AUSTRALIA is experiencing an unprecedented and early bushfire season.
Major cities - Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide - are drenched in a smoky haze and populations are inhaling extraordinary levels of carcinogens, a major cause of cancer.
While images of smoke-blanketed metropolitan centres fill our screens, what can be overlooked or even forgotten are the lives of countless Australians living in small and large regional towns and communities.
For example, many Bathurst residents have taken eerie photographs of the smoke-infused skies and posted them on Facebook.
In particular, images of Bathurst's beloved Centennial Park bear witness to a spooky carcinogen mist that has enveloped the community.
For many, these scenes are apocalyptic. They are certainly evocative of Cormac McCarthy's end of the world 2006 novel The Road that was later adapted into a 2009 film of the same title.
In Bathurst and the Central West, the unprecedented drought was enough to break hearts. Now with the recent outbreak of catastrophic fires everything seems too much.
This has also affected the usual working hours of Charles Sturt University's Port Macquarie campus since the site had to temporarily close down last week due to the fire threat.
For countless Central West farmers, families and individuals already struggling to make a living off the land, the bushfires have annihilated more than their crops and animals - they have the potential to destroy hope. One thing that keeps us going when we are truly down is hope, even if it exists as just a tiny seedling.
Lately what has been unhelpful amidst all of this trauma and loss is the bickering of politicians keen to blame one another in what feels like a superficial game of one-upmanship.
There is no time for political infighting because time is really of the essence when it comes to addressing the fact of global warming.
All political parties and all people of political persuasions must suspend their personal beliefs to take swift action in preventing this kind of catastrophic disaster from ever happening again.
Of course, bushfires are a staple of the Australian summer, but never to this degree of widespread ferocity, intensity and, moreover, regularity.
It is also way over time to acknowledge the irrefutable climate change science.
And it is time to be compassionate to those who have lost everything. What is needed most is extensive communal support so that individuals and communities can rebuild, regroup and, perhaps in some cases, also rethink their livelihoods.
It is very much time to begin to sow the seeds of hope for without it we are all goners.
Suzie Gibson, Bathurst