More than one billion (that's billion, with a "B") animals have perished in the Australian brush fires, raging since September, and that have nearly ringed the perimeter of the island continent. Uncounted others have lost their habitats. It's unclear what this damage could do – and has done – to the myriad ecosystems in the region, including the human ecosystem. For starters, smoke and debris lifted into the atmosphere have reached New Zealand, another island nation, more than 2,500 miles away.
The cause of the fires is unclear, but more than two dozen people have been arrested by Australian authorities on suspicion of arson, which makes you wonder where some of these people keep their IQ points in a country dehydrated by a sustained, devastating drought.
And so far (the phrase "so far" is a depressing portend when used in this context), 27 people have died in the Australian fires, with more than 2,000 homes destroyed.
Couple those numbers with the searing images of burned koala bears and kangaroos, of emus and livestock seeking safety, well, it's a disaster that is overwhelming if not just flat-out disheartening.
Climate change may not be the cause of the wildfires, but it seems evident that rising mean temperatures on the planet have extended Earth's naturally existing dry seasons, thereby exacerbating conditions for wildfires and droughts. (Keep in mind that brush fires are actually considered to be part of Australia's ecosystem). Wildfires in our own Midwest, not to mention in the Brazilian rain forest, seem to bear this out. To me, the ever lingering wildfires, burning with ever growing intensity, are evidence right in front of my eyes that climate change exists.
So do 70 degree temperatures in January in North Carolina.
I am not a scientist, so I have to depend on the research and conclusions of scientists to help me form my opinions. Therefore, I'm going to believe the vetted and educated specialists over the conspiracy theorists every day (There seems to be a conspiracy for every fact these days, forcing us to make up our own minds). If science tells me hydrocarbons, coal and fossil fuels are contaminating the planet and changing climates, well, it makes sense to me.
Even if you have doubts about the authenticity of climate change, what could it hurt to be on the safe side of saving the planet, as opposed to the fiscal side of extending corporate profits because you might think environmental conservation is a misdirection of money?
I vaguely remember a Sunday School class I once had as a middle schooler discussing stewardship and that we, as mankind, were tasked by God to take care of the world (Genesis 2:15 – "The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to tend and watch over it.") So there. What higher authority do you need?
Sometimes, I think we left those instructions at home.
In the meantime, backed by measurable scientific data, glaciers retreat, sea levels rise, hurricanes howl.
And the Earth burns.