This is in reflection based on this article: http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/06/20/501081/connecting-the-dots-how-climate-change-is-fueling-western-wildfires/
It is hot in Flagstaff these days. I'm not saying it is sweltering 90s and humid like I'm used to in the Midwest summers, or the 110s and 120s one might expect in Phoenix. I'm saying that like the rest of the West, we're experiencing global warming.
And it isn't cheap.
The raging wildfires in the American West are astonishing. They are the partial result of a dry winter and early loss of snow. The forests are drier than they ought to be and that great big western sky is pretty cloudless, though you may get billowing smoke in certain regions. And even when the storms do come, the parched forests are going to be less able to manage lightning strikes, flitting embers, and stray anthropogenic sparks. But what we're seeing is, in some startling ways, horribly anthropogenic. We are turning up the thermostat.
So we're sending out courageous firefighters, recruiting more planes, and evacuating more communities in order to save lives and protect habitats. Unfortunately, we are also protecting old habits. Month after month, year after year we're seeing hotter and drier weather (in the West, while other regions like Minnesota are experiencing deluges, http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2012/06/20/503301/hell-and-high-water-as-record-sw-wildfires-rage-duluth-is-deluged/) that ultimately comes out of our pockets.
What do I mean? Well, those firefighters are government employees, funded through taxpayer dollars, and the necessity to pull in more planes and other equipment shows how ill-prepared this system of protection is for climate change. (This in the context of a conservative stance of shrinking government and a liberal politics that seems to stand on sand rather than soil and bedrock.) So these stopgap measures are going to hit government pocketbooks hard, and the state governments as well as the federal are seeing more moths that dollars.
I have plenty of reasons to ride a bike rather than drive (which, I admit, has been a failing of late), to avoid petrochemical-intensive foods (commercial meat, non-regional produce, and highly processed food products), and aim for other lifestyle changes to reduce personal carbon emissions. Even on the personal and communal scales, we are going to have difficulty buffering ourselves against these radical ecological changes. For those who don't know--and I recognize that for some this is threadbare and even trite--we get the word ecology and economics from the same Greek root: eikōs, or "home." What we don't pay for now in terms of efficiency, industrial paradigmatic shift, and cultural transformation--with the final goal of a sustainable culture, politics, and biosphere--we are already being forced to afford through emergency services, amelioration, and adaptation/maladaptation. We're paying for climate change right now, not in five or ten or fifty years, but right now.
And I want to be positive. I want to spin something exciting and beautiful and visionary out of all of this. Maybe another day. Now, I think we need to take a look at what is in front of us: short, dry winters; premature springs; dry and bipolar summers; and the perturbations of millenia-old growing seasons. I'd like to say a petition or a presidency can do it, but it demands some radical challenges to the legitimacy of the contemporary American politics, not just in rhetoric and subject, but in involvement and demands.
Douglas Adams remarked, "I love deadlines. I love the sound they make as the go by." Well, we seem to be hearing plenty of those and they're not for publishing stories or books. We have already spent our stipends and now are running on cigarettes and coffee and ramen noodles. If we don't get to some serious work soon, I think we'll just be down to the cigarettes. Or maybe we'll stick with the ramen, instead.