In October I booked a flight to the United States for most of December, unaware I would be escaping one of Australia's most brutal bushfire seasons to date.
I was deflated as the plane flew over North Sydney, noting that the smoke was too thick to make out the Harbour Bridge or the Opera House.
The dread lasted as long as it took to get above the clouds and see blue sky. Then my depression quickly lifted. I couldn't wait to breathe the fresh air of Los Angeles.
I arrived in the US and spent most of my time outdoors, relishing in the clean air.
Yes, Australia's fires were on my mind, my social media fuming and flaming, but I easily detached.
I was too busy being at one with the Grand Canyon and Monument Valley to worry extensively about the devastation in Australia.
When we are not affected directly, we care less.
How many international natural disasters have you raised awareness and funding for?
But I'm back now, and it's more real than ever. I notice more commentary, news and outrage around climate change in the past month than ever before.
People who have never spoken up are now commenting about the climate crisis, using platforms ranging from Twitter to the Golden Globes.
News of death and destruction is traumatising, but the smoke in the air plays a big role too.
I'm usually fabulous at disassociating, but even if I unplug and unfollow, all I have to do is step outside to be reminded how serious this is. This stench is right under my nose, and I can't hide forever.
Guilt kicks in, always does. I see how this smoke could be a lax punishment for my poor environmental choices. I get defensive; surely I'm not the worst offender?
But the smoke doesn't care.
The smoke doesn't care how much you recycled or flew. The smoke isn't calculating your carbon emissions, your vote, or how many kids you have.
It just hangs in the air, clogging our lungs and collective conscious, reminding us that we are in this together and that we have taken so much for granted.
Of course I want no more lives nor habitat lost, but perhaps we could use a little more smoke. This smoke is a tool.
Maybe we need this heavy smoke to blanket each continent.
When every single person: rich, poor, young, old, black, white, left, right, wakes up and can't breathe and can't see, ironically things will become clearer than ever.
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