This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on September 14, 2020.
Friend, the west coast is ablaze. Skies are apocalyptic shades of reds, oranges, and yellows. The air we breathe ranges from Unhealthy to Hazardous.
The main element we need to survive on this planet is hazardous.
Our air is hazardous in the midst of a deadly pandemic affecting our respiratory systems.
I moved to the west coast just under two years ago. This is the first time I’ve experienced anything like this. It’s one thing to read about it or see photos of it. It’s completely different to look out your window and recognize that what looks like fog is actually smoke and ash from 5 million acres of incinerated forests and homes.
As I’ve spoken to friends and neighbors and EcoWarriors about how unsettling and honestly scary this whole thing is, one common thread emerges.
Those who have lived here their whole life agree - this is new. These intense fires really only began in the last 5-10 years.
And, no, going out into the forest with a rake would not solve our problems. Quite frankly, the fact that the person running our country believes that is embarrassing.
Wildfires - both natural and human-caused - are burning longer and hotter as a result of climate change. Our global temperature is rising, our precipitation is decreasing, and it's creating the perfect storm for these massive fires to run rampant.
Oh and these fires are actually putting more carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, and with less trees, there’s less carbon absorption. So it’s kind of this ongoing cycle of carbon emissions and climate change. Cool.
Beyond that, we’ve got a human population that’s growing exponentially, moving into previously-inhospitable regions, and making it more difficult to execute prescribed burns - an indigenous practice that was basically eliminated as a result of colonization, and is just beginning to make its way back into current management.
So what can we do?
- Register to vote.
- Request an absentee ballot.
- Do your research. Research your candidates - including local and state officials at all levels. Local government matters.
- Vote. And vote early. With slowed mail times, get your ballot in the mail at least two weeks before voting day (aka October 20).
- Hold your elected officials accountable. Call them. Write letters. Sign petitions. Make your voice heard. Make sure they know that you want a healthy and safe planet.
- Divest from fossil fuels.
- Invest in renewable energy.
- Manage your AC and heat. Keep your home temperature at or below 68° in the winter and at or above 72° in the summer. Fun fact: you’ll save 3% on your electric bill for every one degree you raise the AC temperature. AC also creates a cyclical climate change problem - we’re pumping hot air out of our homes and into the atmosphere, making the planet even hotter, and causing us to bump up our AC even more.
- Calculate your ecological footprint.
Make one small change at a time based on your footprint results.
But above all, right now, please vote. Vote like your life depends on it. Because it does.
Stay safe and healthy, fam. Sending you all my love 💙
Indigenous fire practices once shaped the Northwest — and they might again (Crosscut)
Reducing Fire, and Cutting Carbon Emissions, the Aboriginal Way (The New York Times)
Satellite Data Record Shows Climate Change's Impact on Fires (NASA)
Trump Blames Wildfires On Poor Forest Management. Biden Focuses On Climate Change (NPR)
US West Coast fires: Trump fans flames of climate row in California (BBC News)