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“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.” This quote by Martin Luther King Jr. is just as apt today as it was in 1965. Although King Jr. was making a speech on civil rights in the United States, the meaning applies to a great many situations, including ones we’re facing today.

For the past few months, bush fires have raged across southern Australia, more than a billion animals, many of which are indigenous to Australia, forcing people to flee their homes, and causing over $4 billion in damage. The fires threaten the country’s capital, Canberra, and Sydney, famous for its sail-like opera house. The government of New South Wales has declared a state of emergency.

What does all of this have to do with Martin Luther King, Jr.? The bush fires are an excellent example of what can be done when people come together as brothers. They’re also just the latest disaster in a pattern linked to climate change and an example of what can happen if we instead choose to perish together as fools.

Help from Across the World

The fires have killed twenty-eight people so far and forced many more from their homes, caused billions of dollars of damage, and killed more than a billion dollars. But as with any tragedy, the response from across the world can bring hope. People and charities from all over the world are donating time, money, and resources to not only help fight the fires but also to help those affected by it recover.

The news is filled with heartwarming stories about celebrities donating money, Nicole Kidman worried about her Australian home just as so many non-famous Australians are, and the family of Steve Irwin has saved more than 90,000 animals. Others have driven back into areas affected by the fire and saved as many kangaroos and koalas as they could find and providing them with medical attention. When we do live together as brothers, we can accomplish great things.


The Threat of Climate Change

Despite the efforts of people from around the world as well as within Australia to help combat the bush fires and their effects, there’s still a long way to go. Although bush fires have long been a part of the Australian landscape, they’ve been getting worse because of climate change. As the effects of climate change increase, so will the severity of the bush fires. It doesn’t matter how well we come together to respond in the aftermath of a disaster if the cause of the worsening disasters isn’t addressed. As the temperature increases, there will be hotter weather and more dry brush for fires to burn. Bush fires will also be harder to put out.

It’s not just Australia that will suffer under climate change. Hurricanes have been increasing in intensity. Polar ice caps melting threaten to flood lower-lying areas. We’re all in this together and we need to come together to act before we all die together as fools.

Learn from Others

Another important aspect of living together as brothers is acknowledging when others have something of value to teach us. Just because someone’s ways aren’t the same as ours doesn’t mean that they’re any less valid. In the case of bush fires, Aborigines have methods of combating bush fires that they’ve used for 50,000 years. When European settlers arrived in Australia, they tried to copy their techniques but didn’t have the local knowledge to do so successfully.

Today’s Australian firefighters are doing the same thing, setting controlled fires to burn away the brush so that it can’t later be used as fuel in a massive bush fire. However, there is still some knowledge that they acknowledge they’re missing, such as when to light the controlled fires. Using Aboriginal techniques are more expensive to implement regularly, but it’s a small cost compared to the damage caused by the large bush fires that have been sweeping across Australia. Even as climate change worsens the fires, Aboriginal techniques should still be able to help mitigate some of the damage.