“Don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.” ~Joni Mitchell
I try desperately not to fall down the rabbit hole that is climate change. Honestly, this particular topic is one of the few that can leave me rocking on the floor in a tight fetal position. It’s horrifying. Despite what some powerful and wealthy (primarily white male) people would tell you, climate change is real. We see its effects daily. We aren’t doing enough to stop it or, at least the very least, ameliorate it. We are at a tipping point. Our planet is screaming for help, and we humans can’t figure out how to prioritize saving it.
Our recalcitrance isn’t changing the fact that California doesn’t have enough water while Europe just lost hundreds of people to massive flooding that was so extensive it shocked climate scientists. And there is now real concern among such scientists that the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC), aka the massive water-conveyor belt in the Atlantic that moves currents to redistribute heat and regulate weather patterns around the globe, could shut down sooner rather than later. This would thrust Europe and parts of the United States into a deep freeze, interfere with seasonal monsoons that provide water to much of the globe, and raise sea levels along the eastern coast of the US. And extreme drought keeps bringing us to wildfires that are wiping out entire towns. The examples of climate change are plentiful, and I am certain you could add more from your own experience if you thought about it for a second.
Today, my hometown of Denver had the worst air quality in the world because of smoke from fires in California. Salt Lake City experienced a similar phenomenon. Colorado is known for its mountains, but this week the fourteen-thousand-foot peaks that we normally see from Denver were obscured by heavy smoke. Our phones buzzed several times today warning us not to exercise outdoors or leave our windows open. This is not the Colorado I grew up in. I have no memories from my childhood of massive amounts of wildfire smoke blocking out the entire Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. I grew up in the era after Denver fixed its smog problem with strict air quality measures. Summers in Colorado when I was a teenager were predictable. Clear, cloudless skies in the morning with temperatures warming into the mid 80’s, followed by a build up of early afternoon clouds, which would lead to afternoon thunderstorms that would cool things down and provide perfect sleeping weather. You didn’t need air conditioning here when I was a kid. We are hotter and drier now, though. Winter and spring storms are more volatile, mountain snow melts earlier, and the Colorado River carries less water to the lakes that provide water to Las Vegas and Los Angeles.
On days when I get overwhelmed by the gravity of climate change and what it means for the rest of my life and for the world my sons will live in when I am long gone, I stop and take a deep breath. One of my go-to favorite activities to clear my head is a long walk or hike in some of the remaining open space around our neighborhood. But it’s getting increasingly difficult for me to find a way out of the climate change rabbit hole when I can’t get outside for that long walk because breathing there is detrimental to my health. I don’t want the Rockies to be the second set of Smoky Mountains in the United States.
Shit is getting real. It’s not going to get better if we don’t start making sweeping and immediate changes to the way we operate. Wake up and smell the smoke, people, or you will lose the only home you have ever known. But then maybe that is what has to happen because “don’t it always seem to go that you don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone.”