By Tristan Harley, CEO of Emu Trekkers.
Over the past month or so, Emu Trekkers has been deeply saddened and concerned by the impact the Australian bushfires are currently having on our environment and our communities. These fires have already resulted in tragic loss of life, immense destruction of our natural flora and fauna, and damage to our houses and infrastructure. With no significant rain forecast, it is still unclear what further impacts will arise.
We would like to thank all those who have been working tirelessly to help fight these fires. Witnessing the community rally together during these tough times is one of the few positives to emerge from these events. We would also like to send our love and support to all our volunteers, community partners, friends and family who live and work in these regions and have been affected by these fires.
At Emu Trekkers, we firmly believe that we need to take more decisive action to address climate change and mitigate its impacts. We are disappointed by the lack of leadership we have seen from our government on this issue, not just during these fires, but over the course of many years. For too long, the warnings of our scientists have gone unheeded. That Australia was recently ranked last in Climate Policy is a reflection of our failures as a community to respond to these urgent issues.
In the tourism sector, there is a tendency to feel torn about how much to advertise the destructions and horrors that we are currently experiencing, or their lasting impacts. We offer tourism experiences where we showcase the beauty of the outdoors, the crisp mountain air and the benefits to be gained from immersing yourself in the bush for a period of time. Bringing attention to the hazardous air quality and destruction of our environment seems counter-intuitive to our mission.
In our minds however, as much as it may hurt us as an organisation, we need to focus on truth-telling and on raising awareness towards how we as a society are impacting upon the environment, and what we can do to protect it. This seems both ethically appropriate, but also a matter of necessity. If we do not make major changes now, there may come a time where it simply is not possible to offer some of our more remote hiking experiences, whether due to bushfire risk or lack of water.
So far, one month after celebrating being awarded Gold at the NSW Tourism Awards for Adventure Tourism, we have already had to modify and cancel several walks, mainly in the Blue Mountains region. We feel for our guests who have had missed out on the opportunity to witness the beauty of the outdoors with us.
Unfortunately, it is likely that future hikes will also be impacted. We will communicate directly with our future guests to arrange appropriate contingencies as necessary. The area where we run our two-day Blue Mountains hike, in the beautiful Grose valley, has been directly hit by the fires. It will take time before we know how badly the area has been impacted, and when it will be safe to return. We are particularly worried for the Blue Gum forest, which is a national treasure in the area.
In the aftermath of these fires, we plan to undertake a holistic internal review to see how the fires have impacted on our work. Too often our politics focuses on the economic impacts if we were to properly address climate change, while ignoring or overlooking the costs of not taking action. We want to do our bit to add to the evidence on this. In the meantime, we hope everyone stays safe and binds together during these tough times.
Finally, we would like to share the above artwork that has been made by our very own volunteer Bayu Sadewo, who is founder of Little Lighthouse Studio.