But what happens after the fires have passed through, and Australians return to either their intact homes or smoking ruins, dead cattle, a blackened moonscape where crops once grew? The lucky ones give thanks and get on with their life. The unlucky ones grieve, rage, shake their fist at Fate—and defiantly rebuild on the same ground. The battler spirit triumphs again, but for how long?

As the country suffers through one of its worst droughts on record, and heat waves shatter temperature records not once but twice within the same summer week, some are asking whether Australians can afford to keep returning to the same parched, scorched landscapes that they have occupied not just since the European invasion two and a half centuries ago, but for tens of thousands of years before that. Even before climate change, survival—particularly of agriculture—in some parts of Australia was precarious. Farmers were so often rescued from the very edge of disaster by long-overdue rains that arrived just in time. Now the effects of climate change are making that scenario even less likely, and this bushfire season and drought are but a herald of things to come.