If you haven’t been paying attention to the bush fires raging in southwestern Australia, you should if for no other reason than to impress upon yourself what it will be like when drought, climate change, and years of fire suppression policy collide in our neck of the woods. These fires are not happening in the middle of nowhere portions of Australia, they are in the most populated portion of the country, where one in three Austalians live. The smoke from these fires is choking the air in major cities and the fires are destroying everything from trains to houses. Two of these fires are set to merge in the coming days producing what is being called a mega-fire. This is another modern natural phenomenon moniker adopted to describe events that occur on magnitudes not previously considered probable enough to leave room for in the naming schema. It is becoming clear that climate change is not a rural or third-world phenomenon. It is also becoming clear that we are woefully ill-prepared to protect our resources and property from these events.

It is important to realize that the nature of the climate change debate needs to change from “Is it real?’ to “What are the social consequences of these events?” Climate change and the associated floods, storms, fires, and droughts have become a primary contributing factor to social unrest in the countries most effected. Destruction of farm land, interruption of commerce, loss of housing, these are the new realities. Prevention is no longer the primary objective, survival is.

To read about the relationship between climate change and violence worldwide: