From climate crisis to anti-racism, more and more corporations are taking a stand. But if it’s only done because it’s good for business, the fires will keep on burning

In early 2020, bushfires raged across Australia. More than 3,000 homes were destroyed, reduced to ash and rubble by the unrelenting onslaught of flames. Tragically, 34 people died in the fires themselves, with an estimated 445 more dying as a result of smoke inhalation. More than 16m hectares of land burned, destroying wildlife and natural habitats. Nearly 3 billion animals were affected. So massive were the fires that the smoke was visible over Chile, 11,000km away. The record-breaking inferno that engulfed Australia was described as a “global catastrophe, and a global spectacle”. As reported in the New Statesman, Australia had come to symbolise “the extreme edge of a future awaiting us all” as a result of the climate crisis. The Australian government’s inquiry into the bushfires unequivocally reported that “it is clear that we should expect fire seasons like 2019–20, or potentially worse, to happen again”.

If we turn the clock back to less than a year earlier, 15 March 2019 marked the day that 1.4 million children turned out at locations around the world, on “strike” from school in support of action against the climate crisis. In Australia, the strikes were especially targeted at the government’s dismal record of inaction, with many politicians being climate-change deniers. The Australian prime minister, Scott Morrison, was vocal in his criticism of the strikes. He wanted students to stay in school instead of engaging in democratic protest. His public statement said: “I want children growing up in Australia to feel positive about their future, and I think it is important we give them that confidence that they will not only have a wonderful country and pristine environment to live in, that they will also have an economy to live in as well. I don’t want our children to have anxieties about these issues.”

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