The Bushfire Crisis

By Farida Iqbal

It has kind of been eclipsed by the coronavirus, but just a couple of months ago Australia was in terror of another crisis. This continent was overrun with unprecedented wildfires, signifying out of control climate change. The main cause of the bushfire crisis was climate change induced drought.

There was a huge effort from the people to address the bushfire crisis, and Earthworker cooperatives pitched in too. Redgum members helped to organise a rally in Melbourne’s CBD. Two members of the Hope Coop went out to affected areas and did some firefighting. Hope is a cooperative made up of refugees, and its purpose is to assist refugees.

Most importantly, we kept our various cooperative projects ticking along. Earthworker cooperatives such as Redgum demonstrate in practice that it is possible for workers to collectively run our own workplaces in an environmentally friendly way. This is our challenge to the capitalist world view that dominates our world, where profit comes before the environment.

Redgum members were personally affected by the bushfires in a few different ways. One of us has family in a bushfire affected area. We had to figure out how to address smoke haze as a workplace health and safety issue, and we discovered how hard it is to get P2 masks when you really need them!

My own family were gripped by another crisis at the same time, which actually came under the same overarching crisis that gave rise to the bushfires. Flooding in Indonesia and East Africa was caused by the same weather patterns and the same global warming that gave rise to the Australian bushfires, yet it only received a fraction of the global attention. Out of the three extreme weather events, the flooding in East Africa had the highest death toll, followed by the Jakarta flood.

The coronavirus will come and go. Economic crisis is likely to follow. But the biggest overarching crisis will be climate change. It looks like we are in for some tough times ahead. Collective worker ownership of industry has never been so important. Redgum will be put to the test, and I hope we rise to the challenges that the years to come will pose.