Watching the earth

We’ve witnessed some remarkable terrain in this year on the road. 

If there’s such a thing as a spiritual home, I’ve been at the center of mine for the past two months in the Pacific Northwest. Their combination of mountain and sea, wrapped in a lush green blanket is my idea of paradise. 

But, as they say, there is trouble in paradise.

The Northwest suffered a historic heatwave this summer. Parts of western Washington went a record 56 days without rainfall and when we hiked through the Hoh Rainforest in August, there was a tinge of crispy brown on the vegetation, in a landscape I remember from my youth as a rich, luminous green.

We interviewed people who lost their homes to wildfire in Oregon. In 2020, the Holiday Farm Fire ravaged the McKenzie River Valley and the entire town of Blue River was burned to the ground. At 173,000 acres it was one of the largest wildfires Oregon had ever seen. But then the Bootleg Fire this summer logged in at more than double that size.

Mt. Shasta was devoid of snow by late August this year. Not unprecedented, but certainly uncommon. And early. Meanwhile, Lake Shasta, fed by the meltwaters, is only 24% full and 175 feet below the top of the dam that was built in 1945.

It’s hard not to see it as you cross the country. It’s hard not to worry when you see it.

We’ll be sharing more of these stories in the coming weeks and months. We’ll dig into more questions about water as we spend time in southern California and Arizona over the winter. We’ll explore macro issues of climate change but also micro issues of innovation, water conservation and personal responsibility.

There are solutions. There always are, to every issue of race, poverty, armed conflict, and environment. There are creative people pursuing thoughtful solutions. The question is, will we listen? And will we find the collective will to act?

Yesterday we drove past Mt. Shasta on our way south for the winter. Its slopes were covered in a fresh coat of snow and I took it as a sign of hope. I imagined a deep snowpack over the winter melting under next summer’s sun to refill the reservoir.

I understand that climate is not understood through one snowfall, or a single season. But the trends are worrisome. And I hope when we catch a break, we can use it as a reprieve to plan well for the future, and not as an excuse to fall into old habits.

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