Student perspective: Australia native Courtney Woods' family affected by bushfires

Bushfires in Australia have been spreading since September, negatively affecting the air quality and animal habitats across the country.

Courtney Woods, redshirt senior forward for the women’s basketball team and Brisbane, Australia native, finds herself far from home during a national disaster. Burning since September, the Australian bushfires have destroyed approximately 27 million acres of land, killed millions of animals and 29 people and have left thousands homeless.

This catastrophic bushfire season continues, having already surpassed the global damage caused by the Amazon fires, which resulted in the loss of 2.2 million acres of rainforest, according to a Jan. 10 Vice article.

“Obviously it’s been hard being so far away from home with everything that’s happening, but my parents have told me a whole lot about it,” Woods said.

Although her family hasn’t been directly affected by the fires, it has still experienced some residual damage.

“The fires are very south of where my family lives, so they weren’t directly affected by the fires,” Woods said. “The smoke is more the issue where they live. It’s everywhere and all of our pets are inhaling it.”

The smoke and pollution caused by the bushfires have reached hazardous levels in Sydney and Canberra, according to a Jan. 2 Berkeley Earth air-quality test. These dangerous smoke and pollution levels have resulted in retailers selling out of protective masks.

Beyond Australia, the smoke has also affected the air quality in New Zealand, and it is already visible in South America, according to NASA. The lasting damage the smoke and pollution will have on the planet is currently unknown.

The fires have raised an important question: How are global societies preparing to deal with catastrophes?

“I think that the [Australian] government knew that this was going to happen for a while,” Woods said. “We have really bad fires every year. The government should provide assistance to prevent fires this severe.”

The issue of climate change remains a debate amongst world leaders, in many cases lacking a clear course of action.

As far away as these natural disasters and declining wilderness may seem, they affect humans and our futures globally.

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