A Changing Climate

The sun is streaming through every window on the south and west of the house, which is the site of my new office. I was in the midst of typing something completely different for One More Thing to Read when I realized it was raining at the same moment all this glorious sunshine was shimmering through the leaves and evergreen needles.

Such is life in a rain forest outside of Portland, Oregon. We get precipitation when the city gets clouds, and we often have a good dusting of snow in the winter when there’s nothing even a mile south of here. The forecast on my phone said that there was a 40% chance of rain during a one-hour window today. I should have believed it, but the TV weather forecast said it would be dry all day long. I should know that the wizards of weather that provide information for the phone usually get it right when local television doesn’t even mention us unless there’s a tornado.

We actually had a tornado the first year here, but it was not a Great Plains mammoth that wipes out cities. It was small, brief, and damaged an old fence and some insecure guttering on a house in town. I still call that intersection Tornado Alley because it was momentous at the time.

As I mentioned, local television weather doesn’t care what happens to us. Even a few weeks ago when our rain forest was dry and brittle, and the winds from the west gusted for over a day before the smoke from the Oregon fires overtook us for more than a week, I had to hear about the nearest fire to the house from my good friend in another state who searched online for an update out of her concern.

That was the first time in my life up and down the West Coast that I decided the danger was upon us and began gathering papers, electronics, and clothing. (I will note that Gary laid out his comfortable lounging clothes while I grabbed my good stuff, including a Coach bag, all the Louis Vuitton, and a brand-new pair of boots. Destitution doesn’t have to leave you looking destitute if you have a few hours to pull things together. Just look at Thurston and Lovie Howell!) I’m good in a crisis, and I calmly and silently began photographing rooms, closets, and the contents of drawers.

Fortunately, we never actually had to evacuate during those stressful days, but as I saw all those people out here in the West who were evacuated and many who never came home again, I no longer deny the possibility that those of us living in this idyllic spot face an annual danger that is only getting worse. The fire season is almost year-round at this point, and the destruction has set records.

We have no more time to deny climate change. I’m no longer patient with flippant attitudes and statements like, “Just look at all that snow! And you tell me that the planet is heating up!” In the biblical allegory of the Flood, the deniers scoffed at Noah until the water started rising. In our era we will continue to deal with people who “think” and “feel” one way while denying Science. These days I’m doing my best to not hate them, but pity them while hoping they’ll be moved to the sidelines as we try to salvage what remains.

Not very hopeful, but I can’t forget what a scientist said in an interview the other day. I’m paraphrasing: “We will not ever be able to recover our grandparents’ environment, and we won’t be able to recover most of our parents’ environment, but we can figure out solutions to continue human life on this planet.” Seeing that the scientist was young enough to be my child, I was especially chilled.

So much has been going on this past year, and I’ve been looking inward more than I’ve been writing. So much of the world is about politics, and I have striven to keep this space free of political bias. That said, the existence of global warming is not debatable, nor are the effects attributed to it. Climate change shouldn’t be politicized any more than wearing masks and maintaining social distance during our current pandemic. People I once considered reasonable have lost their minds and placed their faith in some crazy messaging. Staying safe has become a political issue to them after rebellion and denial have been handed down by unscrupulous people who work around the clock to foment confusion and division.

May our country find its way back to the Paris Agreement, and may true experts be given the opportunity to work for our greater good. I could add more to this statement, but least said, soonest mended.

© 2020 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, including the three featuring Maggie Lyon and two that are filled with riotously funny moments, visit my author page at: http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1

What Would You Take?

The dying sun is described so vividly in The Magician’s Nephew, one of the books in C.S. Lewis’s The Chronicles of Narnia. After Digory Kirke grabs Polly Plummer’s arm in order to ring the golden bell and wake Jadis, the world of Charn comes to an end. In the final book, Lewis describes the death of another world, and a much older Polly and Digory, who are present, recognize the end of that world by its dying sun.

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A view of the sun through smoke at 6:00 p.m. on Labor Day

I am reminded of both worlds these past few days when viewing our sun through the dense filter of smoke, which surrounds us in late summer as the fog envelops us in the cold months. With the chaos of evacuations, news footage of what the fires have left behind, and maps of more and more fires burning through the West, I can fully imagine the end of the world.

Fires are close to Portland today, and have affected Los Angeles since last weekend. If it’s not fire, it’s flood as Hurricane Harvey made its way through the Gulf Coast and, as I type, Irma is heading straight for the Florida Keys. With hurricanes come tornadoes as well as winds and surging water. With evacuations and rescues, there are so many people forced to leave their homes not knowing what will happen while they’re gone.

A few years ago I was running errands one morning and saw the California hillside a few miles north engulfed in flames. Three careless campers were responsible, and they probably had no idea the lives they changed that day. Friends of ours lived in the area and were told to prepare for evacuation. One of them later described the stab of reality when you’re faced with true danger and wonder what you need to grab.

There are a select few who say, “They’re just things,” and how fortunate for them to live so simply or perhaps foolishly, but what does one take? Photos? Not everyone has scanned every photo into a digital file, but surely you’d grab the computer. I couldn’t bear to lose my life’s work, so the laptop is a must. European refugees and civilians in the Civil War were known to bury valuables, many of which were never seen again, but you can’t bury things in a flood, and the water is not a looting soldier.

So many important papers are saved electronically these days, but birth certificates, insurance policies, passports, bank information, and other ways to prove one’s identity must be taken along. You can get clothes later, but evacuation is all about priorities and, of course, where to go next, what will be there to eat, and is there going to be fresh drinking water?

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A view of the eastern skies on a typical summer’s day.

As those around us head to shelters and spend frustrating hours awaiting official updates with only the clothes on their backs, I’m reminded of the millions all over the planet who have been forced to abandon their homes due to war, climate, and terror. Whether by nature or by governments, people are on the move at rates not seen since the end of World War II.

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View of the same eastern skies when the air is filled with smoke.

Eventually the winds will shift, the fires will burn out, flood waters will recede and, at some point, war zones will be occupied only by a few stubborn people who wish to stay and declare victory over a pile of rubble. Depending on the circumstances, some people may return in a few hours while others will never go home again. In either case, I am moved by the joy that washes over them when a door is opened and they are welcomed.

© 2017 by Patrick Brown

To learn more about my books, visit my author page at http://www.amazon.com/Patrick-Brown/e/B005F0CYH2/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1419885131&sr=8-1