Thieves stole roughly 80,000 gallons of water in a region of Australia that’s suffering from one of the worst droughts in the history of the country. And with record-breaking heat and bushfires getting even larger, it feels like Australia is living in the future. That future, unfortunately, looks a lot like Mad Max.
Police in New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, report that a farmer in the small town of Evans Plain had about 80,000 gallons of water (300,000 liters) stolen from his property, according to the Australian newspaper. The farmer only noticed the theft from two enormous storage tanks on Sunday, though it could have happened at anytime between December 9 and December 15, according to authorities.
It’s becoming more and more common to see thieves targeting water storage facilities, as climate change continues to devastate Australia as it heads into summer. Just a couple of weeks ago, thieves in the small town of Murwillumbah stole about 6,600 gallons (25,000 liters) of water, enough to fill about six or seven fire trucks, according to local authorities.
And it all feels like something out of a sci-fi dystopia, where battles over water are fought to sustain a meager existence.
Australia is reeling from extreme heat this week, breaking temperature records for the past three days, and reaching an average maximum temperature of 40.9 degrees Celsius (105.6 degrees Fahrenheit) on Tuesday, 41.9 degrees Celsius (107.4 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, and 40.7 degrees Celsius (105.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Thursday.
“We’re smashing the extremes by effectively a degree relative to the other cases because that’s by how much the Australian temperatures have warmed,” climate scientist David Karoly told the ABC on Friday. “Climate change has contributed between 1C and 1.5C on top of the natural variability.”
And it’s not just the heat. Australia is attempting to get its large bushfires under control, some of which might be the largest wildfires in modern history. The “megafire” in Gospers Mountain, just outside of Sydney, has burned roughly 7.4 million acres over the past two months and has blanketed the city in smoke.
Sadly, at least nine people have died from the Australian bushfires this season, with two volunteer firefighters in New South Wales losing their lives this week, and a citizen of South Australia dying in a vehicle crash yesterday while trying to escape a fire.
Meanwhile, the prime minister of Australia, Scott Morrison, is missing in action while the country experiences a climate crisis. Morrison’s office has denied rumors that he’s vacationing in Hawaii, but photos on social media prove otherwise. Under Australian law, another politician is appointed as acting prime minister when the real PM is out of the country, and Morrison’s stand-in isn’t doing much better to take climate change seriously.
“Yes, the smoke is a problem but smoke, as it always does, will blow away,” acting PM Michael McCormack told a local TV news station yesterday.
Morrison issued a statement yesterday apologizing if any Australians were offended by his decision to take a vacation during this time.
“I deeply regret any offense caused to any of the many Australians affected by the terrible bushfires by my taking leave with family at this time,” Morrison said.
“Our hearts go out to their families, friends and colleagues who have been working tirelessly beside them, particularly during this Christmas period. Given these most recent tragic events, I will be returning to Sydney from leave as soon as can be arranged,” he continued.
But Prime Minister Morrison’s tone was defiant and almost whiney when he spoke to a local radio station via phone from Hawaii.
“I don’t hold a hose, mate, and I don’t sit in a control room,” Morrison told 2GB radio. “That’s the brave people who … are doing that job. But I know that Australians would want me back at this time […] of these fatalities. So I’ll happily come back and do that.”
How generous of you, Mr. Morrison. You’ll come back to see protesters outside your home who are getting harassed by police. But don’t stop at any McDonald’s on your way back. We don’t want another incident.