It’s fitting that smoke obscured this photo of a coal plant I took as we drove past on Saturday.
Craig Station. August 7, 2021
We’d been camping at Rifle Falls State Park and woke to the valley filled with wildfire smoke. We quickly packed up and left. Turned out, the entire western half of Colorado was (and continues to be) choked with smoke from wildfires in the northwest. There was no escaping it.
I’ve spent much of the past several days closed off in my bedroom with an air purifier. My climate anxiety was already high and then the UN released its climate report yesterday. (Just typing those words sent a surge of anxiety throughout my system.)
I called my Senators and Representative today, all wealthy white men from Colorado which has been experiencing the worst air pollution in the world, to urge them to drop their incrementalism and vote to save humanity. The Democrats stuck us with a bi-partisan infrastructure bill (something the loathsome yet highly disciplined Republicans would never, ever have done) and we desperately need the reconciliation bill that addresses climate and poverty. The Progressive Caucus in the House is saying #NoClimateNoDeal if climate is stripped from the reconciliation bill and I can only hope they, for once, hold firm. However, I’m not naive enough to believe they’ll use their power to do the right thing. Time and again, they go along with the status quo that’s currently killing us.
Still, I think it’s well-worth a couple minutes of everyone’s time to call their representatives to demand they vote for the people and planet. Demand they keep the reconciliation bill intact. The Capitol switchboard (202) 224-3121
Thank you in advance.
I struggled to get out of bed this morning, knowing air quality was abysmal and that temperatures would (again) reach the high 90s. I finally hauled myself upright and for the second run in a row, ran inside on the treadmill. While I’m grateful to have that option, it’s unnerving to run inside during the summer.
I’ve dipped into the photo archives from the days of yore, when wildfire smoke didn’t choke the air and I could spend hours outdoors. Here are two of the many American White Pelicans I saw paddling around at Barr Lake State Park last April:
April 8, 2021
I find them quite stately despite those bumps on their bills. I hope they continue to do well, wherever they are.
We did end up going to Crested Butte last week and were blessed with rain almost the entire four-hour drive. That much-needed precipitation cleared the air of wildfire smoke and the drive over Cottonwood Pass was absolutely delicious. Green-green-green with a smattering of wildflowers.
We spent one of our nights at Oh Be Joyful Campground and hiked partway in on the Oh Be Joyful Trail. Here’s a taste of what we saw:
July 15, 2021
The wild asters were more abundant than we’d ever experienced, but this wild rose also caught my eye.
Zippy and Emma
The five-mile afternoon hike was balm for our souls. And after running three-plus miles that morning, we eagerly welcomed bedtime.
Especially the short-legged doggo who could barely keep her eyes open after we returned to camp.
A truly joyous experience.
This morning I woke to Unhealthy air quality due to wildfire smoke and so chose to run inside on the treadmill. The good news is the 25-minute run worked its usual endorphin magic and I felt much better afterward. The bad news is that while we’re clearly and obviously experiencing climate collapse, we’re all just going about our daily lives.
By James LeeFormerIP at en.wikipedia
The young people of the Sunrise Movement, desperate for a chance at a livable future, worked their asses off to help elect Biden who, compared to Tr*mp, at least gave lip service to climate change. But is Biden really better than a climate denier when his administration boosts a tar sands pipeline that will cross indigenous lands? (While also, by the way, further enriching the already incredibly wealthy Susan Rice, who is an aide to Biden.) You either believe we’re in a crisis and use the enormous powers of your position to enact policy to mitigate the worst effects OR you say all the right things while continuing to coddle the fossil fuel industry.
Zippy and I planned to head to the mountains tomorrow for cleaner air and cooler temperatures (which I recognize is an absolute luxury not available to most people), but now we’re torn. Because does it make sense to drive to Crested Butte when that area is also experiencing Unhealthy air quality? Will we even want or be able to hike out to see the wildflowers?
Apologies for being a downer, but I cannot pretend the climate crisis isn’t happening. This frog wants cooler temperatures.
This weekend has been deathly hot in the Pacific Northwest. You know, the part of the country known for moderate temperatures and lots of moisture?
Parts of Michigan are flooded right now after receiving 7 inches of rain yesterday. SEVEN INCHES OF RAIN IN ONE DAY!
Detroit. June 26, 2021
In a sane world, the powers-that-be would be mobilizing to address the climate crisis. They’d be making huge changes RIGHT NOW to minimize climate collapse. I mean, they see these photos. They live on this planet with the rest of us. Sure, they’ve got money and power, but their lives and the lives of their children and grandchildren will be affected. They can’t all take rockets to Mars.
What’re they doing instead? Bowing down to institutional tradition. Bloviating about bipartisanship and preserving the filibuster. They care more about appearances and being the so-called adults in the room than working to ensure a livable future. The Democrats have ALL the power and refuse to wield it.
Why? Because they don’t care.
I loathe the GOP with every fiber of my being, but I give them credit for using their power to advance their agenda. The Dems are just spineless upholders of the status quo. Unfortunately, that status quo is quickly marching us toward an uninhabitable planet.
We woke in the middle of the night to the smell of wildfire smoke. Zippy shut off the swamp cooler and closed all windows. It’s only June and wildfire season has begun.
Since early May, I’ve run every other day and that routine has been crucial for my mental health. I haven’t yet missed a running day and when I got up this morning, I felt so many emotions about the climate crisis and the lack of political will to do anything about it. My despair mounted and, more than ever, I needed to run. The good news is we have a 20+ year-old treadmill (that’s gone through multiple running belts over the years) and I ran on that for 25 minutes. I pounded out the miles, my mind clearing as sweat slicked my skin.
This afternoon I made the mistake of going on Twitter where I came across this tweet:
And I began to spin some more, the anxiety and rage building. So, did I hop on the treadmill again? Nope. This time I began rereading one of my very favorite books:
I highly recommend any book by Cynthia Kadohata, but especially THE THING ABOUT LUCK which is funny and tender and makes my heart sing. *happy sigh*
I have to keep reminding myself that electoral politics is not going to save us. We the people must rise up as one and stand together against the rich and powerful. In the meanwhile, I’m focusing on mutual aid in my community in addition to lots and lots of running and reading.
This day’s been hard, but I’m still standing.
We love the sight of the brown and ruddy earth;
it is the color of life, while a snow-covered plain is the face of death.
Yet snow is but the mask of the life-giving rain; it, too, is the friend of man,
the tender, sculpturesque, immaculate, warming, fertilizing snow.
~ John Burroughs
Out my window, February 25, 2021
Today I’m grateful for the foot of snow we received during the night. Colorado is experiencing extreme drought and wildfires are definitely in our near future, but right now I’m embracing this gift from the skies. And because this is a climate emergency, I don’t care if this sounds greedy: “More, please.”
On our way up the street for a hike in the open space (our much-needed break from the coup attempt by the
terrorists** white nationalist fascists), I was disappointed but not at all surprised to see this sign still prominently displayed in front of a house:
In case you missed it, this sign loudly proclaims POLICE PROTECT US and
VIOLENCE IS NOT THE ANSWER.
I can’t help think about how Standing Rock protestors fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline were hit with water cannons, tear gas, and rubber bullets during the Obama administration.
Or how over the past year of historic protests and marches for Black Lives, militarized police forces around the country brutalized protestors.
Or how almost exactly one year ago, 37 climate activists and I were arrested and jailed for singing a song outside the Colorado chamber as Governor Polis (Democrat) gave his State of the State address. We later learned from a former CO state legislator about an incident in which a spectator yelled a death threat during a legislative session. That person (a white male) was merely escorted from the building. No handcuffs. No fine or charges. No jail time.
What’s happening today as the entire world watches? Cops are taking selfies with the
terrorists** white nationalist fascists who broke into the capitol.
This isn’t a shock. An armed militia entered the Michigan capitol in April 2020 , legislators in session wearing bullet proof vests, and nothing was done about it. Violence has not only been tolerated, but encouraged, throughout our nation’s history. This country was built on genocide and white supremacy, and only certain kinds of dissent are allowed. The police only protect a certain demographic.
Same as it ever was.
** edited to replace my use of “terrorist” after reading this tweet:
absolutely not my intent to amp up the “war on terror” with added policing, surveillance, etc. that would target other groups
Colorado is getting much-needed precipitation today. While Zippy and I agree we’d prefer rain to snow, we’re gratefully accepting this weather. Even the sub-freezing temperatures. Whatever it takes to smother the wildfires.
Because it’s too cold to venture outside with my camera today, here’s a representative photo of a squirrel from a snowy day last February.
February 9, 2020.
If you look closely, you can see the snow on its nose as a result of it burrowing along the branch.
American Robin. December 16, 2019.
This photo was taken last December, but it feels fitting for today because the robin is looking to the north. As I write this, people are being evacuated north of here due to the East Troublesome Fire that exploded from about 35,000 acres to 127,000 acres after 60 mph wind gusts last night. The fire jumped the Continental Divide. Rocky Mountain National Park is on fire. Homes are burning. East Troublesome Fire is currently the fourth-largest wildfire in Colorado history.
Colorado has been on fire with multiple wildfires for the last four months but I’m told I must vote for the presidential candidate who believes climate change is real, yet keeps telling us he opposes a Green New Deal and won’t ban fracking. I’m told I must help the Democrats reclaim the Senate by voting for the candidate who drank fracking fluid and opposes a Green New Deal. It doesn’t matter to them that I’ve spent much of those past four months inside as my lungs can’t handle the smoky air; I owe them my vote.
I’m angry and exhausted and just about cried out.
Mourning Dove. September 19, 2020
Mother Earth needs us to keep our covenant. We will [. . .] commit to our descendants to work hard to protect this land and water for them. Whether you have feet, wings, fins, or roots, we are all in it together. ~ Winona LaDuke
I took this photo almost exactly one year ago, a fair representation of what the contoneaster in my yard looks like right now. So why didn’t I just step outside to get a current picture? Because it’s smoky. Still. And I don’t want my lungs burning. Again.
October 7, 2019
I can’t emphasize enough how damaging these months of Colorado wildfires (not to mention the fires raging throughout the western US) have been not only to the environment but to our collective health, both physical and psychological. Trapped indoors while the climate crisis worsens and those in power do absolutely nothing to avert worsening disaster. Colorado has a Democrat governor and Democratic-controlled House and Senate. But hey, Vote Blue No Matter Who.
Anyway, Happy Monday.
August 15, 2020
What is the use of a house if you haven’t got a tolerable planet to put it on? ~ Henry David Thoreau
Zippy took this photo last month and while today’s air quality isn’t nearly so orange, I’m not spending any time outside. The local air quality index reads “Unhealthy for sensitive groups.” I’ll go out on a limb and say I think this translates to “the air is unhealthy for everyone and everything.”
Exceptionalism?! All over the United States, people are hiding indoors to escape the ravages of the climate crisis. And our elected officials don’t care, so it’ll only get worse.
February 7, 2020
Colorado continues to burn and those of us living along the Front Range are being told to create “safe rooms” with air purifiers.
It was undoubtedly a stupid thing to do, but Zippy, Emma, and I walked early this morning. We’ve been trapped inside for days and couldn’t take it any more. I wore my mask and we walked at a leisurely pace. No heavy breathing as we went up and down the hills of our neighborhood. Partway through the walk, Zippy remarked on the thick air and put on his mask. Overall, we felt okay.
Just now, though, I stepped outside to get the mail. I was only out about thirty seconds, but as soon as I came inside the coughing started. I’m now closed off in my writing room with the purifier. The coughing has subsided but my lungs are burning.
Colorado had a Senate candidate (Andrew Romanoff) who centered his campaign on the climate crisis and a Green New Deal. He understood what’s at stake in this climate emergency. So how did the Democratic establishment respond? Chuck Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, and Colorado’s governor (Jared Polis) stepped in to crush Romanoff in the primary and prop up the oil and gas candidate (John Hickenlooper). Thanks to their interference, this November I’ll have the “opportunity” to vote for Hickenlooper (and Biden). Basically, a ballot filled with candidates who’ve made it clear they don’t much care about the people or the planet.
The most I can hope for at this point is that the wildfires are contained by the general election.
This photo of my front flower bed contains invasive stuff. Grass, Creeping Bellflower, and whatever tree-start that is. Do I mind? No. Not when everywhere I look outside it’s hot and dry and brown and smoky and yucky.
July 16, 2020
I welcome all shades of green.
I spent the day in bed reading a Nero Wolfe/Archie Goodwin detective novel. A wise choice for my physical and mental health, I think. Why? The wildfires continue to rage in Colorado and when I checked my phone at one point today, the weather alert said “91 degrees. Smoky.”
So, it’s no shock that when I dipped into Pixabay just now in search of an image that resonated, I landed on this:
Tonight I shall dream of rain.
I live in Colorado. There are currently four wildfires burning around the state. Here’s a tweet from a Colorado journalist this morning:
I can usually see downtown Denver from my front yard. The last few days the buildings have been obscured by a smoky haze. Right now, I can see the tops of some buildings. But that “good news” is deceptive. I just spent about ten minutes outside, thinking it was okay because there wasn’t a strong odor of smoke. Wrong. I’m now coughing and my lungs are burning.
Just over a year ago, I participated in our Sunrise Movement hub’s first art build. We gathered to create a banner to pressure the Colorado Democratic Party to vote for a presidential debate focused solely on climate.
Our first art build on July 24, 2019. Boulder, CO
Our pressure worked and the representatives for the CO Dems voted YES to a climate debate. However, Tom Perez and the Democratic National Committee shut down our voices. There was no climate debate during the presidential primaries, despite the fact that the majority of people in the U.S. want meaningful action on the climate crisis.
Only two presidential candidates (Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren) included serious climate plans in their platforms. Bernie’s earned an A- from Sunrise Movement. The presidential candidate the establishment contorted themselves to install as the party nominee? Well, Joe Biden earned an F-.
My state’s experiencing a years-long drought and record-high temperatures and is literally on fire right now. Except for Rep. Joe Neguse, none of the Colorado congressional delegation supports a Green New Deal. The Democratic representatives all understand that climate change is real, but unless they push for bold and meaningful action, they are no better than the climate deniers in the Republican party.
Meanwhile, Colorado burns.
We interrupt our regularly scheduled program
Climate rally in Boulder, CO. March 15, 2019.
with a message from our sponsor
Climate rally in Boulder, CO. March 15, 2019.
Remember: there is no Planet B.
It’s hard getting out of bed these days. I eventually got myself upright and after my morning ablutions, I reached for my hoop. For twenty minutes, I hoop-danced in front of my living room window. My mood lifted and I felt more energized. As I danced to the music, my eyes kept going to the purple coneflowers in the front garden bed and I told myself I’d photograph them when the dance session ended.
Purple Coneflowers. July 16, 2020.
Today I am grateful for these flowers, for my hoop, for music, and for my climate activist friend who’s currently reading my middle grade novel to make sure I didn’t misrepresent anything. Also? I’m glad I got out of bed.
Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and I felt an array of not-so-pleasant emotions. Rage was high on the list. I’m doing a little better today, in part because I’m focusing more on what keeps me going during hard times.
Open space. April 1, 2020
Today I’m grateful for the many ways nature soothes my soul.
Zippy and I knocked on doors for Bernie Sanders today. We started out together because he’d never canvassed before, but after one block, Zippy confidently headed out with his own list.
The day was a beautiful experience, in multiple ways. One, it was sunny and downright balmy (high 40s) which was a welcome reprieve after this week’s frigid temperatures and yesterday’s blizzard. Two, we started the day with about 50 enthusiastic volunteers, including a couple with a cute-cute-cute baby. Three, I had some really great conversations with voters I contacted. And four, it was gratifying to canvas for a candidate I truly believe in (as opposed to knocking doors for a lesser evil).
As I said in several of today’s conversations: I’m not naive enough to think our problems will be solved merely by electing Bernie Sanders. We have a lot of fights ahead of us if we’re going to turn this ship around. But the beauty of Bernie’s campaign is that he welcomes we-the-people in those fights. He knows he needs us and he embraces our participation because we will only win if we stand together to fight for the common good (which includes a Green New Deal and Medicare For All).
Bernie Sanders is the one candidate with an army of people ready and willing to take to the streets for equity and justice. Today, I was proud to be a Bernie Bro.
Like water which can clearly mirror the sky and the trees only so long as its surface is undisturbed, the mind can only reflect the true image of the Self when it is tranquil and wholly relaxed. ~ Indra Devi
House Finch. January 25, 2020
At noon today, I was getting focused and situated at my desk for the afternoon’s revisions when I received a text from a climate friend with a request that blew up those revisions plans. And guess what? I’m totally cool with that because sometimes To-Do lists are overrated.
Sometimes we gotta let in the spontaneity and chaos. Sometimes those elements are the purest reflection of my true Self.
A few days ago I posted about getting arrested and jailed with the young people in our local Sunrise Movement hub. I took the post down when I realized it might somehow be used against me in court. Today I’m back with a link to our GoFundMe page for legal costs.
Please don’t feel obligated to donate, but I thank you in advance if you do throw a few dollars our way. And if you see fit to amplify the message in your social media, I also thank you.