Waves of guilt crash over me.
Summer is over, and I’m giddy. Giddy and feeling guilty.
No one should celebrate the end of summer – its sights, its smells, its adventures.
But this summer and the last were horrible. I wonder if it will be that way forever.
This was the hottest summer on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, with attendant dimensions to match.
Where I live along the foothills of the Rockies, the summer of ’21 made one gag. Every day the Front Range was obscured by gunky haze from fires a time zone away to the west. Majestic, towering Longs Peak – all 14,259 feet of it, was mostly missing.
Since July California has endured its largest and longest wildfire. It’s safe to say a majority of Americans -- certainly all in the West through the Midwest, breathed the byproducts.
This is nothing new. Indeed, it’s starting to seem like the new normal. Last year, starting in mid-July, Colorado endured its largest forest fire ever, ashes and soot raining down upon us well into November.
This summer, up the canyon of the Cache la Poudre River, a forest floor blackened by that fire failed to do its absorbent job in torrential rains. A flash flood obliterated a large stretch of the highway and took a family of four to a gruesome end.
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Added to the West’s smoke and flames is a drought almost without modern precedent.
Lake Mead, the lifeline for whole cities and so many farms, faces its most acute shortage since its construction, fitting for near-Dust Bowl conditions throughout the West.
And now the problem of toxic algae. Headline: “Lake Mead at risk of becoming a dead pool.”
None suffer more greatly than America’s farmers in this unfolding catastrophe.
They have my sympathy, but it is tempered for those who supported a presidential candidate who called climate change a Chinese hoax.
One would think that America’s farmers could and would bear testimony to this reality and urge action on conditions that literally are crushing them. Where is that testimony?
If you are a denier, you have a lot of denying to do. Explain away what climate scientists called “mind-boggling” temperatures in the Arctic Circle. The words “heat wave” and “Siberia” should not be used in the same sentence. They were this summer.
It is routine to hear Republicans who don’t use “hoax” to still pooh-pooh the threat and say that those who urge action are “hysterical” and “alarmist.”
Nothing that can be said about the summer of 2021 can be categorized as hysterical. It is all on the record.
The International Panel on Climate Change, asserts that since 1850, all of the long-term warming – 100 percent -- can be blamed on human activity.
It is interesting, for instance, for deniers to point out the role of cows in all of this, and that role is significant. However, it’s as if the cows sprung from the ground like lichen. Raising cattle is a human activity, as are deforestation and overgrazing.
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Right now the only debate should be over what should be done, not that a problem exists directly related to what we do.
Write Naomi Oreskes and Erik Conway in “Merchants of Doubt”:
“Nobody can publish an article in a scientific journal claiming the sun orbits the Earth.” Similarly, they write, “You can’t publish an article in a peer-reviewed journal claiming there’s no global warming.” Why? Because that’s a lie.
The question is, what do we do about it? A clear majority of Americans wants action. Check any poll you want.
Because of the pull of vested interests in the fossil fuel industries, however, it looks like hyper-ambitious proposals by President Biden are not going to make the cut.
Until further notice, weak-kneed leaders would consign us and future generations to the desecration of the planet to which they owe their lives.
The first thing they are willing to sacrifice, it appears, is summer.
Longtime newspaperman John Young lives in Colorado. Email: email@example.com.
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