Survival of the hottest: Lessons from sweltering Birdsville 

Professor Susan Harris Rimmer at the infamous Big Red Sand Dune 35kms from Birdsville

How will we cope as the summers get longer and hotter? Who will suffer the most? And how will we find solutions?

These are the questions the Climate Justice Observatory is determined to answer.

With an aim to bridge the monstrous gap of inequity that climate change brings, Griffith University Director of the Policy Innovation Hub Professor Susan Harris Rimmer travelled to Birdsville in South West Queensland to listen to the community and learn about how people experience and adapt to heat in rural areas.

Professor Susan Harris Rimmer of the Climate Justice Observatory visited Birdsville to listen to the community tell stories about the heat.

“Small rural towns are very resilient and have so much quality information and generational knowledge of heat resilience to offer,” Professor Harris Rimmer said.

“In rural areas like Birdsville, the summer heat is relentless, and it’s difficult to comprehend until you go there in person.

“We know the effects of heat can be fatal, so as we move forward into the uncertainty of climate change, it is the sharing of experiences, knowledge and adaptation which will help us through — we won’t make it unless we listen and learn to adapt.

“Birdsville community members have a clear understanding of how their bodies react in extreme heat and have innovative methods and habits which keep them safe, and this knowledge is vital to adapting to hot conditions.

“The Birdsville community are incredibly innovative and work together to share information, care for each other and look out for each other.”

The sweltering heat is visible in this image taken just outside of Birdsville.

Growing up in the small town of Coonabarabran in central west New South Wales, Professor Harris Rimmer knows firsthand that rural towns suffer through heat, drought, and the risk of fire.

The Cruel Summer listening tour follows the launch of the Climate Justice Observatory, a Griffith University Climate Action Beacon, initiative providing reliable information about the changing climate.

The interactive map allows Queenslanders to discover statistics about their town, relating to temperature statistics, population, and demographics.

“The Climate Justice Observatory platform provides trustworthy expert analysis — we’ve taken the hard work out of searching for reliable information about climate change and risk,” said Professor Harris Rimmer.

“Toward a fair transition, the interactive map illustrates the demographics of communities so we can begin to comprehend the different types of challenges confronting communities we live in and not just the city areas.

“We need to think beyond our own comfort and become community minded, work together to share information, identify problems and implement solutions as a community.”