The Australian Bushfires and Adulthood

“The beauty of this planet and this environment is that every single human, animal, bird, insect, microbe and vegetation is a stakeholder to it. What benefits the planet swiftly benefits all of us. More importantly, what destroys the planet slowly but surely destroys all of us. You and I are here to remind everyone that climate change is not one industry’s problem.”

These four sentences that my academic supervisor told a very nervous me as I stepped into my masters programme resonates with me now more than ever.

Ever since I decided to embark on a career in environmental conservation, the deteriorating condition of the world around us and the apathy of world leaders towards the same has become increasingly evident. With every new lecture, I gain a deeper understanding of the history of pollution. With every seminar, I believe even more and more that banning plastic is now only a negligible dent in the iron wall that is climate change. I realise, that the more I educate myself and the people around me, the more I’ll be contributing my part, as much as I can.

But there are times like now when I see distressed Koalas, Kangaroos helplessly escaping flames, people displaced and a growing death toll of humans and animals alike, that the shallowness of most of my wants and needs in life becomes more apparent.

Learning simply isn’t enough.

Ever since I turned 18, I’ve associated 22 with legitimate adulthood. Twenty one just seemed like a free pass to alcohol.

So when I turned 22, a couple of days ago, I wondered whether today would finally be the day I felt like a functioning adult. My parents, the earliest to call and the saddest to not have me around, said they’d sent some money, for me to gift myself whatever I wanted on their behalf.

Whatever made me ‘feel 22’.

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It took me a while, sifting through images of knee-high boots and Harry Potter collectables until I unequivocally knew where that money should go. So, I made a total donation of the amount to RSPCA New South Wales, an organisation working to conserve pets, domestic animals and native wildlife as the Australian bushfires rage on.

And I’ve never felt prouder, never felt more 22.

Now, staying true to my commitment as a budding environmentalist to educate the people around me, I compiled a list of a few personally verified organisations to donate to. After passing them around family groups, I decided to try and broaden my reach. Each of these organisations is working tirelessly through different actions towards the common goal to save as many as possible.

For wildlife:
RSPCA: working to conserve domestic animals, pets and wildlife. Donations accepted via card and Paypal.
WIRES: working to conserve native wildlife. Donations accepted via Facebook fund and Paypal.
WWF Australia: working to conserve Koala Bears. Donations accepted via card and Paypal.

For communities:
Salvation Army Australia: working for emergency relief and recovery. Donations accepted via card, direct debit and Paypal.
Red Cross Australia: working for evacuation, medical assistance, accommodation and reuniting. Donations accepted via card and Paypal.
NSW Rural Fire Service: working for emergency responses and community relief. Donations accepted via credit card, money order and bank transfer.

Of course, financial assistance is not the only way you can contribute. All your decisions, from what you buy and wear and eat to how you travel, consume and discard, have the potential to impact climate change.

The biggest way to do your part, however, is through education, awareness and action. Remember that you are a stakeholder of this planet. And remind others that they are too.

As for all of you at the brink of adulthood, remember that more often than not, being an adult is just about being grateful for everything you have and understanding that someone might need it more than you do. And making the empathic, generous choice to pass it on.

Here’s to ‘feeling 22’.

Tamanna Sengupta is a postgraduate student in Environmental Management at the University of York.

Featured image credit: Reuters