we can take smaller actions too. Write to your favourite companies and ask them to make changes to their packaging / ingredients / labour practices. Sign those petitions that are always going around. Talk to your local MP about your specific concerns and how you can work together to make positive change. Talk to your local council about what they can put in place to help residents make better decisions (eg more public rubbish bins, more public drinking fountains, better curbside recycling options, etc)
As I finished this post I had to run outside to break up a cat fight. I couldn't see a single star in the sky.
Photo: Christian Reusch, Flickr, 2013.