The fires of the Australian ‘Black Summer’ burned 59 million acres and killed an estimated three billion animals. Places that had never burnt before — rainforests that for millions of years had stood unchanged — were suddenly reduced to blackened embers.
It was truly horrifying.
But a lot has happened since Christmas 2020. It’s been troublingly easy to push all this to the backs of our brains. After all, trauma heaped on top of trauma is almost too much to digest.
But it’s vital we don’t forget just how devastating these fires really were. And Burning, a new documentary from Academy and Emmy Award-winning Australian filmmaker Eva Orner, serves as a vital piece of television.
Like ABC’s brilliant but devastating drama Fires, which fictionalised the experiences of those affected by the devastating bushfires of late 2020, Burning is a tough watch at times. It’s hard not to stare at footage of burnt koalas screaming for help and not choke back a tear or two. It’s equally hard to listen to accounts from those who lost their homes, watched their towns burn, lost mates to the fires — nine died that summer — and not wonder at the hopelessness of it all.
But it’s vital we don’t look away.
Climate scientist Professor Tim Flannery, who is interviewed for this feature-length film, puts it in plain terms and it’s hard to hear: “People don’t understand the absolute urgency of this,” he says in a rousing call to arms. “Today, global temperatures are about 1.1 degrees above what is called the ‘pre-industrial average’… we are facing a new and terrifying future in Australia in terms of bushfires.”
It’s a lot to process. But process we must, and films like this are vital in helping to highlight the precariousness of our situation.
This documentary should be compulsory viewing for every Australian household. Watch it with your kids. Watch it with your climate-change denying Boomer parents. Just watch it — and get angry. Then direct that anger into lobbying for positive change.
We’ve all got to collectively work to fix this mess. Because if we don’t — we may as well burn it all to the ground.
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