Blissful thinking

Almost one month in to 2021, and not much has changed. Australia was fortunate to have been in a pretty good place with managing the COVID situation across multiple states towards the end of last year, and as we entered 2021, things were much the same, with border closures and restrictions in place depending on the area you lived. It almost came as a shock that on New Year’s Eve my husband and I were required to wear masks when we went out to dinner but hey, you gotta do what you gotta do, and we understand the importance of these kinds of mandates. After all, it was not so long ago that we were in a more challenging time, similar to what much of the world is still experiencing right now.

The year ahead

With desperate hopes for an effective vaccine and a fast rollout, the world is in limbo. It amazes me how adamant some people are to get on with their daily lives, as if nothing is happening, lining up immediately behind one another to purchase a coffee or cramming into the grocery aisle.

People everywhere are wondering; when will things go back to being how they were? Or maybe they have already come to terms with the fact that nothing will ever be the same, and they don’t care, or just don’t want to think about it. I could say something about ignorance and bliss right here, but I’ll leave that for you to decide.

As I said last year, I think it will be a very long time before anything is back to the way it was pre pandemic and as common as it may be to say it now, many of us are getting used to the new normal. We have just about had one whole year to become accustomed to the situation, so there is no excuse, right? Sadly, this concept of normality applies to climate change too; it seems that anything we don’t have a practical solution for falls into this category.

Time to refresh

This year brings no change to my working situation; I’m still at home, which I am happy about. But it is not easy making plans for the year ahead. Of course, we can stay at home as we did last year, and I am a bit of a homebody so wouldn’t mind this too much, or we can plan to get things done on the weekend, falling victim to our pre-pandemic lifestyles. It’s like a trap; we are so used to being all go, go, go, when the best thing we can do right now is stay put.

I have been thinking and reading a lot on the topic of wellness lately, which the more I think about it, the more I realise it is something that resonates with me. I want to take the time to learn yoga and meditation; to learn how to properly switch my mind off. I have just started using natural oils on my skin and am absolutely loving them. By ensuring my meals remain healthy throughout the day (breakfast of bircher muesli/granola is my all-time fave), and fitting in plenty of exercise, this is working well for me. Maybe that is what I should continue to focus on this year; health and wellness as a way of helping me to relax and unwind.

Change is refreshing, and with so much happening around us every day, now is a good time to take time to focus on what really makes us happy. Take the plunge and do something you’ve always wanted to; It doesn’t have to be a drastic commitment or promise; maybe a simple change of heart or new perspective on something is all that is required.

So go on, have a think about what you could do for yourself that will also have a positive impact on the people and/or environment around you and make it happen.

An appetite for action

This year has certainly been unlike any other year like I have never experienced before, for a number of reasons that affected so many people. Starting late 2019, was the heat and the bushfires that much of Australia experienced. I remember packing up and leaving the beach house in a hurry just before New Year’s, once the power shut off and our dog struggled in the heat. On the drive back to Melbourne we listened to the news on the radio, with warnings for Melbournians to evacuate if they were in close proximity to a fire, and to take care and watch with caution if they were in a surrounding area.

I will never forget heading to work in the CBD in early January to a city I had never experienced, with a haze of smoke and dusty skies. It was a constant reminder of what was happening all around us, as Australia truly begun to understand the impacts of climate change.

But part of me wonders, do we actually know? Do we really understand the causes, the problems, and the lasting effects? Spending time at my Dad’s property in February definitely got me thinking about our relationship with nature, and how important every aspect of our ecosystem is in cultivating growth and change around us.

The COVID situation

After a quick trip to Tasmania in February to enjoy all the region has to offer (quite literally) and attend a friend’s wedding, we were back in Melbourne with a trip to New Zealand planned for early March. As we heard the news of ‘coronavirus’ breaking out in countries far away, we were unaware of the significant threat it posed, or that we would soon be experiencing one of the harshest lockdowns in history.

We made it to New Zealand without a hiccup and stayed informed of the news as we travelled around the North island for ten days. We had a wonderful holiday; packed with rainforest walks/runs, waterfalls, sailing the Bay of Islands and indulging in some incredible food and wine. We visited the town of Taupo, where we were amazed at the size of the lake; we had never seen one so big, only on American TV shows. We experienced the stench of Rotorua and marvelled at the sulphuric springs as they boiled away, letting off steam.

We heard coronavirus warnings on the radio as we drove from town to town and were impressed with the speed at which the country was informing the public. We doubted that Australia would have such precautions in place this early on. We had just finished a tour of the Waitomo glow worm caves, one of the most incredible things I had ever seen, when things really started spiralling out of control around the world. It was our second last night in New Zealand, and while we were having an amazing time away, we were looking forward to getting back to a familiar place, as chaos unfolded around us.

We made it back within a few days of the mandatory quarantine being enforced for people who had been out of the country. Not that we went anywhere or did anything when we returned anyway; we found ourselves working from home and not leaving for many other reasons at all, other than to shop for food and to exercise.

The state of being

I have shared my thoughts and feelings throughout the year, and some of my posts may have been slightly repetitive, which only emphasises the state of being for 2020.

While I write of cities, of the bush, of time spent travelling earlier this year, I reflect on these major events and wonder what the next year, even the next 10-20 years will bring. It seems that this way of living has already become ‘business as usual’.

Here in Victoria, Australia, we have been doing so well at keeping cases down, but as we begin to let international travellers back in, I can only wonder what will happen after the last debacle, and with what’s going on in New South Wales at the moment, who knows. Of course, I am hoping for the best, for a level of control, for strong leadership and guidelines that will mean that we don’t find ourselves to a similar situation that we were in earlier this year in 2021, for both the pandemic and the environment, although things are not looking great.

But there are signs of respite, such as this beautiful story of a thought to be extinct pygmy possum being recently found on Kangaroo Island after bushfires destroyed much of the island last summer.

As America comes to terms with the idea of a new president in Biden, someone that has climate change well and truly on his agenda, we can only hope too that Australia has a plan, because if things keep going the way they are, it doesn’t seem that we will be able to enjoy our country for much longer. Every summer will be the same; fires, loss of and significant damage to wildlife and an enormous volunteer effort to manage the situation. As David Attenborough would say, this is just not a sustainable way of living; we need to drastically change our approach before it is too late.

This year has shown that when given strong leadership, we as a community can do it, we can get out of almost anything, or at least turn things around. So, let’s make 2021 a year of learning, reflection and action on anything that is within our control.

Have a safe and happy Christmas break everyone and see you next year!

Our bushfire crisis

A smokey city

The bushfires ravaging Australia are beyond catastrophic.

A significant portion of the country is on fire and the Australian community is rallying together to do what we can. Whether it’s donating food, money or helping out in the devastated regions, there are a lot of people out there striving to make a difference.

On Tuesday 6th January I went to work in Melbourne CBD and as soon as I stepped off the train, I was hit by the coat of smoke that covered the city. I walked through it on my way to work, and on my lunch break I watched a violinist play passionately, with an almost colourless backdrop. As the afternoon went on, I noticed the cloud of smoke gathering around my building, slowly closing us in.

The people

Firefighters and residents alike are experiencing the trauma first-hand. These people are in the front line, defending their land against notorious flames. Firefighters from all over have come together to save our soil.

After learning from the unfortunate events of Black Saturday back in 2009, residents seem to understand the severity of these fires and the likelihood of beating them. People are being told to evacuate, it is not safe to stay, and, in most cases, they are doing just that.

The animals

The loss of native Australian fauna is absolutely devastating. Our koala population has reduced to 5%, which leaves me lost for words. The animals have a very low chance of survival, and those that have been burned are likely to be euthanised. There are not enough resources to cope.

I saw a headline about the Mallacoota fires recently, that described the events of December 30, the sound the koalas made as they burned. It brought tears to my eyes as I thought of these beautiful creatures suffering.

The rest of Australia

If you can donate, please do – places like the Red Cross and the CFA need as much support as they can get. You can also donate directly to the World Wildlife Foundation – Australia, where proceeds will be put towards re-homing animals affected by the fires.

We can hope with all our might that the fires are over soon, but it is only just the start of summer.

Our “leaders” really need to face the facts and think about what they aren’t doing to save our country at the expense of our environment, our people and our livelihoods.

I read a powerful article yesterday that called out the need for Australia’s climate change policies to change urgently, labelling the Government’s position as a ‘destructive stance’. I couldn’t agree more.

The country is devastated. Coming back from this won’t be an easy feat. In a couple of days, the heat is expected to hit us again, and there is a high chance that some of the biggest fires will merge. There are leaders at state level doing as much as they can in providing support to communities who need it. But what is missing is a national strategy to work towards the prevention of events like this, instead of solutions for the damages that the lack of prevention has caused.