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Saturday, 7 May 2016

Smoke haze over Sydney

This is the view just now, in the mid afternoon today, but this morning you couldn't see any of the city's towers from the windows of the apartment. I got up and scented smoke in the air when I was still in the bedroom. Then I went out on the balcony off the living room and I could clearly smell the burn in the breeze. I thought this morning at first that they had had a fire in one of the foreshore parks down the street on the harbour, where they have trees and bushes, but as soon as I went online I could see from the news website that they had done hazard reduction burns the previous day in the Blue Mountains. The smoke in Sydney was the aftermath of that burning.

The view from the balcony at the moment reminds me of the Sailor Moon cartoon in the 90s, which often showed long-distance shots of city skylines, places of comfort and stability. The urban landscape in Japan as nirvana, a kind of promised land of peace and flourishing. (Which Japan is, to some extent. It still represents, to me, a magic country where strange and beautiful things can happen every day for no specific reason.) But seen in Sydney in autumn it had other connotations for residents of my suburb. At the corner, where the Terminus Hotel sits rotting peacefully, a woman was standing with her mother (I presumed; the elderly woman had a wheeled walker in front of her like my mum has when she goes out) who sat on the bench on John Street. The woman said as I walked past: "It's like a bad day in Beijing!" Her voice was loud and assured, and I wondered if she had said it for my benefit; I was on my way to the Japanese restaurant for noodles.

It has been a strange day though with the hazy air. There's even a hashtag on Twitter (#SydneySmoke) which is getting a bit of traffic. Everyone wants to join in. When the event is as widespread as this smoke haze - when it encompasses the city's entire population - you're sure to get participation. As well as giving us all something to talk about in tandem, the haze also serves to remind us that we live on a single, vulnerable planet and that environmental protection is a global responsibility. We all have a responsibility to work together for the benefit of the global community. Political boundaries mean little in the face of climate change.

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