Australia can rise to meet the challenges of climate, COVID-19

Picture: ARM Photo Video/Shutterstock
Picture: ARM Photo Video/Shutterstock

This has been a tough year, and I'm sure many of us can't wait to see the clock tick over January 1 in a couple of days.

I'm looking forward to it too, but I will be ringing in 2021 the same way I ushered in 2020 - with a 24-hour shift at Shellharbour fire station, on the NSW south coast.

That's how I spent Christmas too, with a roast lunch at the fire station with my crew while my wife and daughters celebrated at home. It's nothing to complain about - I'm proud to be a firefighter, and I take my duty seriously.

I'm sure that the healthcare staff, emergency services personnel and other essential workers working through the holidays feel the same.

But it does make you think about what it takes to protect our families, health and communities.

This year, the bushfires, which were so severe because of climate change, and COVID-19, have shown us how fragile these things are.

There have been the visible struggles - lost homes, cancelled travel plans-as well as invisible ones, such as physical and mental health challenges and financial hardship.

Like everyone else, I am hoping that 2021 brings better times. The year is likely off to a cooler, wetter start, and we appear to have a vaccine coming.

But let's be real - neither COVID-19 nor climate change will magically disappear.

Nevertheless, I'm still optimistic.

Firstly, the skill and dedication of the healthcare workers dealing with the COVID-19 emergency and the firefighters responding to the climate emergency reminds me that we are in good hands.

Second, the love and generosity that Australians have shown each other gives me faith that our communities are resilient enough to get through tough times together.

Third, all levels of government have shown they are capable of responding to problems in a science-based way.

State and federal governments listened to the experts and acted quickly on COVID-19.

Local and state governments also listened to the experts and adopted net zero targets as well as ambitious renewable energy commitments this year - a win for climate change and lower electricity bills - but we need to see the same progressive approach and leadership from the federal government.

Let's keep up our efforts.

Whether this means staying home to keep each other safe from COVID-19, or a credible climate policy from the federal government to phase out fossil fuels, we all have a part to play.

We got through 2020 together, and together, we'll make 2021 better.

Darin Sullivan is a firefighter and a member of the Australian Firefighters Climate Alliance.

This story Australia can rise to meet the challenges of climate, COVID-19 first appeared on The Canberra Times.