• Mitch Riley

How can we sleep while the country’s burning?

I am so far away from it all.

But if I close my eyes, I can smell the smoke of summers far less violent and ferocious than this one. Memories of naive childhood excited to take part in the hazy dance of smell and smoke, the yearly ritual of the Australian bush. The smoke then was part of a cycle, a sign of destruction and of rejuvenation also.

I cannot smell this smoke, now.

But in the images I look at each day, with their terrifying reds and yellows and greys and black, in the words I read and hear, themselves red with anger, I sense that this smoke pronounces the end of the old cycle. A new ritual is beginning - or has already begun - and we should be horrified to take part in it.

And yet there is so much indifference and denial.

The worst are those whose ideology masks a deep hatred of others. These self-made martyrs find pleasure in holding to their ideas in the face of destruction and opposition. Man-induced or not, their refusal to act and mitigate the consequences of a changing climate reveals a sick willing of suffering. The logic of hatred says that since humankind has faced catastrophe before, we should do nothing to prevent the suffering to come.

This hatred fuels the fire of their zealotry. It threatens to incinerate everything in its path. Insatiable, protest only fuels it, intensifies it. It will burn through us all if we do not confront it.

You cannot reason with these people.

You cannot change the ideas in their heads with science or facts or experts.

They will deny reality until they find themselves face to face with the gates of the Inferno - and even then, they may still search for an excuse.

We are in the midst of a war. These fires are evidence we are losing, and losing catastrophically.

When will we act with anger? What will it take for us to reclaim our future? Will it take some blaze or flood or drought or cyclone to reach us in our cities of comfort to finally understand we should have done more? Will it take our own suffering to wake us from the slumber of the easy-going Australian life to realise we should have fought as if our lives depended on it?

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