I woke up today to a world that was hot and oppressive. Smoke hung on the horizon, dark and grey in a way that made every part of the sky into a dull gradient, expressive nothing, showing nowhere. The smell of smoke, burning wood and eucalyptus scorched my nostrils as I stepped out. The sun wasn’t hot – but the layer of smoke and cloud weighed down the air, keeping it somehow humid and dry at the same time. The shade? Shade was okay – the surfaces hadn’t absorbed the sun’s warmth of the day, and so standing there, you could feel the brief cool.
The mountains are on fire.
It’s Spring, but it’s bushfire season like it’s the height of Summer. Summer is going to be achingly hot, because that’s how the trends have been these past few years, where the world has become steadily hotter and spring has started earlier. The bush burns, and we fight it back – I say we, but I mean the firefighters, the volunteers and the SES, pushed out to the edges, away from the city centres. But the smoke carries, the fingerprints of the flame, smearing greasy touch onto our homes. Every step I take in this toxic heat I know that I’m smelling something that will kill people.
Other nations have earthquakes and cyclones. Natural disasters that swing out of nowhere, do something, and then are gone. They cause traumatic damage, but all you can do is bunker down and survive them. You can build to be better at dealing with them. We, we live in a nation where most of the trees are literally soaked in oil, trees that explode and cast burning oil for meters around. We do not bunker and survive; we get out and fight. Our nation’s disaster is a thing you can fight.
I reflect at times on how hostile and dangerous the wildlife is here, and yet how little they’ve ever hurt me. I respect spiders. I do not fear them. I respect koalas and dingos and kangaroos. I am sure and comfortable and confident in my interaction with snakes and birds and the nation in which I live is a place where that is totally understandable. I don’t cross the street when I see a black person, I cross the street when I see a brownsnake.
I don’t think that my country is better or worse than any other country. We’re shit to immigrants, we’re shit to natives, and we’re shit to foreigners. We have big problems.
But when you write about the horrors that hit your country, when you write about the disasters that feel like the hand of god from on high…?
Give me something we can fight.
I’d prefer it.