Do more than donate
I’ve donated to the Australian Bushfires, yes. Did I immediately feel good about it? Yes. Did I continue on with my normal routine? Yes... that wasn’t until I read the article ‘Forget bushfire donations, change a little’ from Nathalie Whitaker, that I started to reflect on the donation frenzy the globe has whirled into.
She was co-founder for the New Zealand organisation called ‘Give A little’ an online platform used as a crowd funding method to help people in need reach their monetary target (I’m sure you’ve donated or used it before. Heck! I’m sure there’s dozens of pages dedicated to the Australian Bushfires). She starts by talking about her role, positively. How it was ‘feel-good work’ to watch kiwi generously give money to well needed cause. But the Give-a-little team saw the another side to these pages which caused a lot of emotional trauma. ‘We cried a lot in the Givealittle office.’
Nathalie goes on to explain how ‘crowdfunding is kind to those with a crowd’. They would see the back end of many pages that needed funds desperately but were unable to reach their targets. She started to cotton on to what made a page successful and what didn’t. Often the issues that were where too big, confronting or political made kiwis uncomfortable to give to. The page needed to have the right aesthetics to be amplified on media.
The awkwardness around putting a price on somebody’s life made the team feel sick when publicly summing up the funds they reached. I personally started to feel uneasy when seeing fundraising competitions among communities. Media flaunting their huge donation nest egg then taunting other communities to bet their sum. ‘Most donations are made at highly emotional times, when we are at our most human but also our least analytical.’ as Nathalie points out.
As we endure the polluted media aftermath of scrolling through horrifying images from the fire - an overwhelming wave of emotion and helpless causes us to take the quick fix line of instant gratification a.ka credit card donations. The instant money leaves your account it warms the soul’. I found this part of the article undeniably true. Do we actually follow up after our donation and see if it’s done any good?
Nathalie’s most sobering realisation about her time at Give a little was that generosity was totally insufficient for solving our problems.
‘We desperately need unity.’ When faced with great suffering like the Australian bushfires, I wholeheartedly believe that the most impactful thing we can do is give up some of our comfort in solidarity. From here it’s only a hop, skip and jump from generosity to unity. Unity doesn’t campaign as well as charity.
We’re facing massive challenges that need us to invest our time and effort... We can’t keep contracting out of all the hard work with our credit cards. Helping hands instead of hand outs has far reaching result on a crisis. Volunteering our time is the biggest generosity we could give.
This is the important message I took from this article. We can donate and it will help but it won’t stop the fires. Donating will only cover a fraction of the rebuild. Donating won’t rally the political shift Australia needs to make changes required for next summer. Nathalie gave a more localized solution to our weary minds.
‘For our Australian neighbours, let’s pledge to plant natives like crazy this year.’ What if we pledged to re-plant millions more natives here in NZ and helped every Kiwi farmer adopt regenerative agriculture practices as a pledge to support our neighbours in Australia?
I read, I listened and I got motivation into action. Suddenly, Wednesday evening I was down at Jean Maples Nursery potting up native Matagouri/Wild Irishmen (which is a threaten species) for Wakatipu Reforestation Trust. 300 Matagouri’s were ready for their plant days. I’ve been living here 8 years and haven’t been to one ever! 10,000 plants need to be potted and a 10,000 more need to prepped for next year. We have an amazing conservation organisation right here on our doorstep, but if they had more hands helping they could be planting way more trees.
Every tree counts in the global climate scheme.
Plant more trees.