All of the windows and doors in my house are closed because the air outside is filled with dangerous amounts of particulate matter brought by the smoke from wildfires blazing through forests up and down the West Coast. I take the dog outside for quick potty breaks wearing an N95 construction mask. When we come in, we both smell like we’ve been sitting for hours around a smoky campfire.
Back inside, I anxiously check my phone and computer for updates on Portland’s air quality and possible evacuation orders. The answers are both terrifying and less so. The air quality is hazardous — the worst in the world, but there is no imminent threat of fire in my city. No need to pack a go bag, though I am making a mental list of what to put in one, just in case.
This scenario played out day-after-day between Labor Day and September 17. Today, as I write this, the air quality is moderate and we were able to safely go outside, walk the dog, and open our windows.
During this time, I have questioned whether our decision to move from the East Coast to the West Coast four years ago was a mistake. But then, I remind myself that climate change is happening everywhere. Cold comfort that is. It means that coping with climate disasters could become part of everyday life for our children and grandchildren. And, according to the New York Times, wildfires blazing in the West could hinder developing lungs, worsen asthma and even lead to the condition in those who don’t have it but are genetically disposed to it.
While many people still believe climate change is something that happens elsewhere, it impacts us all, wherever we live.
Another article in the New York Times provides an illustrated map of the U.S. that shows that climate change effects the entire country — from sea level rise in Alaska, to water stress and extreme heat across the country’s mid-section, to deadly hurricanes and excessive rainfall up and down the East Coast.
So, what do we do?
First, we talk about it and demand that candidates explain what they plan to do about it. And then, we vote for candidates who understand the harm that has been done, and who are determined to undo that damage and push our country and the rest of the world into adopting science-based solutions with the urgency required.
Climate change is here; it is happening now; and we are living in it. The birds and all living things feel it and know it — and now I do too.