Smoky Daze

A smoky haze penetrates our forest like a fog. The sun is a bright-red disc blazing through the haze. Over 1000 forest fires burn here now in Northern California, tipped off by 6000 lightning strikes a week ago. The normal evening breeze wafting downslope from the Sierra usually brings welcome “coolth” after the warm days. Now the breezes bring intense smoke, too thick to sleep outdoors. We close the house, whose rooms smell like a just-out campfire. The particulate matter readings are off the charts–unsafe for everyone, says the Air Quality Board.

Robyn hands me a copy of James Hansen’s essay of June 23, 2008 titled “Twenty Years Later: Tipping Points Near on Global Warming.” On that day he testified to Congress, just as he’d done exactly twenty years ago to the day, alerting the public that global warming was underway. The big difference between then and now, he says, is that “now we have used up all slack in the schedule for actions needed to defuse the global warming time bomb.”

In 1988 he noted that “global warming enhanced both extremes of the water cycle, meaning stronger droughts and forest fires, on the one hand, but also heavier rains and floods.”

Global warming is here, all right. It’s in our face — and eyes and lungs. The two driest months on record for our location, following two drought years. Meanwhile the midwest has millions of acres flooded. The extremes of the water cycle are right here, right now, just as Hansen warned.

Two days ago came the news that it’s quite possible the Arctic will be free of ice this summer. An historic event. They’re already planning to search for oil in the arctic ocean. Great idea, folks: drill more oil to burn more carbon to heat up the atmosphere even more to kill off the planet even faster. When money speaks, it drowns out everything else, like even survival. As my wise info-warrior friend Mary Nelson quips, “The platform is burning.”

We have turned the corner into the next life. This is the new “normal” — conditions we must adapt to. We need to prepare and adapt not only for energy decline but also for these fiercer and more chaotic climate-related conditions. Climate chaos, more extremes.

“Build Resilience,” as Richard Heinberg says. More capability to withstand shocks from a variety of sources. Here in wildfire country, Robyn and I cut back the natural vegetation around the house, clear down to mineral soil. We hook up the garden hoses and keep the underground water tanks filled with at least 1500 gallons as a summertime practice. We construct our evacuation pack list. Resilience is about preparation and having options. This is a start.


  1. Hello Ozbina,
    Thanks for painting a picture of life in your country. The U.S. government seems hell-bent on its direction of “the last one standing,” using its military might to gain control of every last resource in the planet. It’s putting up policies for “fuel before food”, as 30% of America’s corn crop is turned into ethanol and corn prices increase 67%, our food surplus evaporates, and global food riots underscore the imbalance.

    We could gently powerdown and scale down — reduce population, reduce consumption, get back in balance. But there’s an arrogance or sense of entitlement among the country’s ruling elite, and perhaps many others. It will make the fall that much further, the collapse that much harder.

  2. Stuart M. says:

    Hello Ozinba,

    Argentina is a very prosperous country by most any standard and yet I suspect Argentinians use/waste far less resources than we in the USA. I can already see many USA citizens are going to scream in “pain” as we have to reduce our wasteful lifestyle and bring it closer to the level of the rest of the world.

    I hope, as you do, that our future President and Congress will concentrate on making these changes easier for our people to accept and will not scapegoat Mr. Chavez, the Saudis, the Iranians, or whomever else, for the problems we US Americans have brought on ourselves, and the rest of the world.

    As petroleum resources dwindle we will have two choices: conserve/develop different sources at home or “scramble” with China and India for the last remaining petroleum resources in the world. The last course is full of danger for the world and ultimately would only buy us a little time before inevitable depletion. The first course might save the USA, a country with a very inventive tradition. I worry about Africa and other poor areas, however. I have doubts that 7 billion people can be sustained on this Earth with cheap oil.

  3. Hi, I made a comment recently in youtube and you thanked me, and asked me if people are talking about this in Argentina. Actually, I am an Australian living in Argentina for the last 10 years, but the answer is unfortunately no. Hardly anybody knows what it is, and fewer are passionate about it.
    Nevertheless, the situation is so different here, and the issues must be prioritised in a different way. Greenpeace is quite active here, and one of their primary activities is to protect virgin forest or scrubland which is getting cleared at alarming rates to make way for more soy, more maize etc.
    At the moment the country is almost paralised due to protests by soy growers about new higher taxes. The farmers blocked roads, and in the cities we experienced food shortages. Almost like a firedrill for things to come!
    I said that I appreciated your calm and peaceful approach, and I reiterate that. It is badly needed, especially in the USA where many people’s approach is to blame the rest of the world and thereby justify military interventions and other crazy things.
    I read today that the US has sent a very large naval operation to latinamerica, but there is no war, no nuclear threat, no nothing. Please don’t let your country destabilize the southern half of America! As I heard one very sane analyst from the US say, what Chavez does with Venezuela’s oil is entirely up to him and the Venezuelans. And now Brazil too with big oil finds.
    Anyway, I don’t mean to dump on you as I think you’re doing wonderful work, you´re doing the work of at least a thousand people! I just wanted to add a little bit of perspective from the south, the real way down here south!
    Un beso, and keep up the good work.

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