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2022-09-04 20:01:17 (UTC)

Up In Smoke

Personal entry follows.

For the past two days, the area I live in has been subjected to the smoke drift from California wildfires. This is a first for me, personally. I'm having a strange and difficult time adjusting or processing it, for whatever reason. What's making me so upset about it?

Saturday morning, I woke up to dry air, but a hazy, obscured, rosy-red sunrise. The mountains I would typically see were completely shrouded from perhaps a quarter-mile away. The atmosphere didn't clear up throughout the day, and only late at night when stepping out to pee did I see the stars.

Today - Sunday - it was more of the same, but now the ever-present scent of woodsmoke pervaded the air. Whenever I stepped outside I would imagine sitting next to a campfire in mid-day. At sunset, the sunlight was a brilliant, ripe orange colour, and the sun was visibly red-orange through the haze. I actually took a nap today, and I think it was because I was dealing with smoke inhalation after working outside for several hours.

Of course, this is nothing new to someone who has lived in the area for the past 10 years or so. However, being from the East coast and never really encountering wildfires so close by, I felt shocked and uneasy about the phenomenon. Why are people okay with this? How can the leadership of a place like California think this is okay, and something that now happens year after year?

Maybe it's the smoke affecting my thinking, but my mind is awash with disappointment, dread, anger, and even hopelessness. The fact that people take this kind of environmental effect as a year-after-year, almost-commonplace, almost-expected event seems so absurd to me. What, when the first wildfires began, did people think that they could continue living the same way and not have them happen again the following summer? Why hasn't more research gone into restorative agriculture? Sustainable building? Water conservation? Why hasn't a greywater system been standardized and spread throughout California households? Why hasn't desalination been prioritized as a way to mitigate drought and disappearing aquifers?

Just a bunch of unanswered questions. It's expected, I suppose, for me to simply blame the elites. "The rich just don't care about anyone else," I would say. They have air conditioning, sprinkler systems, air filtration, indoor and backyard swimming pools, and so on, so sure: they don't have to worry about wildfires making their way to their doorstep. There was maybe one hazy day "because of those California wild fires," last year, for the first time I ever recalled in my life. I could easily dismiss the reality of the environmental effect when living "back East." I could have said, "Those fucking jerks. They're ruining everything."

Then I'd be done with it. So now, with the fallout of generations of environmental neglect literally in my face (and my lungs, and my bloodstream, and, and...) it's impossible to ignore the physical reality of it, and how it affects people and place.

I don't know why or how I could have remained so ignorant about this until now. It's affected me greatly, and has me upset. And it seems like nothing substantive is being done about it by the people in charge. Now that climate change is baked-in, I suppose there's little that can be done at this point beyond damage control, anyway. Just another example of the political system kicking consequences down the road so the next administration will deal with it. And California is a microcosm of the USA: administration-wise, execution-wise, and logistics-wise. Their failure to address these long-standing issues - caused in large part due to the economic policies and "administrative priorities" of the past 40 years of government dip-shittery - is only another example of failures of the US government system at large.

To say that humans aren't to blame for this phenomenon is denial to the point of delusion. It didn't have to be this way.

Don't know where I'm going with this, really. But I have the feeling if I had been this close to the West coast earlier in life, I would have become an environmental activist. Even the idea of a different life as an "eco-terrorist" seems better than living a life of resignation to perpetual smoky hazes, droughts, burned lungs, bleary eyes, and shrugging shoulders.

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