The Great Dumpster Fire Of 2020: What Will Be Left Amidst the Ashes?

by on September 14, 2020 · 0 comments

in Environment, Under the Perfect Sun

By Jim Miller

It’s that time again.  The world is burning.  The sky is hazy from smoke in the Southland, Bladerunner-orange over San Francisco, and a tenth of the state of Oregon is under evacuation.

I’ll try not to write the same column that I did last year during fire season.

Or the year before that.

Or the several years before that.

With the media screaming about these fires it finally seems that the “unprecedented” angle is having its last gasp.  Gavin Newsom is sick of climate deniers, and the connection between the extreme heat and the fires seems to finally be unquestioned.

As I write this on a Friday afternoon, my friends and family in the Bay Area can’t leave their homes for fear of toxic air.  Family in Portland are watching a megafire come their way.

And the carnage of wilderness is stunning with so many beautiful places decimated in such a short time from the Sierras to the North Coast to Central California and the San Diego backcountry.

We are losing wonder in real time.

Many of us will be dead before some of these places recover.  My 16-year old son may get to see some areas come back or only partially before they burn again.  How many times can paradise be lost?  Over and over it appears.

The other day on my walk, people were stopping to take pictures of the surreal sky, with the sun filtered through a red lens.  Look at that, the world is burning.  Look at that, such a striking sight, like something out of a science fiction movie but it’s not.  It’s our world, right now.

I counted four different opinion columns in major news outlets pontificating on how this was the end of the world as we know it.  The end of California and the West.  The end of our illusions about climate.  The end of the beginning of sensing it is the end.

The President called himself the world’s biggest environmentalist last week as he banned the oil-drilling he had allowed off the shores of some states.  Suck on the sugar-coated turd.  Believe day is night and night is day.  Blame the fires on Antifa.  Don’t wear a mask in the evacuation center because I don’t want you to panic.

Don’t get off the fossil fuels or there’ll be hell to pay.

What’s most important is that we keep the markets rolling.  Don’t afflict the comfortable or they’ll turn off the money machine and we’ll all be worse off—and we’ll deserve it.

Is this real America?  This is the question the ghost of Allen Ginsberg channels to me when I turn on the TV.

I watch TV every day.  That and Facebook and Twitter and all the other forms of social media.  Wherever there is news to help me map the course of events, I go.  It gives me the impression that we have lost our minds.  But still there are stories.  The show must go on.

We use narrative to help us make sense of the unruly rush of events, impose order on the chaos of the world.

One story tells me this: “Humans are decimating wildlife, and the pandemic is a sign.”  The more we disrupt, displace, and eliminate wildlife through our rude intrusions into the few remaining unsettled places, the more likely we unleash new viruses and a host of untold future plagues awaits us.  This is a spillover effect of our broken relationship with nature, a horror born of our now dysfunctional ecosystem.

There has been a stunning loss of biodiversity, goes this story.  One million plant and animal species are on the verge of extinction.

We are unhinged.

“The future has arrived.  These explosive fires are our climate change wake up call,” says another story.  I believe the first part to be inarguably true.  As for the second, I suppose one might say, along with Shelley, that “hope is a moral obligation,” but, to be honest, some days this faith is tougher to hold onto than others.

Sorry, this is nothing new.

Remember, though, to stay angry at the people who started the fire and are still making money off the fuel that keeps it going.

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