For many of us, a masked boy against a tangerine sky, sheltering in a boat off Mallacoota beach was the indelible imprint of New Year's Eve 2020.
Climate change before our very eyes: up and down the east coast, pyro-cumulonimbus clouds igniting firestorms, ripping through rainforest, incinerating 82 per cent of the World Heritage-listed greater Blue Mountains area, driving endangered species to the brink of extinction - if not beyond.
Devastating lives, livelihoods and communities, Black Summer shocked the nation - and the world.
But then came COVID.
Now, it seems, we may be at risk of simply accepting this disturbing new climate reality, reassuring ourselves that droughts and bushfires have always come and gone in this ancient land - of pretending it's normal, even though we know it's not.
In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released its 1.5C Report, advising humanity had 12 years to set emissions reductions in a trajectory to meet the zero 2050 target - a trajectory requiring sharp cuts by 2030. Now that timeline has been reduced to nine years.
So, news that Ballarat City Council will consider a zero community target when it meets next Wednesday should be welcomed by all.
Consultation on the target date by which community emissions must reduce to net zero, plus a plan - presumably with interim targets and sector by sector goals showing how this can be achieved - will follow in due course.
This city has, of course, not been lacking in action on climate change.
In 2018, Ballarat City Council voted to endorse the Declaration of Climate Emergency - an initiative launched in Victoria, which has since been signed by 1890 jurisdictions and local governments covering 826 million citizens.
It was also in 2018 that Ballarat joined the Cities Power Partnership, a local government climate network.
The following year, the council unanimously endorsed the Carbon Neutrality and 100 per cent Renewables Action Plan with a 2025 target for reducing greenhouse gas emissions from council operations to net zero.
This month's development, a zero community target, will enable the council to build on these initiatives, by implementing the final item in its action plan: "empowering communities".
Naysayers will likely deride the value of a zero Ballarat target as having little impact on the global problem of climate change.
This line of argument routinely references the world's top five emitters - China, US, India, Russia and Japan, who far exceed the rest of the world in the scale of their emissions - while neglecting the cumulative significance of smaller emitters like Australia, which collectively constitute a sizeable proportion of the problem.
In the spirit of the concept "think global, act local", a more compelling argument for many of us is that if we don't act on the IPCC's advice, can we really expect others to?
Ultimately, of course, we have little to lose and everything to gain by setting a community target and working collaboratively to achieve carbon neutrality. Whatever the costs of action, the costs of inaction are far greater and more devastating for future generations.
The fact that air pollution from greenhouse gases has long been a serious public health problem, triggering 3000 deaths annually - exacerbating lung cancer, asthma, heart disease and stroke - means that cutting emissions will have an immediate health benefit.
The other costs of climate inaction - extinction of native flora and fauna, food and water security issues, not mention the risks to coastal real estate and the impact on everyday life and outdoor sports - have been widely detailed.
On the upside, the way we respond to this crisis has potential to foster prosperity in our region.
By taking bold action now and becoming a leader in driving down community emissions, Ballarat can demonstrate green credentials and optimise the geographical advantage of being in the Western Victoria renewable energy zone.
Given the anticipated investment in clean energy in this region, becoming a carbon neutral community will also be good for Ballarat business.
Only by setting targets at international, national, state and local levels will we build the momentum for the level of change we need to decarbonise the economy.
With global and local imperatives at play here, we need strategies to integrate our COVID economic recovery with our social and environmental needs, to accelerate emissions cuts.
An ambitious target with a community-wide plan will bring other benefits, facilitating cross-sector collaboration via engagement with the challenge, forging resilience, thereby truly "empowering the community".
Surely we owe this to our children, grandchildren and all who follow.
Mary Debrett is the president of BREAZE Inc.