Record fires follow each other relentlessly, and the country's leaders seem shocked and unable to react.
The fires in Australia are yet another act of a climate catastrophe that is bringing the continent to its knees. Her Great Barrier Reef is dying, its world heritage rain forests burn. Giant underwater algae forests have largely vanished, and many cities have run out of water or are about to do so.
The images of the fires in Australia that reach us from the media look like frames of dystopian films. Thousands of people in alarm, wrapped in an opaque orange haze and surrounded by fire. Hell on earth: flames over 60 meters high and citizens who become refugees in their own country.
The Australian sky on New Year's Day was the most polluted in the world, covered by a "plug" of smoke as wide as Europe.
At least 18 people died, but it is also a tragedy for flora and fauna. scientists estimate the death of about half a billion animals, and even fear the total extinction of some species. The surviving animals are abandoning their young.
And the fire season in Australia is just beginning.
Stories from the apocalypse
Cities on the east coast are all affected or surrounded by fires. In these hours there are many stories that bounce from one point to another, or in the media. Stories of salvation, or of despair, or of hope. It is the part of us that does not give up on the idea that we are a suicidal species.
An e-mail that retired engineer Ian Mitchell sent to friends on New Year's Day from the small community of Gipsy Point, north of the city of Victoria, reads:
we and most of the houses in Gipsy Point are still here so far. We are 16 inhabitants in all here.
No electricity, no phone, no chance of someone arriving for 4 days as all roads are blocked. Only satellite email works. We have 2 larger boats and we may be able to refuel in Coota.
We need people capable of defending the city, since it's getting hot again since Friday. The area will become a problem again, and we don't have enough people to deal with it.
We are tired, but we are fine. Still here in 2020!
The bookstore in the fire-ravaged village of Cobargo, New South Wales, has a new sign outside: "Post-apocalyptic narrative has been moved to current affairs section."
Fires in Australia: what do Australian leaders defend?
Incredibly, the response of Australian leaders to this unprecedented national crisis has not been to defend their country but to defend the fossil fuel industry. A great lender for both major parties.
It is as if they wanted to condemn the country to its fate.
While the fires were exploding in mid-December, the Labor party leader (Opposition) he toured the coal mining communities expressing his unequivocal support for coal exports. The prime minister, the conservative Scott Morrison, has done worse: he was on vacation in Hawaii.
Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack outperformed both, blame the horse manure (I know, you don't believe it) for the outbreak of the fires.
God save petrol
Since 1996 Australian conservative governments have disregarded almost all international agreements on climate change, while defending the country's fossil fuel industries.
Today Australia is the world's largest exporter of coal and gas, but it is 57th out of 57 countries in the ranking of actions on climate change.Morrison largely owes his narrow electoral victory last year to coal tycoon Clive Palmer. The election victory allowed Mr. Palmer to announce undisturbed plans to build the largest coal mine in Australia.
This is perhaps why Morrison tried to present the fires as a fatality, something inevitable. This position seems dictated by a chilling political awareness. It has no real opposition in the country and the media (58% of which are in the hands of Rupert Murdoch) blow on the sails of climate denial.
And it gets worse and worse: now his government has also taken to suppressing protests from unions and civic organizations, and criticism from journalists. Under a law that came into force in Tasmania, and predicated to be adopted everywhere, environmental protesters now face up to 21 years in prison for demonstration.
Fires in Australia: die or live, the moment of truth
Over a third of Australians are affected by the fires, and only today is starting to reflect on the gap between the reality and the fantasies of the prime minister. The truth is that institutions in Australia are facing a monstrous reality that they certainly do not have the ability or the will to face.
Last Thursday Morrison was forced to flee the angry and trembling inhabitants of a burnt city. A small local newspaper described the leader's humiliation as "The welcome he probably deserved".
Australians should think quickly "about the welcome to reserve" for their rulers. Very quickly. Because with Australia the planet is burning.
Edit: Morrison just announced (00:14 on January 5, Italian time) the use of 3000 army reservists to deal with fires. The flames are now producing catastrophic tornados of fire similar to those that are unleashed after an atomic bomb.