The last few years before I left California, it was clear that climate change had changed the climate. Where once the hottest months of the year were September and October, the heat began to hit hard in May. The last summer I was there — in the process of packing and preparing to move — it was often 95 degrees by 9 am. This is heat that HURTS. Going outside without one’s skin covered means burning. It was that hot. I was getting up at 4:30 a.m. just to be able to get something done before the heat began to hammer down.
The picture above is my “town” in California. The building is Descanso Hay and Feed. Behind it are the rocky, blackened hills that burned during the Cedar Fire of 2003. In the foreground is Descanso Creek which feeds into the Sweetwater River. I lived 1/4 mile to the right, facing, of this spot.
Across the street from my house — when I first moved in — was a heavily wooded, grassy, green pasture — part of the semi-denuded pasture in the photo above. A cow could lie in the grass and be barely visible.By the time I left most of the trees had died from drought and the bark beetle (who loves drought). The grassy field was chewed down to the nub and there was not enough rain for the grass to recover. My own yard — which had been wildflowers and soft grass when I moved in — was nothing but murderous foxtails.
I suppose in about 2006, I began hating summers. That was when the heat began, worsening relentlessly year by year. Summer meant hibernation and discomfort — and danger. Wildfires — of which there were very few when I first moved to CA in 1984 — and were, if they happened, an Autumn event, began happening in May. Smoke-colored sunsets were no longer exceptional.
So now I’m not there any more but my feeling/fear of summer hasn’t changed. I basically hate it in spite of the fact that here HOT is 95 and it doesn’t happen often and it doesn’t start at 9 a.m. I cannot think of anything I want to do on a summer day except wait for it to be over, but the disease of wildfires has also come to Colorado — in 2013 there was a very bad one just west of Monte Vista around the town of South Fork where I stayed when I first came out here in 2014.
I’m still living in the bunker I built in California. I guess it’ll take some time for my internal calendar to get the message that there is snow on the mountains, a breeze blows down from them all the time, and even when it’s hot, it’s still fifteen degrees cooler than I expect from a summer day. Back in California, because I like to work out in the afternoon, I had to wait for it to cool off to 90 before I got on my exercise bike or took my dogs to the hills.
I don’t know how anyone can “deny” that climate change is real or that the earth has gone through many such changes even without man’s “help.” Many of us have experienced it for our own selves. I don’t even see any point in arguing about the cause. “The moving finger writes” and so on. The question is, “CAN we combat it, and if we can, HOW and at what level?” I don’t think those are easy questions and I don’t know the answers to them, but I believe they are worth asking and the answers worth researching and if we DID cause it, if we are even partially responsible, whatever we did we should stop right now.