A kangaroo hops past a burning house in the town of Lake Conjola


© Matthew Abbott / The New York Times

This photo captures a powerful moment in the devastating force of a fire. The background is entirely occupied by a house enveloped in flames, reduced to a skeleton, while in the foreground a kangaroo flees the heat and suffocating smoke. This could be just another house fire, but the somewhat blurred shape in the foreground reveals the true situation. We are in Australia, in late 2019 and early 2020, when dozens of fires spread throughout the south and south-east, destroying everything in their path. Despite prompt human intervention to stem or at least attempt to control the fires, millions of hectares of vegetation were destroyed and an incalculable number of animals died. The sky was stained by the colour of the flames, while the smoke blocked the sun and made the air almost unbreathable. An apocalyptic landscape and a surreal atmosphere reigned for weeks, until the first rains offered a semblance of relief, although they caused more, different problems, with flooding, hail and landslides battering areas whose forests had been lost to the fires. All agree that the cause is climate change, which has not been taken seriously for years, but is demanding more and more attention day by day. The Guardian newspaper stated that Australia paid a high price for its view of climate change as an abstract idea far in the future. That summer, it became a “dystopian daily reality”.

Riccardo Minto