I sit looking out over the brilliant green fields of the Bega Valley, in far south coastal NSW, where ash from the Black Summer fires and the extraordinary amount of rain this year have combined to supercharge fertility.
It's a boon for farmers struggling to restock and regroup after a series of un-natural disasters, but the same fertility is supercharging dangerous regrowth in the bushlands and forests that were immolated in the three major fires since 2018. It's hard to know what to celebrate and what to dread.
And now, as rain once more falls on communities in Queensland, I'm trying to remember what it was like to live without fear of the next climate catastrophe.
Decades ago, when I first heard about climate change, it seemed like a very distant threat - a sort of apocalyptic science-fiction movie. I hadn't noticed any changes around me, but scientists were clearly worried, so I thought everyone would soon start to talk about climate change. But that didn't happen - it was barely mentioned by the media, politicians, or people at the pub.
In 2009 I was in Melbourne through the long, excruciatingly hot, dry summer that preceded the Black Saturday bushfires. I watched the train tracks warp, stranding me and tens of thousands of other commuters at the end of a long, hot day's work. I noted the city's water reserves diminishing daily. I saw people sleeping on their front lawns because their houses had gotten too hot, and backyard temperature gauges registering 50 degrees (and no more, because the gauges didn't have any more numbers).
I thought for sure we'd talk about climate change then. But we didn't.
Then that deadly fire came. One hundred and seventy-three people died. Ordinary people, famous people, mums, dads, kids - the worst loss of life to a bushfire we've ever seen in Australia. Perhaps this horror stopped us from talking about why this happened. Either way, we still didn't talk about climate change.
In 2018, things got really personal. The Tathra District fire started at the end of my road. It wasn't fire season, and we'd had a cool, green summer. No one was concerned about bushfires. And then the weather changed. I stood and watched my friends' and neighbours' homes go up in columns of thick, black smoke while I waited for my house to be next. We lost 69 homes that day, though my home was saved by a last-minute wind change and an aerial water bomber.
We lost another three homes just a few months later as the Yankees Gap fire raged through weeks of winter, and snow fell on the hills above. I couldn't stop talking about climate change. I was told to be quiet.
Then came the Black Summer: 24 million hectares, 2448 homes, and 3 billion animals.
I don't know anyone now who hasn't been touched by these fires. Everything the scientists predicted was happening right here where I live - to my community, to ordinary Australians in regional areas hit by flames and to people in cities choked with smoke, to me.
I thought after all this, surely there can be no other conversation but climate change? And yet, and yet.
Here we are, days out from a federal election, and everyone is focused on policies and our future. Australia's current emissions are at a level which would have us heading for more than three degrees of warming - a future of unimaginably worse climate catastrophes! Two major parties are vying for the attention of an exhausted, battle-weary nation. Journalists are clamouring for talking points and shooting smart-arse gotcha questions at the candidates.
Meanwhile, tens of thousands of voters are standing in the ash and the mud where their homes once stood. Plagues of mould, leeches and potholes are everywhere, even in Canberra. We are beyond tired. We wonder why we should keep going. We wonder why journalists aren't asking "What are you going to do about climate change?", and why the major parties aren't agreeing that this must be our number one issue.
It's still raining up north. We're waiting for the next disaster. So if we can't talk about climate change, right now, let's just bloody vote.
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