I received a book one Christmas from relatives in Australia whom I’d never met and knew little about. The book captured my interest immediately as it told the story of a koala and its adventures living in the Australian bush. To my then childhood eyes this was like a fairy story, featuring an unfamiliar landscape and strange animals – an insight into life on the other side of the world.

The book, illustrated with coloured paintings, started benignly enough with the birth of the koala joey and its safe haven within its mother’s pouch. I learned about eucalyptus trees and the leaves that koalas feed on. I discovered that koalas spend a great number of hours asleep and that they are cute to look at. So far, so good. And then, partway through the book, the mood changed from sweet cosiness to fearful alarm. Fire broke out in the bush and the koala – mother and infant – were in peril. I was appalled at the outcome and wept.

I received that book more than sixty years ago and kept it for decades. Five years ago, in a clear-out before a house move, I chucked it out. I wish I hadn’t. In the light of the current Australian bush fires I’d like to have re-read it and pondered its truths. It was no fairy story.

Name the animals. Be good stewards of the earth. Enjoy the created world. Such were God’s instructions to Adam. There is, indeed, much to enjoy but much for which to be concerned. Sixty years on from that fictional bush fire, the reality is that fires still burn and destroy. The skies over the burnt parts of Australia now weep copious tears of rain while human beings struggle and strive to be good stewards.

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