I don’t know for certain if the increased global warming is caused by humans, but I strongly suspect it is. Still I like to base opinions on facts, and I am open to rational, non-conspiracy, scientific judgements – but sometimes you have to connect the dots from various data points. At this point, I think we are in big trouble.
Here in California, wild fires are consuming our financial and natural resources at an ever increasing rate. What is happening now, entire towns burned down during what used to be a rainy month, November, is just unheard of. Now I realize, in geological time, my own experiences and observations make up an extremely small sample size. But, it seems clear to me, as the man said, “these times they are a changin’.” It is getting hotter, polar caps are melting, and the weather patterns are more and more extreme.
The last two days, we in Northern California had thousands of lightning strikes where uncommonly moist air mixed with intense heat of 110 degrees Fahrenheit. On Monday, it was almost a continuous 24 hours of lightning strikes in our area. It seemed at times to be a non-stop rumble of thunder. The next day, I looked to the west at the Mendocino Coastal Range and I could see 4 columns of smoke. Fires were burning all over the state.
When you have had an intimate experience with a wild fire, it doesn’t take a lot to get your attention. Honestly, I don’t know that a single day has gone by since November 8, 2018 where I haven’t thought about the Paradise Fire. Moving out into the valley, after our home burned down, we thought we would be much safer from wild fires. We miss our old home, but can’t see us rebuilding in an area that might burn up again. We are much safer from wild fires out here. However, Monday’s thunder reminded me of all the explosions I heard trying to escape from the Paradise fire.
Today we are covered in ash and smoke as the fires burn 25 to 40 miles to the west and south and north of us. I hate the color of a day under a heavy layer of smoke. You can’t see your shadow. The color is orange. Your lungs start to hurt if you are working outside. It makes me very sad and feeling a little bit like screaming. It is as if you were looking at a painting of a fire and you want to take a knife and stab it over and over again.
Last night I woke up around 2 am and went out to the living room and sat down for a bit, kind of just being still in the darkness. I glanced out the back window and saw a familiar orange/red color in the far distance. Looking again, I could clearly see flames. The flames had to be enormous for me to have seen them because that fire was maybe 35 miles away. I grabbed my camera and telephoto lens and took a photo just be sure I was seeing what I thought I was seeing.
My eyes were right. I think they are right about global warming too. When you garden a lot for many years, you notice changes. When you grow fruit trees, you wonder if you will have enough “chill” hours during the winter to produce fruit in the summer. When you fish, you notice that the salmon migrate differently than years gone by. And, when you live in California, you can’t see your mid-day shadow – sometimes for an entire month – because the smoke is so thick. You notice the birds are gone. The bees have disappeared.
My brother-in-law was burned out of his home in Santa Rosa, California a few years ago from a horrible wild fire. He lost everything and almost his life. We convinced him to move up to our town, Paradise, California. About a year later, his house burned down there too from a more horrible fire that destroyed the entire town and killed 85 people. He lost everything, but he had much less to lose because he hadn’t recovered fully from the first fire. He moved to a very green area along the Russian River, north of Santa Rosa. Tonight he is once again an evacuee from another raging fire. He is not the only one who has faced this situation multiple times. It ain’t right. Something is very wrong. No one should lose everything and run for their lives from a fire twice in three years and evacuate again from another fire within 18 months. I told my wife we should just sacrifice him to the Fire god so the rest of us can live. It was a sick joke – you know that gallows humor when one faces an existential crisis.
So what is the point of this post? Fortunately I rarely have one, so you are used to that, but if I did have one it would be, “I am very concerned for our future environmental picture. I want to take a knife and stab it to pieces, shred it, before it becomes our reality.”