As bushfires ravaged his homeland, Australian adventurer and environmentalist Huw Kingston was thousands of miles away. Having returned early to his community as the fire approached, he reflects on what the fires mean for the world, now and in the future

Today, late January, is another day where smoke wafts into the house and stings my eyes. Another night just passed with the sky glowing red from fires burning in the deep gullies below Bundanoon, my little town in New South Wales. It has been like this for weeks now. The sound of sirens, the sight and smell of smoke. This is our summer.

In the months before this summer had even begun, millions of hectares in northern New South Wales and southern Queensland had burnt, and millions of animals had been killed. Dozens of properties had been destroyed by October, nearly 500 by November. Lives were tragically lost.

During those weeks before I flew to Europe in early December, the beast had moved south, closer to home, but still a distance away. I felt a little nervous to be leaving. Our prime minister, a man who had once carried a lump of coal into our parliament and, laughing, told us not to be afraid of it, was also taking a holiday. Despite the unfolding catastrophe back home, he relaxed on Hawaii.