THE course of history can take hundreds of years to change and shift. Or it can take moments, or a single event.
It seems likely that the world will look back on the first few days of January, 2020 and realise the significance of Australia burning - the images of blood red and black skies at noon; the iconic leaping kangaroo silhouetted against a wall of flames as another town burnt; a prime minister being shunned by people who'd lost everything; the defence force being called in to save people's lives.
For many millions of people those images have shown a potential future for the world in the grip of catastrophic climate change. Those Australian images have resonated more than photos of the Amazon or Arctic forests burning, or Californian resort towns going up in flames, or glaciers melting.
They have resonated because those tasked with fighting the fires have issued the most frightening of warnings to Australians as they've urged, and nearly begged them, to leave idyllic parts of the nation because they are in the paths of fire.
"We cannot protect you," fire commanders have said.
A future of catastrophic climate change has been made real for millions of people around the world with those words. The unknown nature of what the world is facing if global temperatures continue to soar is frightening and horrifying. The limits of human capacity to control nature have been graphically displayed in the past few days. Our future. Our new reality.
The other message from these horrific first few days of 2020 is that Australia's appalling position during the early December United Nations climate change talks in Madrid is directly linked to its reliance on coal as an export product.
The national conflict of interest has been exposed. The nation that joined with Brazil and America to scuttle any chance of global consensus to urgently reduce carbon emissions is on the teat of coal exports, is how Australia is now being viewed by many.
It is a far cry from the laid-back, "She'll be right, mate", "No worries" image we have carefully crafted for years, most recently in the $15 million tourist pitch to Brits weighed down by years of Brexit conflict.
All blown in a few days of images reflecting the hellish reality of those caught in these tragic fires. History is written by winners. But there are no winners here.