I'm not convinced that we're watching the end but I'm not confident that what's playing out before us and our lethargy, even indifference to it, admit of some other future.
Guardian Australia writer, Brigid Delaney, weighs in on North America's record wildfire season
We too have seen the orange afternoon sky, and felt the soft, strange sensation of soot falling like rain, and watched the edges of the curtains glow in an amber haze long after nightfall.
We too have purchased masks and air filters, and had windless days where it’s been hard to breathe, and inhaled smoke from thousands of kilometres away and wondered if we should be worried about a wheeze that wasn’t there before.
...We too felt a new and special way of being afraid. There was the fear of the thing itself – the wall of flame and its greed, fire chomping through entire towns down to the water’s edge. Then there was the other fear. Flashes of a deeper dread – an apprehension of an ending.
The most rational and Earth-bound among us, not given to hysterical proclamations, fear or strange theories or fantasies about End Times, started to talk in a way that scared us.
...In our fear and our fury, we too faced the gross insult to our intelligence: politicians and popular press telling us (embers still burning, the fires raging on, joining other fires now) that it’s not man-made climate change that is to blame.
It’s arson. Its forest management. It’s just one of those freak things that happen and soon “it’ll start getting cooler, you just watch”.
Dear America, we can tell you what happens next – we’re almost a year ahead, your friends at the bottom of the world, speaking from the future.
We can tell you that in the months after the event, when you can breathe again, women who were pregnant during the fire gave birth to babies facing potential long-term health risks.
We can tell you that even the worst fire season in living memory was not enough and that three billion animals dead or displaced is not enough and species pushed to the brink of extinction is not enough and even the birds falling from the sky in a “mass die-off” (a portent so obvious that it feels straight out of the Old Testament) is not enough to make the leaders panic and DO SOMETHING about man-made global heating.
We can tell you how soon such intense fires are obliterated from the collective memory – blasted as if by high-pressure hose – by other events of 2020. Locked in our houses we order other, different masks and forget the taste of ash on our tongues.
Good luck and best wishes.