Back in April of this year, the National Geographic magazine for Earth Day was a double-sided issue. One cover bore the title, “How We Lost the Planet”; the flip-side offered “How We Saved the World.” The issue pretty much embodies how I exist these days: in a constant state of flipping between despair and hope.
Today, here in Colorado, the smoke from our own fires mixed with that from California. Early in the afternoon, the air reminded me of growing up in L.A. in the ‘sixties and early ‘seventies. We had “smog days” when we couldn’t go outside, when recess was held indoors and we played “Thumbs Up, Seven Up,” sitting at our desks with our heads down and a thumb up while a classmate would go around and tap a set of kids on the thumb. Once these children were chosen, we would be allowed to pick up our heads while the selected seven tried to guess who had tapped them. It was every bit as exciting as it sounds.
But even on the days when we allowed to play outside, our chests would hurt and sometimes we couldn’t get a full breath. We didn’t think too much about it; that was all we knew. But our parents did and for a while there were effective efforts to mitigate air pollution. The air in L.A.got better, as it did in other cities in America.
Today, my lungs thought they were right back in the L.A. of my youth. Breathing ached; my throat felt scoured; my head ached; my stomach turned sour. And however poor the conditions are here, they are fractionally as awful as California’s.
My husband and I had planned a drive today, just to get out of the house. We made it up high enough to be away from the smoke briefly, but most of the time the cab of the truck was smoke-imbued.
It was difficult to come back down where the smoke blanketed everything like fog, and nothing like fog.
By early afternoon, I was no longer thinking of Los Angeles; I was thinking of Pompeii.
Wildfires are far from the only disasters caused by global warming. Plastic is raining down across the country, including in our delicate, protected preserves; hurricane season is far more dangerous now. The disdain for science so proudly promulgated by politicians and voters will cost us our lovely planet and guess what? There’s not room for all of us on the International Space Station.
In addition, a lot of us are going to be denied the opportunity to be grandparents because of climate change. The next generations are reluctant to bring children into a world that might not be around long enough for their children to live to old age or that will mean they have to live in a wasteland. I don’t have an effective counter-argument for them.
The setting sun and the moon have been orange and lurid for weeks now.
But this evening was the sun was new kind of eerie.
And tonight — tonight the moon is red, a mourning red, an angry crimson.
So vote for our lives, for our home, for our environment, for the continuation of our species, for leaders who will push us to evolve into stewards of the Earth. Vote. Please vote.
Union of Concerned Scientists. “The Connection Between Climate Change and Wildfires.” Updated March 11, 2020.
Gavin Newsom on climate change and California’s wildfires. August 20, 2020.
Vote to elect representatives who will end voter suppression and will support just redistricting. When we deny people their voice, their vote, then protesting becomes the only reasonable option.
Here in Colorado, we have new laws designed to eliminate, as much as possible, the partisan gerrymandering that has impeded fair elections. A panel of diverse members will take over the redistricting. We hope to set an example for other states struggling for more equitable elections.
We shouldn’t have to say it any longer, but we do. Black Lives Matter. And today the news has given us a new name to say:
Mr. Prude was killed back in March, but the circumstances of his death while wearing a spit hood the police put on him only recently came to light. I’ll let you read the details in the accounts below.
There are other groups whose lives we similarly devalue. Some are subsets of the Black community (Black trans folk, Black women) and some are not (BIPOC groups) or may not be (Jews, Muslims, other minority religions). I’m not sure how to talk about these groups without seeming to diminish the BLM discussion,* but for the moment, perhaps the ink offers an analogy. The ink looks black when left alone, but a little water shows it comprises other colors and shades. I will continue to find a more elegant and effective means to discuss the broad swathe of people whose rights we need to affirm and whose wrongs — the ones done to them in the past and the ones we continue to tolerate, propagate, and commit — we must work to assuage.
* 4 September, 2020: I just read in the New York Times this excellent distinction made by Daria Allen, a sixteen-year-old who has been protesting in Portland, Oregon:
One of the few chants she consistently recites is “Black lives matter.” It annoys her that the phrase has become a subject of controversy, often met with the diminishing response “All lives matter.”
“When they have the breast cancer runs, you don’t see people out there yelling, ‘What about lung cancer?’” she said. “Just because I’m talking about what’s happening to me doesn’t mean I don’t care about what’s happening with you. Why do I have to constantly remind these people that I matter?”
When Ms. Allen
posted a link to the fund-raiser in a neighborhood Facebook group, a woman confronted her. Ms. Allen was destroying the city, she said. Ms. Allen fired back, arguing that the police were polluting the city with tear gas. The argument ended with the woman sending her a direct message, which Ms. Allen has saved in her inbox, just to remind herself of the mentality she is fighting against.
“If I see you on the street, you will be the next Black person hanging from a tree,” the woman wrote.
It makes me ill that anyone would throw the hateful and horrifying spectre of lynching at a Black teenager, one who is raising her voice and risking her health and life to call for justice and equality. Vote for Daria Allen because Daria Allen isn’t yet old enough to vote for herself.
Please write your senators, your congressional representatives, your secretaries of state, and your state attorneys general to urge them to keep voting safe and accessible and to stand up to everyone who is trying to undermine the postal service. Public pressure matters. Apply some daily.
It’s another thirty-day month, so it’s another #30Inks30Days challenge. Instead of getting overwhelmed with a story, this month I think I’ll offer up thirty (admittedly left-leaning) reasons to cast a vote here in November if you’re a U.S. citizen.
To everyone who is eligible to vote — whether you see the issues as I do or not — get registered, find out how your state plans to hold your elections, and make a plan to vote.
Well, I’ve had a difficult two months, with my M.E. surging. Hot weather, whether I’m out in it or not, often makes it worse. We seem to be cooling off a bit now, despite the fires here in Colorado. I did finish up Rivka’s story; Meredith is thinking about rounding out Emma’s portion with a story of her own. So for anyone who is wondering how this tale concludes (spoiler: no one dies), read on: