"I like this town," says my 12-year-old sidekick.
We're looking down onto the skatepark, leaning against a steel railing at the end of a street of trendy and alternative cafes in the centre of Bellingen. Teenagers are flipping skateboards and getting air on BMX bikes. That skatepark whirr and rip drifts up to us.
A boy about Sidekick's age comes off his skateboard after attempting a tricky turn on the half-pipe lip. He skids on his knees beside the board as he and it both descend. On concrete. The board has wheels; his knees don't. Ouch.
The young fella gets up and, without looking at the other skaters and riders, walks, with just a hint of a limp, to where his board has come to rest. His face shows no expression. Me, I'd be crying for sure. He stomps on the board's rear and it flicks up into his hand. Kids are tough.
"Cool," says Sidekick.
Behind the skatepark is the Bellinger River. It looks clean, clear and plastic-free, freshly tumbled down from the Dorrigo plateau which hunkers behind the town like a velvety green curtain. Despite its looming largeness, the range is not threatening but rather adds a cosiness to the town - like my grandmother's velvet drapes did to her living room. More than just cosy, protective. You feel that outside realities cannot penetrate the velvet curtain. (That was before the advent of vertical blinds, which, along with leafblowers, are sure signs that technology and progress are not the same thing.)
But reality will not stay outside in the shadows, curtain or no curtain.
Something else is looming over this town; over this lifestyle; over the whole planet. And it ain't the mountains. A twinge of fear has me squeezing Sidekick's shoulder.
Between the river and the skatepark is green grass where a family is picnicking. I can see mum keeping an eye on daughter who is riding her pink trike around the skatepark avoiding all jumps and jumpers but very excited by the skatepark buzz. Mums look out for their daughters.
Yeah, I like this town too. These people are lucky to live here. This is the lucky country. But it takes more than luck to create a sustainable future. It takes a human vision, not a corporate one.
I'm scared for Sidekick and his fellow teenagers. I'm scared for the little girl in her pink helmet on her trike with its pink basket and plastic sunflower. This idyllic scene below me already feels like nostalgia. Like it's a sepia snapshot from a previous era; a white dreamtime with Subarus and all rooms airconditioned. I'm scared.
Because it's all going to go.
Climate change is the elephant in the room. It's getting harder to ignore it as it grows daily. (It's starting to smash the china.) But somehow we do. It takes an elephant-size denial but the collective mind is helped in its denial by fossil fuel corporations, their lackey governments and a financially compromised media. Stay distracted, it's too awful to think about. Buy something.
These days it's uncool to even talk about it. The inevitable consequence of pouring carbon into the atmosphere is a real downer.
Behind us is the café where Sidekick and I had hot organic potato chips as a late lunch, watching older male hippies pushing babies in prams and wearing cargo pants, expensive leather sandals, complacent smiles and breathing in the air of a lucky life as if tomorrow will be more of the same.
It won't be.
The kids will need to be really tough.
The fossil fuel corporations, who are not human, have a huge investment in changing the climate.
Humans won't like it, but who cares.
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