Sydney is still burning.

My own disaster was narrowly averted a few days ago, but many other people are still fighting for their homes. So far more than 40 houses have been lost and that number will almost certainly rise over the next few weeks.

Yesterday we awoke to a surreal scene - the smoke from distant fires and backburning operations had blanketed the whole of Sydney in a dense fog, which at times was so thick that visibility was reduced to a few metres. Aerial photography showed the entire city smothered and invisible beneath the smoke. The air pollution index (calculated by the Environmental Protection Agency) was apparently so high that it was unmeasurable, leading to health warnings being issued for anyone with respiratory disease. Even for apparently healthy people such as myself the smoke acted as a potent irritant, causing painful and ongoing inflammation of nose and throat mucosa.

Today I am safely ensconced in the air-conditioned and smoke-free comfort of my office, wading interminably through data and statistics for an article I'm helping to write. The incongruity between desperately fighting for my parent's house just a few days ago and my current quiet, academic solitude is striking. I appreciate the discord, however - sometimes I need the sudden violence of action to be able to better appreciate the value of peace.