By Gabriella Licona

Not long after everyone welcomed the new year—the long-awaited 2020–with roaring excitement and positivity, viral images of wildfires in Australia began circling the web. It seemed, for a moment, that Australia was hell on Earth.

Through these viral posts and videos, everyone started witnessing the flames that were—and still are—consuming most of Australia. Everyone watched closely as destruction and disaster unfolded⁠—and social media craze, once again, started.

What people see on social media dictates their response: they rush to retweet, to comment, to like, to share the content. When we want to “spread awareness,” the cycle has not become one of government or major social action. Instead, we post content on our Instagram stories with the big sad eyes emojis to show our empathy.

This, many call “activism.”

Although social media and the internet inform people of what is happening, it doesn’t change the circumstances of those events. In simple terms, retweeting videos and pictures of Australia burning won’t stop it from burning. Your likes and comments won’t save the thousands of animals that are currently under environmental danger. 

Spreading awareness is a moving process: when someone wants their voice to be heard, they spread awareness about their cause all over social media and encourage others to join. On instinct, people spread awareness when something traumatizing and terrible happens. 

There’s nothing wrong with sharing videos and photos of what is happening in Australia: reaching out to people who are unaware of how serious the matter is can open their eyes to the lives at stake. 

But retweeting the same video of the firefighters who are risking their lives to save the koalas and kangaroos dying won’t give them the care they need to heal their burn wounds. Your social media “activism” can only do so much to make a difference in a world that’s burning to ashes. 

The issue also is that we sometimes retweet information that is not reliable⁠—It happened with “Blue for Sudan”” for instance, where millions changed their profile pictures to blue icons, and not a single penny reached Sudan.

If we are going to be retweeting and calling it activism, we should at least make sure that we are sharing information that is factual⁠—and if anything, if we can’t donate, then sharing the links of trustable organizations is also a better option that tweeting a Koala dying with a sad emoji as our caption. 

Individuals have put together fundraisers on different trusted sites to send help to wildlife services in NSW. Organizations are gathering donations as little as $1 to encourage rescues and search parties to go out and save animals. 

Every penny counts when it comes to donating⁠—a cent, a dollar, a hundred, a thousand. Some well-known organizations such as Wildlife Emergency Fund are collecting donations and are seeking local volunteers. 

The NSW Rural Fire Service, WIRES Animal Rescue, Australian Red Cross, and many more organizations on rescue teams have set up donation pages on their main sites including on ‘spot.fun/AustraliaFires’ too

 Australian donation accounts are sending 50% of their profits made off of $10 from every follower to these organizations. Beware of accounts that grow in exposure by spreading awareness and provide little proof⁠—it’s safer to directly donate to trusted organizations and their sites.

With more digging and research, individuals in your local areas can be found collecting goods to be sent to Sydney, Australia to help rescue teams too. Items such as clean towels and blankets, basic survival goods, cloth from tee shirts and such can all be sent to Red Cross centers in Australia to help those in need.

But hashtagging your pictures with #prayforAustralia doesn’t make you a climate change saver. One by one, we can become real inspirations and show how much we truly care for those at risk because of the wildfires when we take action outside of our phones.

List of Donation Sites:

General site for main organizations:

https://www.spotfund.com/story/0f4dbe65-fd60-431c-80c7-6822ca54629a

Red Cross:

https://www.redcross.org.au/campaigns/disaster-relief-and-recovery-donate 

Currumbin Wildlife Hospital:

https://www.gofundme.com/f/save-our-koala-bushfire-victims

Donated goods to victims and supporting of NSW Fires 2019/2020:

http://www.givit.org.au/items-needed?campaign=50

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