Wednesday, September 09, 2020

The Stakes Have Shifted

This was the weekend that climate change, in California, stopped being about the future. The weekend that the idea that COVID-19 was worse than climate change, or fascism was worse than climate change, disappeared. The experts, of course, had known this for some time. But by the point August turned into September, the drumbeat of California’s environmental anomalies had grown so horrid and relentless that not even the professionals could stay detached. Way back, a lifetime ago, on Sept. 3, Daniel Swain, UCLA’s extreme-weather climate scientist who’s made a name from himself by tweeting, in plain language, just what the hell is going on, wrote, “This *gesturing wildly and in every direction* is utterly exhausting.”

Still, through Friday the 4th and into Saturday the 5th, Swain tried his professional best to keep his readers up to date on the all-time record high temperatures in a staggering number of California cities and the unheard-of airlift rescue of 200 people from the Creek Fire surrounding Mammoth Lake. But by Saturday evening, his emotional and lexicographical reserves were growing thin. “Yeah, it is almost literally unbelievable, but I’ve been saying that a lot lately,” he wrote while commenting how the Creek Fire had exploded to more than 100,000 acres even before it reached the part of the Sierra where, due to climate change, bark beetles killed millions of trees.

For a moment early Sunday morning, he appeared to get his vocabulary and mojo back: “Active pyrocumulonimbus ("fire thunderstorm") activity occurred through night – resembling volcanic eruption . . .”

But by 8 a.m. he’d exhausted his vocabulary and himself: “These are getting harder and harder to write.”

The stakes had shifted; the essential subject-object dynamic changed. The earth – at least the part of it that is California – was no longer a backdrop for our actions, the set of our play. It had become the diva, the star of our horrible drama, the villain demolishing cascades of plans for all of us little specks hubristic enough to believe we could still make them.

– Elizabeth Weil
Excerpted from “The Climate Crisis Is Happening Right Now.
Just Look at California’s Weekend

September 9, 2020

Related Off-site Links and Updates:
Think 2020’s Natural Disasters Are Wild? Experts Expect a Lot Worse in Future – Associated Press via KTLA News (September 9, 2020).
Another Four Years of Trump Might Kill Off Remaining Hope Saving Planet From Climate Destruction – Rajko Kolundzic (Common Dreams, September 9, 2020).
A Climate Reckoning in California – Thomas Fuller and Christopher Flavelle (The New York Times, September 10, 2020).
Wildfire North of Sacramento Is Largest in California History — and It May Not Be Done Growing – Dennis Romero (NBC News (September 10, 2020).
This Is a Climate Emergency. We Need More Than Half-Measures from Democrats – Basav Sen (In These Times, September 10, 2020).
Help Is “Just Not Coming”: A California Reporter on What’s Different About This Year’s Wildfires – Mary Harris (Slate, September 10, 2020).
As Fires Engulf West, Democrats Not Running on Trump Climate Failures Accused of “Political Malpractice” – Jessica Corbett (Common Dreams, September 11, 2020).
California Governor Signs Bill Giving Prisoners Battling Wildfires a Shot at Becoming Pro Firefighters – Michael James (USA Today via Yahoo! News, September 11, 2020).
Climate Emergency Overdrive: Our Age of Compound Disasters as 10% of Oregon Is Evacuated, California Burns, and Louisiana Sinks – Juan Cole (Informed Comment via Common Dreams, September 12, 2020).
U.S. Wildfires Kill 24 People, Rip Through Northern California and Force 500,000 to Flee Their Homes in Oregon – Thomas Fuller and Christopher Flavelle (ABC News, September 12, 2020).
Oregon Sheriff’s Deputy Placed on Leave for Falsely Blaming Antifa for Starting Forest Fires – Bob Brigham (Raw Story, September 12, 2020).
Police: Political Activists Didn’t Cause Oregon’s Wildfires – Saranac Hale Spencer (, September 11, 2020).
“I Don't Think Science Knows”: Visiting Fires, Trump Denies Climate Change – Alana Wise (NPR News, September 14, 2020).
New Study Finds Planet Heading Toward Temperature Threshold Not Seen in 34 Million Years – Kenny Stancil (Common Dreams, September 14, 2020).
“Colonizing the Atmosphere”: How Rich, Western Nations Drive the Climate Crisis – Sarah Lazare (In These Times, September 14, 2020).
Climate Crisis Fears Growing Across Globe, Study Shows, With Concern Highest Among Most Vulnerable – Lisa Newcomb (Common Dreams, September 21, 2020).
Fierce, Frequent, Climate-fueled Wildfires May Decimate Forests Worldwide – Reuters via NBC News (September 22, 2020).

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Examining the Link Between Destruction of Biodiversity and Emerging Infectious Diseases
Something to Think About – February 10, 2020
In Australia, “the Land As We Know It Is No More”
Greta Thunberg: Quote of the Day – September 23, 2019
Five Powerful Responses to the Amazon Fires
Greta Thunberg: Quote of the Day – March 16, 2019
As the World Burns, Calls for a “Green New Deal”
Marianne Williamson: Quote of the Day – August 29, 2017
The People's Climate Solidarity March – Minneapolis, 4/29/17
“It Is All Connected”
Standing Together
Standing in Prayer and Solidarity with the Water Protectors of Standing Rock
Rachel Smolker: Quote of the Day – September 19, 2014
The Paris Climate Talks, Multilateralism, and a “New Approach to Climate Action”
Superstorm Sandy: A “Wake-Up Call” on Climate Change
Chris Hedges: Quote of the Day – May 31, 2011

Image 1: The Bidwell Bar Bridge surrounded by flames of the North Complex fire – Lake Oroville, California, September 9, 2020. (Photo: Josh Edelson/AFP via Getty Images)
Image 2: California wildfire – 2020. (Photo: Photographer unknown)
Image 3: Wildfires in California's Butte County – 2020. (Photo: AP/Noah Berger)
Image 4: A California forest fire in 2018. (Photo: Kellan Hendry)

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