Remember to get the weather in your god damned book—weather is very important.
(Ernest Hemingway (writing to John Dos Passos, from Selected Letters, 1917-1961)
The nightly newscasters must have taken Hemingway’s advice. Hardly a day passes now without mention of the weather on national and local news. Weather is news in today’s world, and the reports of its extremes have become more than a niggling concern. 2014, according to many scientists, is likely to be the hottest year on record, surpassing the record set in 2010. In California, which is experiencing a severe drought, wildfires are burning all over the state. Indoors and wilting in the heat wave last week, I broke my “fast” from the nightly news to stay updated on California’s wildfires, particularly those in Siskiyou County, where I spent my childhood. I was horrified by the images. Over 100,000 acres burning in Klamath National Forest, devastation in Weed, a small town near the base of Mount Shasta, and then, the King Fire, the largest, near Sacramento, set by an arsonist. Heat, lightning, wind were fueling infernos.
She began as we huddled, six of us,
in the cellar, raising her voice above
those towering syllables…
Never mind she cried when storm candles
flickered, glass shattered upstairs.
(“An Octave Above Thunder,” by Carol Muske-Dukes, 1945)
It’s not just the drought, extreme heat or wildfires. Across the country, the weather has been frightening and ferocious: severe thunderstorms, high winds, flooding, tornadoes. Images on television are heart-wrenching and terrifying. And along the eastern seaboard, hurricane season has only just begun.
Has the water already
robbed us of our autumn food?
I climb the roof to look.
(“Flood,” by Miyazawa Kenji, in Selections, 2007)
Today, thousands of people in cities across the country will march in support of climate change. “Sam Barratt, campaign director for the advocacy group Avaaz, said, “Climate change is no longer an environmental issue; it’s an everybody issue.” An everybody issue: Me. You. Us.
As 120 heads of state come together on Tuesday for this week’s United Nations Climate Summit, perhaps the sight of thousands, marching for climate change, will make a difference. Yet we wonder: Can the world’s nations actually agree on a path to avoid the increasingly devastating consequences of climate change, like sea-level rise, extreme drought and the fury of storms unlike any we’ve seen before?
According to the National Geographic News, the summit provides leaders a chance to signal how aggressive—or not—they will be in cutting emissions and in helping poor countries blunt the harm caused by droughts, sea-level rise, and other climate change effects… The answer will not come, however, during the …summit. This week’s summit is not a negotiating session for the next international agreement. That happens next year when the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change meets in Paris and the when the world’s largest emitters of greenhouse gases (China, the United States and India) must to submit their plans to the UN. Despite all the evidence of global warming and climate change, many worry that the current political climate between parties and countries make it unlikely the international community will ever reach a binding agreement on climate–a sobering thought for any of us.
What can we do? We do what we can, consciously leaving less of a footprint than we’ve done in the past. Perhaps we can save this beautiful blue and green planet from extinction before it’s too late. Spend a few minutes and google “steps to save the earth” and you’ll find many small, but significant changes each of us can make in our daily life—changes that remind us never to take our world for granted.
This week, let the earth be your inspiration for writing.
“If the Earth,”
by Joe Miller
“If the Earth were only a few feet in diameter, floating a few feet above a field somewhere, people would come from everywhere to marvel at it. People would walk around it marveling at its big pools of water, its little pools, and the water flowing between the pools. People would marvel at the bumps on it, and the holes in it, and they would marvel at the very thin layer of gas surrounding it and the water suspended in the gas. The people would marvel at all the creatures walking around the surface of the ball and at the creatures in the water. The people would declare it sacred because it was the only one, and they would protect it so that it would not be hurt. The ball would be the greatest wonder known, and people would come to pray to it, to be healed, to gain knowledge, to know beauty, and to wonder how it could be. People would love it and defend it with their lives because they would somehow know that their lives, their own roundness, could be nothing without it. If the Earth were only a few feet in diameter…”
(From: Save the Earth, Jonathon Porritt. Ed., 1991)