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Supercharged bushfire season shows it is time to Build Back Better and adapt to changed conditions

Heroes in action: Firefighters contain a bushfire along a highway near Ulladulla, NSW, on January 5. Photo: CNS/Dean Lewins, AAP via Reuters

SHANE Warne revealed the raw depth of feeling about our bushfire crisis when he announced he would auction his treasured baggy green cap to raise money for bushfire victims.

“I hope my baggy green can raise some significant funds to help all those people that are in desperate need,” he said, reaching out to his social media fan base to start bidding.

Warne joined a long (and growing) list of worldwide sports stars, entertainers and glitterati digging deep for those in desperate need – Celeste Barber, Pink, Nicole Kidman, Russel Crowe, Ash Barty, just to name a few.

Charity concerts, special merchandise and big donations are just some of the ways they are getting behind fundraising efforts.

Even the original members of The Wiggles are performing a one-off show in Sydney to raise funds.

This is not the first time a disaster has sparked a rescue and recovery effort of mammoth proportion.

In 2004, the Boxing Day tsunami destroyed coastal villages across South East Asia killing an estimated 227,898 people in 14 countries, with the Indonesian city of Banda Aceh reporting the largest number of victims.

The plight of the affected people and countries prompted a worldwide humanitarian response with donations totalling more than US$14 billion.

Former United States president Bill Clinton was a United Nations ambassador for the tsunami reconstruction project and vowed that every effort would be made to ‘Build Back Better’ so that coastal villages would never be devastated in the same way again.

What followed was a massive infrastructure rebuilding of villages and towns on higher ground, better roads and defence systems such as stronger harbour walls and levees and early warning emergency buoys anchored at sea.

As a result of the humanitarian focus even civil war combatants in Aceh and in Sri Lanka ended hostilities.

Build Back Better has become the catchcry for recovery efforts in every major disaster since.

Now in Australia, with the flood of celebrity donations and the $2 billion bushfire recovery fund announced by the Australian government we should demand BBB be put into action.

How should all the aid, relief and recovery money better prepare our communities against another summer of bushfire despair?

That is no simple question to answer. A better back burning strategy? Fire-resistant building materials? Better equipped rural fire services? 

Above all, does Building Back Better require something more – an acceptance of a new paradigm?

As Australia burns, leading climate scientist Tim Flannery has called for an end to climate denial and an “addiction” to coal.

“We have seen enormous damage in this country to infrastructure, loss of human life and to biodiversity. And this is being driven by climate change,” he told Democracy Now!

“We know that because the chances of this occurring naturally, they’re about one in 350 to have a year as hot as this.”

Neville Nicholls, professor emeritus at Monash University’s School of Earth, Atmosphere and Environment, warns that more extreme weather is on the way, bringing cyclones, floods and heatwaves, and set to push emergency services and resources to their limits.

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