Across Australia, the impact of the extremes of climate is playing out with disastrous consequences for hundreds of families. Its been easy for some people in metropolitan NSW to think that the coastal rain and storms have been widespread. In fact the NSW DPI reveals in their latest Seasonal Update that the Combined Drought Indicator (CDI) has 99.8% of NSW experiencing drought conditions.
To break that down over a third of the state (36.8%) is classified as Intense Drought, The remaining areas of the state are considered wither in drought or drought affected. The impact of heat waves and above average temperatures, plus no rain has many producers on edge.
Of course the drought is not confined to NSW. Many parts of Queensland are now in the fifth or sixth year of drought. Victoria, Tasmania, South Australia and parts of Western Australia have all recorded below average rainfall and are in drought or rapidly approaching drought conditions.
In Tasmania this has resulted in unprecedented bushfires. While many fires have impacted wilderness areas, there have been losses of homes, buildings and farming country.
Last week a huge part of North Queensland, some 20,000KM2 (almost the entire size of Kenya) was swamped by monsoon rain. This event has inundated stations, roads, railways and swept away 100’s of thousands of cattle. So many people in this region are struggling to start assessing the scale of their losses let alone even to consider rebuilding.
So what can you do to help? It’s a good question. The Australian way is to offer help and to want to look after those people doing it tough. I know that I feel that way myself.
The reality is, these events are huge. They will have an ongoing impact that will last for much longer than the news cycle or the next trend on Facebook. It extends across farms to impact businesses, towns and communities.
So any help that you would like to offer should be something that reflects the scale of the events and can be useful.
If you would like to offer or donate money, the Country Women’s Association have appeals that are directly focussed on communities. The CWA are community driven and have a long commitment of helping their community. In Qld, the QCWA Public Crisis Fund has been established to provide direct support in the event of disasters such as floods and fires. In NSW the CWA has established a fund specifically for drought aid. Alternatively the Australian Red Cross and St Vincent De Paul are charities that I have worked with and are focussed on direct assistance.
However, there are two other things you can do.
Go and visit these communities for a holiday.
When the worst of this is over, and communities start to rebuild, the money your visit brings in is essential. Small towns in the Huon Valley depend on tourism. In the Central West of NSW or the Far West, the difference your visit can make to a café, motel, and service station is just as important to a community as anything else you can do. And this is something you can do and make a difference in a real way over a longer term.
Support regional businesses.
It can be as easy as having an extra beef or lamb meal each week! However there are lots of small regional businesses that provide products and trade on line. Many of these support faming families with a little extra income. These little businesses are important to families, and communities so any support for them will have a direct benefit to people who need your help.
As communities recover over the coming months and years, don’t forget to check in on people you know. Keep visiting, keep supporting communities in these simple and practical ways. It will take a while to recover, so these are ways you can help for a longer time than just in the immediate aftermath of the disasters we are seeing right now.
This week I was talking with a colleague from the south west of the state. The topic of conversation was the recent heat waves and how they have been coping with it. One of the points they mentioned was the decision to postpone a sheep sale to avoid the worst of the heat, and then to start subsequent ones earlier in the day.
I thought that was a great move. Apparently while there was general support, there were still some people who were critical of the move! I’ve been scratching my head about that for a few days now!
All I can put that criticism down to is that there are just some people who like to criticise. However, it does expose the school of thought that does seem to prevail with some people that unless you are uncomfortable, you aren’t working hard enough!
I really struggle with that idea. I don’t think its helpful and often leads people to make decisions that can actually be dangerous. I think we tend to underestimate the impact that heat has on us. I know that I have often failed to consider the impact that heat and manual work will have on me. It's important to remember that there is a big difference between being hot, and overheating. Overheating can have some pretty serious impacts that if not addressed can lead to death.
Heat Exhaustion is something many people have experienced. It's often characterized by sings like headaches; increased thirst; dizziness and nausea. However if it's ignored it could continue to show itself with poor coordination, anxiety and poor decision making.
Heat exhaustion can be pretty debilitating and requires some immediate attention. Ideally you should lie down in some air conditioning or shade; drink plenty of water. If you are very hot, then cooling your body with a cold shower or bath can also help.
As a firefighter, we often had to cool down on protracted incidents. Not having access to showers or baths, we would take off as much clothing as we could (down to shirts and pants) and then we would often rest our forearms in buckets of water or in chairs that had arm rests which we filled with water before putting our hands and arms in the water.
There is some neat research that shows immersing your arms and hands in water and sitting in the shade cools your core temperate down much more quickly than simply resting in the shade.
If you don’t address the signs of heat exhaustion, you risk the more drastic impact of heat stroke. Heatstroke occurs when a persons temperature is greater than 40°C. As a result they may then experience confusion, convulsions, or coma.
As with the symptoms of heat exhaustion, heatstroke could see a person have:
- headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting and confusion
- having flushed, hot and unusually dry skin
- being extremely thirsty
- having a dry, swollen tongue
- having a sudden rise in body temperature to more than 40°C
- being disoriented or delirious
- slurred speech
- being aggressive or behaving strangely
- convulsions, seizures or coma.
- may be sweating and skin may feel deceptively cool
- rapid pulse
Heat stroke is not to be taken lightly! If you notice any of the above signs of heatstroke in yourself or others, call 000 immediately for an ambulance. If you don’t treat heat stroke it can lead to permanent damage to vital organs or even death.
Heat can effect people very quickly. Its vital not to think that you can’t be impacted or that you can get used to it! While we think about the impact of heat, the time it takes to get over a case of exhaustion can see you recovering for a few days.
Given the risks that heat poses, I reckon any plan to postpone work until its cooler is a sensible option. There’s nothing so important it cant wait for a bit!
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- How Can You Help Our Rural Communities?
- Think safe in the heat!
- Using Scrub as a Livestock Feed
- Understanding your feed test results
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- Have you really considered what you are feeding?
- Dont rush to judge during this drought
- Critical decisions for your cows
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