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The worst and best of times

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With the intense bushfires all over Australia, it's unsurprising that people seek others to blame. The desire to look for a culprit is hard-wired into our evolutionary psychology. Today this is amplified by the reductive nature of social media. It’s natural to want to find someone to blame, but it’s not helpful and often makes things worse.

 

That pretty much applies to everything in life, (with the possible exception of a toddler’s innocent attempt to wriggle out of questions like “Who ate the chocolate?”)

 

When things go bad, what's needed is solidarity, something fire crews know so well. While the news naturally focuses on the worst narrative, there are wonderful, positive human stories emerging. The generous donations and aid from all corners of the world also illustrate how social media can be a force for good.

 

Reading posts about our animals who’ve lost their homes, people overseas have dug out their knitting needles to knit protective pouches and blankets. Hundreds of bat wraps, joey pouches, bird nests, possum boxes and mittens for koalas have already been received from places afar including the US, UK, Hong Kong, France and Germany.

 

Then there’s the lovely story about one of the keepers at Mogo Wildlife Park in NSW who, having run out of space to shelter all the animals, took home some of the zoo’s monkeys as well as a panda and a tiger. For those of us looking on, it’s difficult to figure out how to react, however as Australian author Jackie French, herself a bushfire refugee, has said “Focus on what you can do. Don’t cry for what you can’t.”

 

Even our firefighters have found light amidst the smoke. In November 2019, some tired and thirsty firefighters with the Urunga Rural Fire Service saved a man’s home in New South Wales and left him a note which read, "It was our pleasure to save your house... P.S. - we owe you some milk."

 

Beneath the ashes, there’s humour, kindness, extraordinary generosity and goodwill. And there’s lots of opportunity for each of us to be thoughtful in our daily actions and interactions, whether we’re fighting bushfires or not. 

 

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