Was it a mistake, somewhat, that I decided to binge watch the new Australian series The Commons on New Year's Eve? Set in the not too distant future, there's something terribly uncomfortable about it. Even more so given the tragic events of this week.
Screening on Stan, The Commons is set in a climate ravaged Sydney. Climate refugees from the bush, places such as Dubbo and Millthorpe and Oberon, are held in detention centres at the base of the Blue Mountains, needing a positive health score if they are to get any further east.
A drop of rain falls in a girl's eye and it instantly swells up, water is rationed, air quality monitors are part of every household, only the rich and well-connected live in Kirribilli with clear views to the New Year's Eve fireworks ... oh hang on, wrong drama. But same sentiment.
I was designated driver on New Year's Eve, the children off to parties, keen to let off some steam after being cooped up inside for days. It was eerie driving through this city in the smoke that enveloped us all on Tuesday night. Streets I could drive through blindfolded on a clear day become unfamiliar. You couldn't see the war memorial from Parkes Way, nor the other side of the lake.
I counted my blessings that at least I wasn't spending the night on a beach as flames bore down on us, or sleeping in my car in an evacuation centre.
God bless everyone who did.
So knowing I had to be available at the end of the evening, I forwent a drink, and turned on The Commons instead.
I try not to get too political here. It's not the place. But I did spend a lot of time wondering where we're headed. The Commons was just too close to home.
Another show I've watched recently, Years and Years, on SBS, is a British series which The Guardian called the most terrifying show of 2019. It follows the fortunes, or misfortunes, of the Lyons family, starting in 2019 and heading 15 years into the future. Emma Thompson plays politician Vivienne Rook (I, and the friend who put me on to the series, decided she was like Pauline Hanson, only much more intelligent and dangerous, in that she told the common man what they thought they wanted to hear) who shakes things up in this dystopian future, where, once again, climate change, technology and politics are shaping how we live.
Perhaps this is the success of such shows. We can watch disaster movies such as The Day After Tomorrow, a family favourite, or John Cusack in 2012 where Yellowstone National Park erupts (ironically we did visit Yellowstone in 2012) and come away with some sense of disbelief.
These disasters are just too big, too improbable to ever happen, surely. Surely?
But these sneaky ones, ones that aren't too far off the current situation, ones in familiar settings, using names of towns or people that you are actually familiar with. It's believable. And, if we're truly honest about the state of the world, it is already happening to some degree.
But the dawn of the new decade wasn't all melancholy and doom. The underlying hope in The Commons, and indeed Years and Years, is that, when push comes to shove, people actually do care about each other. Care about family, care about strangers, care about the state of the world.
In The Commons, the protagonist Eadie is desperate to have a baby, her brother Dom, while living among the elite, wants a better life for his family, tucked away in the bush. Eadie helps a complete stranger find her family, Dom is shattered when things go wrong and a young colleague is killed.
In Years and Years, family is core. Grandmother Muriel keeps them all together and gives one of the best speeches of the decade. She talks about how everyone of us on the planet is to blame for the state of the world. Buying one-dollar t-shirts and using automated checkouts. We just gave up on each other.
But as you watch people in our little pocket of the world run into fires to save each other's homes, or koalas, or bats, or possums. As you watch volunteers risk their lives, for weeks on end now. As you watch strangers come together under a blood red sky on a beach and wish each other hope for the new year.
Maybe we haven't given up on each other just yet. Let's hope.