This month, on the evening of December 7, my wife and I felt the pang of irony--we were now renting an apartment in East Flagstaff, and we were busy organizing a meeting on climate change at the East Flagstaff library to support the groundbreaking, spectacular, emerging Flagstaff Climate Action and Adaptation Plan.
But around 7 p.m., we received notice to evacuate our home in Fallbrook, California. The San Diego Lilac Hills fire was spreading westward, rapidly, cruelly, toward our Fallbrook home. What made it even stranger was that in May 2014, the same thing had happened to us, as nine fires going on simultaneously had forced us to prepare for evacuation from the same area.
A once in blue moon incident, they said back in 2014. They said the same thing again last week.
Travel anywhere. You can see the cause of our troubles today: gas-driven automobiles, diesel-propelled trucks, coal-consuming powerplants, jet-fueled planes, carbon-producing forest destruction, all increasing yearly. Globally, the carbon-eating machine continues in lockstep. And the puzzle pieces, the impacts, fit together-—melting arctic ice, ever more powerful hurricanes, and mega fires that rip through communities like Lilac Hills—or here in Northern Arizona, the shorter winters, the shrinking flow of the great Colorado, heat records, and mounting aridness. To us the anecdotal evidence confirms the underlying science as incontrovertible.
Now witness the full-scale, frontal attacks on large swaths of this country—California, Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, Montana—and the indirect attacks on Arizona, Colorado, Alaska, costing billions in property destruction, and costing lives, especially of the poor who can’t move, and the old who are not able to move fast enough.
Scientists recognize the reasons for these catastrophes, but some of our leaders are in dismissal. When Pearl Harbor was attacked, we did not say it was because bombs fell and ships sank, we readily identified the culprit. Similarly we identified the Ebola virus, rather than fumble around with its bloody symptoms. With lives clearly at stake, nobody disregarded the scientific advisories on dealing with that crisis. But the response to climate change has been unique: actual ban of the words “climate change,” calling climate science a hoax, cuts in research, and the promotion of folks in leadership who want more climate change!
Even the global attack--in excruciating droughts in Africa, record temperatures approaching 125 degrees in the Middle East, massive ice melt in Greenland and at the poles--seems to be dismissed, together with the pleas and resolutions of all countries save one at Paris and Bonn. Bill MCKibben of 350.org has likened climate change to a war we are losing not because it cannot be won but because we do not recognize it as a war.
But it is a war, which we must win! We must mobilize at the grassroots. And we must counterattack by supporting strong climate action plans such as the one emerging in Flagstaff. As a start these plans reduce the import of oil and gas and coal, keep income local, reduce gas guzzling transportation, promote water conservation, rescue our forests and tourism, and ultimately bring jobs and prosperity to our community.
And we must counterattack on a national level, too. Through pressure from below, our legislators must adopt a carbon fee and dividend approach to shift us out of fossil fuels into more accurately market-priced energy such as wind and solar. And as the Citizens Climate Lobby urges, we must support national unity in which Republicans and Democrats work together to implement this policy. With popular engagement—we can succeed in rallying the resources and capacity of our country to defeat this ogre. We can win!
Please, Senator McCain—we ask you to join our fight in this effort across Arizona at the grassroots. The once in a blue moon attacks are bound to increase. We need to face the enemy now. And you, Senator McCain, having stood strong in one war, should help us stand up in another, as a patriot, and take a first big step. Endorse the carbon fee and dividend plan at the national level. Inspire us!
And, yes, our Fallbrook home survived, less than 1,000 yards away from the fire’s edge. We take it as another warning for us all.