When I was younger I became acquainted with a verse from the beautiful poem by Dorothea Mackellar ‘My Country’.
‘I love a sunburnt country, A land of sweeping plains, Of ragged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror – The wide brown land for me!’
As I sit at the airport about to travel off to another part of my country, I can’t help but reflect on this verse, and how much it resonates with me in the wake of the disastrous bushfires that have ravaged a large part of Australia.
Maybe it’s the ferocity of the thunderstorms that closed airports over the past couple of days and have delayed my flight today. Maybe it’s the fact that while one half of our country burned, the top end was experiencing deluges as a result of tropical cyclones.
I came home this January for a holiday. I’ve lived overseas now for almost two years, and will always call Australia home. But flying into Sydney in early January I had tears in my eyes because this wasn’t my home. At least not the one I remembered.
Each morning I was watching the rolling news coverage of the bushfires, and crying.
I returned for a holiday in a place that was familiar to me amongst all the unfamiliarity of the places I’ve travelled to for work over the years. Australia was unrecognisable. A thick greyish-ochre coloured smoke filled the sky, and the beautiful harbour that you look for out the window of the plane as you fly in was nowhere to be seen.
The Australian lifestyle is one that is envied all around the world.
Growing up in the small capital of Australia as a young girl, playing outdoors was the norm. I was born in Canberra, a planned city, with its suburbs scattered around national parks, small mountains and bush.
I’d make houses from fallen eucalyptus tree branches and get bitten by giant bull ants who were just trying to exist where my cousins and I made our little house. My mum and I would go for hikes up Mount Ainslie, or Mount Majura. We’d go cool off during the summer in the Cotter River on our way home from the beautiful national park filled with native flora and fauna.
A few years later, we moved to Melbourne and we’d road trip to explore the country outside our city. Whether it was to explore the rugged mountain ranges of the Grampians, or to find fairies living in the Otway rainforest down in the creek beds – we really got outdoors to explore.
It saddens me, because not only is Australia unrecognisable, but it’s being governed by a government that is so out of touch with the people it’s supposed to govern – it makes me really worried for the what lies ahead.
I had always envisioned a future of raising my own family one day back home in Australia. I’ve dreamed about taking my own children on similar adventures. But the countryside I grew to know and love was gone. Entire cities looking like apocalyptic wastelands, with the air quality so poor, the only way to live was to stay indoors.
One of my fondest family memories was driving through Gippsland Victoria through to the New South Wales south coast all the way to Eden, where, in the middle of winter, we had hoped to spot some whales along their migration route up the coast.
When I turned on the news one morning in Australia that place was a hellish inferno. It was not the sleepy seaside town that I had once known. The skies were a deep red, smoke clouded the streets, and some photos even showed the skies being pitch black at 3pm.
I’ve never experienced this kind of sadness and sheer shock and disbelief over something I literally have no control over. Perhaps this is why I’m feeling such an impending sense of helplessness.
I feel hypocritical, because how can I feel sad for the planet when my carbon footprint is so high.
I’ve asked myself, how can I continue to do the work that I do, and make it more sustainable. How can I be more ethical in my day to day life?
As of January 1st, I became plant-based. Once my holiday is over, I am asking all my clients to add a carbon offset to all my flights, and each month I will be planting trees if I’ve had to travel for work.
What I can do right now is use my voice to spread the word about the bushfires in Australia, and the effect that climate change will have on our planet if we don’t change our behaviours now.
What’s happening to my home is truly devastating, and it’s ok to feel sad. I’m allowed to do the work I do and still feel bad. I’m still allowed to protest and raise awareness about climate change. Nobody is perfect.
I’ve allowed myself to cry, and even though I’ve resumed work- it doesn’t mean I don’t still care. I do.
Please donate <3
Celeste Barber’s Bushfire Appeal https://www.facebook.com/donate/1010958179269977/
First Nations Fundraiser https://au.gofundme.com/f/fire-relief-fund-for-first-nation…