Amid the wildfires burning through much of south eastern Australia lies a multitude of lessons and heartache for a nation mostly known internationally for its unique wildlife and beautiful beaches.
So many thresholds have been passed – the first time firefighter crews have swapped over by air, the first time the army has been called in to help during bushfires.
And that’s not counting the some reported 12 million acres that have burnt so far.
But these elements won’t remain in the memories of most Australians as much as the ‘horror movie’ blackened skies that occurred due to the ferocity of the fires, in the states of New South Wales and Victoria. And that’s just for those who had the fortune of not being caught up in the fires themselves.
How will the thousands of tourists remember the seemingly endless hours spent in hot, smokey, darkened skies while waiting for the military to evacuate them from the much-maligned coastal town of Mallacoota? And all the other tourists who had to evacuate or return home early from impending doom?
How will the children stuck in small towns circled by fire remember this event, bearing witness to people all around them who themselves had never seen anything like it?
So many thresholds have been crossed, on so many levels – images of townsfolk refusing to shake hands with the visiting Prime Minister will forever remain in the Australian political landscape. Singed and screaming koalas, frenzied kangaroos, upturned dead cows, blackened sheep – the list goes on.
And it is only the start of the second month into summer, which usually lasts well into March in the south-eastern states especially Victoria.
Politicians on all sides will, as expected, take sides as to whether climate change is to blame but of course it is not.
Australia’s natural disasters include fire and drought, but climate change makes worse what is already happening. Climate change could be likened to an amplifier – loud speakers applied to music already in the background.
As the International Panel on Climate Change reports (PDF), scientists have high confidence that Australia will have more more intense and frequent fires.
These wicked fires are Australia’s watershed moment in its national journey on climate change policy.
The new year of the new decade will show what happens next.