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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Queen's U chapter.

This winter, social media has come alive with people reposting pictures and videos of the wildfires that have been raging through Australia in attempt to raise awareness. Despite this disaster going viral, the majority of people have failed to discuss in detail what exactly is happening and what the impact of these fires are having on the Australian people and their environment.

The extent of the damage the fires have caused

Even though Australia typically experiences wildfires every year during the summer months, this year has been the most devastating in Australian history in terms of damages. Up to date, approximately 27 million acres of land have been destroyed, making it even more destructive than last year’s fires in the Amazon. As a result, over 25,000 houses have been destroyed, and 29 people have been killed. This only covers some of the damages the fires have caused directly. Non-direct damages are just as destructive with smoke being spread over the Australian countryside, making the air hazardous and putting all citizens at risk. 

Even after the fires die down, which likely won’t be until the end of their summer, Australians will continue to face other issues caused by the fire. Dealing with the aftermath of a major trauma, like relocating,  losing pets, belongings and other things can be very overwhelming and emotionally draining. Studies find that after a major disaster occurs, the trauma causes mental health issues to increase between 5-15% within a community. So after the fires end, Australians will have to rebuild and recuperate from the traumatic events they’ve endured.

The impact on the environment and animals of Australia

Social media has highlighted the major impact that the fires have had on Australian wildlife, with people focusing on the danger that koalas and kangaroos face during the fires. But it’s not just these animals that have been killed or displaced by these fires. While it is estimated that around 50,000 koalas have been killed in the fire, overall 1 billion animals in total have been lost as a result of the fires. The animals that have survived the fires still face extinction because of the land destruction, which results in a shortage of food, clean water and safe habitats that result in all other animals being at risk. 

Because of the high numbers of animal deaths that  have resulted from these fires, the surviving ecosystems might not be the same because of the destruction of habitat and the loss of essential species within the ecosystems that perished in the fires. 

The cause of these fires

Despite Australia experiencing wildfires every year during the dry months, many people are trying to understand how the fires have gotten so extreme over the past couple of years. While the majority of the fires are started naturally because of heat and dry landscape, people speculate that the increased temperature due to climate change is fueling the fires and causing them to be worse with each passing year. This year, Australia has experienced record-breaking summer heat, and that combined with the extreme drought Australia has been experiencing since 2017 is a probable factor when considering the cause of the fires. Because of the rising global temperatures and the resulting extreme weather patterns caused by climate change ,  the forest fires might continue to worsen each year.

For donations to help any victims or relief efforts, organizations like Australian Red Cross, NSW rural fire service and many more are great options.


Laura Wilson

Queen's U '21

Laura Wilson is an Art History and Psychology Major at Queen's University. She loves hiking, environmental sciences and wildlife with a special passion for writing.
HC Queen's U contributor