In many parts of the world, Christmastime is full of lights, cheer, and snow gracefully covering the landscape. Unfortunately, here in Australia, we are facing the worst bushfire season on record combined with a prolonged drought. So while many might get a snow day, here in Sydney, we experienced a smoke day.
Seeing the thick haze from my window, I grabbed my camera, donned two masks, and headed to some of the iconic views of Sydney. The smoke would come in waves, occasionally lightening before returning to an opaque curtain over the city. The air masks did keep out most of the worst particulates, but I could still taste the smoke in my mouth. My eyes watered, my lungs stung and burned. By the time I returned home, I smelled like a campfire and had to clean off myself and my camera.
The city looked like a scene straight out of a movie, buildings hidden behind the haze, people walking around in masks, and the air a thick soup of smoke, ash, and debris. Ash floated down, much like snow, covering every surface with black flakes and red dirt. Fire alarms triggered in office buildings and train stations around the city. Air monitors registered record levels of pollution and hazardous particles, making it some of the worst air to breathe anywhere in the world – surpassing both China and India.
With no end in sight to the drought and limited rain forecast as we head into summer, it will be a long fire season with more days like this to come. The volunteers with the Rural Fire Service are an astounding group that has done incredible work to protect lives and property throughout Australia, but fires are growing and combining.
No matter your political views or opinions on climate change, it is clear that Mother Nature is in trouble right now. It feels like the Earth has a fever, and is trying to work, but just wants to sit on the couch with a bowl of soup until the illness burns away. This is the only planet we have, and we need to start taking care of it.