When I dropped my son off at school this morning, the teachers directing traffic were wearing face masks, and our usual view of San Francisco was obscured by thick smoke.
The latest fires just north of us, in the famed Sonoma and Napa wine country all the way up to Mendocino, are burning fast—and sending a message:
Climate change does not discriminate. Rich and poor, coastal and inland dwellers, Republican and Democrat, we’re all living the reality of climate change now.
The smell of smoke in my nostrils as I write, the feel of it in my lungs as I breathe, I recognize I am so far one of the lucky ones.
I have had the privilege of thinking about climate change and what it means for families for more than a decade without having experienced one of the most direct hits of it. Drought, yes. Extreme heat, yes. Wild swings in winter conditions, yes.
But that is little compared to what so many others have recently experienced: the utter destruction and devastation of climate-fueled hurricanes and wildfires that have wiped out homes, lives and livelihoods.
Today made me feel how bracingly real these sudden tragedies are. And there is little question of their link to climate change, as Amy Head, the fire captain spokeswoman for Cal Fire, confirmed.
“It has been hotter, it has been drier, our fire seasons have been longer, fires are burning more intensely, which is a direct correlation to the climate changing,” she said in an interview with The Guardian.
Today, to be frank, also made me sick to my stomach.
While California Burns, the Administration Rolls Back Protections
Under The New York Times headline that reports 17 fires, 11 dead and 20,000 forced to evacuate in just the first 24 hours of these latest fires, is another that reads: “EPA Says it Will Repeal Key Obama-era Climate Plan.”
“The war on coal is over,” Scott Pruitt, the head of the EPA, said. “Tomorrow [Oct. 10] in Washington, D.C., I will be signing a proposed rule to roll back the Clean Power Plan. No better place to make that announcement than Hazard, KY.”
It seems he missed the irony of the “Hazard” name.
But much more significantly, he may also have missed that the juxtaposition of this Administration’s rollback of climate protection measures—as California burns, and Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico try to recover from the hurricanes – being one for the history books.
It is as if this administration looks upon the suffering caused by climate change and thinks the equivalent of Marie Antoinette’s comment, “Let them eat cake,” during the uprising of the hungry during the French Revolution.
In the narrow-minded interest of supporting the fossil fuel industry, which has literally fueled the climate crisis, this administration is collectively turning its back on the American people and the world’s people as a whole – on our children and all the future generations that deserve so very much better than this.
So what do we, as parents, do?
That is a bigger question than can be answer in one brief blog post. But here are three quick ideas that feel paramount now:
We get political—more political. We make climate action a litmus test for anyone who wants the privilege of holding political office. If they do not support strong climate action in 2018 or 2020 or beyond, we do not give them our vote.
We get inventive—throwing the question wide open now: How do we demand a return to the sanity of climate action not only by our mayors, businesses, and communities but the federal government? This is not time to throw up our hands, however frustrated and overwhelmed we may feel.
We teach our children radical hope. This means we need to balance out all the bad news they are exposed to with the good news: of people working hard to combat climate change, of people helping those in need, of people putting the well being of children over profits. In short, we teach our children that real hope arises from people like us.
And, we stay connected with each other. For that, as always, is the way we stay strong and make real change.
(This post originally appeared on Mom’s Clean Air Force.)