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January 2020 | This Year's Natural Disasters

In this post, we read, listen, act, and reflect on January's topic: disasters and the Australia fires. This article has been adapted from our sustainability newsletter, so please sign up for it to stay in the loop.

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Estimated reading time: 6 minutes

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What’s covered:

  • READ - why the bushfires matter
  • LISTEN - a podcast on koalas and incompetent leaders
  • ACT - 3 ways to fight for disaster-related climate actions
  • REFLECT - how much hotter is your hometown than when you were born? (quiz time!)

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"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."Β - Meghan Mehta, Google

Read |Β Why do Australia's wildfires matter?

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Australia is burning.


Most of us don't live remotely close though. If you're reading this, you're most likely in the Bay Area. But hey, we know what fires are like. #TooSoon


For the next three weeks, we're going to talk about disasters and climate change. It's easy to ignore the problem because it's just so huge, but as we know, it's closer to home than we think.

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Here's the TL;DR on the Australia fires. You can read the full article here - it answers 5 questions about the Australia fires.

  • The fires started in September 2019 and are still raging on...
  • About 7 million acres have burned in New South Wales since July - almost twice as much if we're talking Australia as a whole. That's more than California's 2018 fires and the 2019 Amazon fires combined.
  • The NSW Rural Fire Service is working hard to put out the fires, but they're a ragtag (probably not so ragtag) group of 74,000 volunteers. They often pay for their own equipment - donate $10 to the GoFundMe campaign to pitch in here. You'll help keep these firefighters, Australia, and our Earth safer.

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It's not just Australia (and you know this) - fire season everywhere is getting worse and worse and worse. And worse.


As fires in the Bay Area have gotten worse, we've gotten better at collecting data and understanding the tie between climate change and natural disasters. Here are some quick facts:


  1. According to PNAS, human-caused climate change (anthropogenic climate change, if you're feeling smart) has DOUBLED the cumulative forest fire area since 1984. Basically, if it weren't for us, only half as much forest area would be burning.
  2. It's not just that climate change leads to more wildfires - it goes the other way as well. Extreme wildfires result in rising carbon emissions - California is actually emitting MORE greenhouse gases than it takes in. Despite all the trees and forests and superblooms we have, our wildfires are toxic to the Earth.
  3. Looking at NOAA's data on natural disasters as a whole, in 2019 alone, there have been 10 weather and climate events with over $1 BILLION USD in damage. That's at least $10 billion in the US alone. That should make your capitalistic company care.

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Listen |Β A podcast about an un-koala-fied leader

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Last week, we talked about the Australia fires, why it matters to all of us non-Australia dwellers, and how we can do our part.


Here's a graphic to recap.




RECAP:
About 18 million acres have burned, more than the Amazon rainforest and the California wildfires combined, caused by and subsequently causing a vicious climate change cycle.

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Listen to Monday's New York Times podcast episode, "Why Australia is Burning". It's about a woman who fled with koalas and kangaroos in her car!


This episode important because it goes over stuff we haven't touched on yet, like the impact on biodiversity and what happens when you country is managed by someone who doesn't care about fighting climate change. (Sound familiar?)


Prime Minister Scott Morrison declined to curb Australia's carbon emissions and was apparently on vacation in Hawaii despite the bushfires being in full swing. Also, there's a ton of misinformation in the Rupert Murdoch-controlled news... the connection is too strong to ignore. Click below for show notes and full episode.

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Picture of a sad, burned Koala to get you to listen to the episode

There's a lot we can do in our communities to proactively offset and mitigate climate damage. That's all what we'll cover today - just these 3 things below. One of them takes as little as 5 seconds. It's between that and a guilt trip.

3 Steps for Disaster-Related Climate Action

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Here they are, in order of effort. The first one takes 5 seconds!

  1. Get your company involved (5 seconds to hit ctrl+c, ctrl+v, and send on an email I already wrote for you)

    You can donate products, services, or strategic partnerships to Direct Relief for disasters. I even drafted an entire email for you. All you have to do is find whom to send it to and copy this. Seriously, you don't even have to customize anything else if you don't want to.

  2. Join your local Climate Reality Project chapter (30 seconds to sign up)

    It's not easy to understand (and sometimes care) about better forest management, sustainable disaster response, clean energy, and other policy-related eco topics. That's what the climate reality project is for - they bring speakers, host events, and basically tell you what to care about and how to help. I left each meeting feeling more intelligent and more energized (pun intended).

  3. Become a Red Cross volunteer (1 week to 2 months according to urban legend)

    I know - this has been on the back of your mind, on and off, for years. It's time to make this a reality, because here's the thing. When disasters strike, the Red Cross NEEDS volunteers to mobilize. But most of the time, you can't show up at a disaster strike and say "hey, I'm ready to help!" I tried that - it turns out I had to get certified and come back in 2 months. So do it now!

Reflect |Β How much hotter is your hometown than when you were born?

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#1. Bushfires - What's up down under?


It rained in Australia a little over a week ago (yay!) but the bushfires are not completely contained. Hotter temperatures are predicted for the end of this week, but for now, the worst seems to have passed.


Now that the fires have largely passed, Australians and international reporters are reflecting on centuries-old indigenous cultural burning practices that were used to manage the landscape before natives were colonised. These techniques were highly effective, but generally disregarded and invalidated by the post-colonialism Australian government.


My takeway: it's important to understand the history and cultural context of where you live. Looking at the environment through an intersectional lens not only allows us to be mindful of social challenges; it can potentially save lives.

#2. Davos - Is Switzerland still neutral in 2020?


The World Economic Forum's annual summit, AKA Davos, took place earlier this month. A bunch of powerful people get in a room (well, many rooms) to discuss economics and geopolitics, but in 2020, that's synonymous with talking about climate change.


As you can imagine, tensions flared. It was basically Trump vs. Greta, adult vs. child (although I won't say who is who). The United States leader didn't acknowledge climate change, and Greta continued to convince business and government to take action.


However, one rare climate point of agreement was the 1t.org project, which "aims to grow, restore and conserve 1 trillion trees around the world to sequester carbon from the air and to protect biodiversity". Even Trump was on board - yay trees!


Two more #Davos2020 wins:

  1. Companies like Microsoft publicly committing to major climate action
  2. The fact that sustainability was even such a major focus of Davos. Check out the graph below for why that's a big deal.


#3. How much hotter is your hometown than when you were born?


I'll leave that for you to answer. This is one of the coolest pieces of interactive journalism by the New York Times - check it out and reply to this email with what you find!

Fight climate change in a way that works for you.

πŸ’Œ Thinking about sustainability can be overwhelming after a busy workday, so we're here to help. Join over 4,000 other busy people and subscribe to Changeletter, a bite-sized action plan that'll take you 3 minutes or less to read every week.
Take action
Headshot of Ash Borkar (a woman with glasses and a cardigan)
"The info is always timely, actionable, and never stale." - Aishwarya Borkar, Change.org
Headshot of Meghan Mehta speaking at Google with a microphone in her hand
"Making social change always felt so overwhelming until I started reading this newsletter."Β - Meghan Mehta, Google