Normally when historic disasters strike I end up collating the various instances of people using social software and other participatory cultural tools to engage with that event and blogging about that; however, it’s also true that these events tend to be sufficiently far removed from my immediate experience to seem at least a bit distant and abstract. However, the horrific bushfires which have swept across Victoria do not seem distant in any way.
While Victoria is on the other side of the country from Perth where I live, the threat of bushfires are serious for most Australians during the harsh summer heat. Moreover, for whatever reason, many friends and colleagues from Perth have relocated to Melbourne and other bits of Victoria over the last few years – I sometimes wonder if there are more Perthies there than here. Thus I can only describe the news of the past few days of fire after fire after fire as gut-wrenching. No one I know personally has perished, but I know people who’ve lost homes. More to the point, this is a national disaster and a national tragedy; more than 200 people are estimated to have died in a manner I simply cannot imagine. The TV news for the past few days has showed horrific scenes of devastation, crying survivors who all know someone who perished, and images that have no place outside existing except as a special effect in a dystopian end-of-the-world feature film. Amongst this overwhelming imagery, I found that Adrian Miles’ post – Fire – reminded me how personal and close these fires were for so many people, their effects broad-reaching and upsetting in a multitude of ways. (If you really want to look at the social software side, the Wikipedia article ‘2009 Victorian Bushfires’ is growing rapidly, while Asher Moses has a predictable summary – ‘Social media rush as Victorian bushfires rage’ – over at The Age.)
For now, though, the most important thing is to try and help the survivors rebuild, help the injured recover, and help where we can. So, if you can, please consider donating to the Red Cross Victorian Bushfires 2009 appeal.