On their own, the trends are easy to ignore.
The opportunity to work remotely has led to myriad examples of people from New York and other cities moving to Colorado mountain communities and small towns in search of a green refuge from urban degradation.
Hostility to immigrants is palpable, readily inflamed and easily weaponized for political gain.
Gun sales are through the roof.
And rates of depression, drug abuse and suicide are soaring, particularly among young people, the unemployed and farmers in rural areas.
What we have here is a failure to remediate.
In each trend we’re witnessing the flailing human response to runaway climate change. It’s everywhere.
Since at least the 1970s, climate scientists have warned us. Sure, their temperature forecasting models have sometimes been off – occasionally underestimating or overestimating the projected global temperature averages.
But the predictions of more intense and more frequent hurricanes, droughts and wildfires, retreating glaciers, melting polar ice fields, dying forests and dead coral reefs have been depressingly accurate and occurring sooner than anticipated.
Now that it’s too late to avoid these impacts entirely, we’re seeing the very mass migration, economic dislocation, crop failures and generalized anxieties that not long ago seemed like the lunatic ravings of hysterical doomsayers.
We’re being buffeted coast-to-coast and beyond with the impacts of a warming planet.
Two weeks ago, I called my sister-in-law in Oregon to see how she was holding up inside her home with the windows locked tight against the noxious smoke. She said she was fine. She described the stories of neighbors and friends who were fleeing the fires.
Then she started sobbing.
My friend, who last year moved from an apartment in Wash Park to a house outside of Fraser, hired loggers to remove most of the 50-year-old trees from her yard after watching the mushroom cloud from the Williams Fork fire billow over the horizon 10 miles away.
And when I asked an acquaintance, a rancher along the Colorado River, what he thought about wolf reintroduction, he told me it was pretty much irrelevant. Climate change is sucking the moisture from his land and destroying his livelihood far more efficiently than a pack of wolves ever could.
Open your eyes. This is not a problem we’re handing off to our grandchildren.
It’s on us.
So, in addition to joining California in a last-ditch effort to stop wrecking the planet with our profligate use of fossil fuels, we’re going to have to get serious about adapting to our hotter, dryer, more volatile world.
University of Colorado Denver Professor Lloyd Burton, now retired, put his graduate students to work eight years ago to develop public policies to address the rapidly expanding wildfire disasters across the state.
The first step, they said, is to stop thinking of a wildfire as if it’s a simple urban house fire, begging to be extinguished so that house can be rebuilt. The second is to stop developing wildlands as if they’re suburbs when they’re actually delicate ecosystems dependent on periodic fires for their long-term health.
They testified before state officials and spread the word.
We ignored them.
At the same time, our immigration system has become more and more dysfunctional, not only engendering rage at home, but sparking ridicule and hostility around the world at a time when displaced American citizens are increasingly seeking refuge elsewhere.
We need to stop merely exploiting the issue and take steps to resolve it.
After all, where are our grandchildren going to go after they flee drought and fire in Colorado, California, Oregon and Washington, if Canadians decide to give us a taste of our own medicine and build a proverbial wall around their cool, comfortable abundance?
Finally, if we’re going to do something about all the people who die of substance abuse, suicide or shooting each other, we need to throw a lifeline to those who face all manner of economic and social dislocation because of our rapidly changing environment.
If there’s no longer a job in a coal mine or enough rain to grow hay for the cattle or a glimmer of hope for the future for a teenager growing up in a polluted neighborhood, we need to lend a hand.
We can’t allow leaders to glorify the “me” culture and inflame the epidemic of narcissism that precludes us from cooperating. We’re wasting time on selfish nonsense.
As Michelle Obama has said, “if we want to survive, we’ve got to find a way to live together and work together across our differences.”
Maybe it’s possible.
In smoke-choked Oregon, even Trumpsters broke down and wore masks in public. And passionate tree-huggers have come to respect the benefits of an occasional forest fire.
What the heck. It’s a start.
Diane Carman is a Denver communications consultant.
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