Forest Fires and Climate Change


Smoke from the American Fire in the Tahoe National Forest, August 16, 2013

I’m grateful to be able to sit on my deck this morning and watch the birds without breathing in too much smoke.  The smoke seems to have dissipated, at least for now.  Those of you who live in this region of the Sierra Nevada know what I mean.  The sky has been smoky for several weeks because of several wildfires.

As of today, the largest of the fires, the American Fire near Foresthill, has burned almost 17,000 acres in the Tahoe National Forest.  On my drive to Reno and back last week, I was amazed at the extent of the smoke around Tahoe.  The fire is now 60% contained.

Is this the new normal?  I hope not.  But it may be more evidence of the extreme weather-related events that come with climate change.

On a warming earth, we can expect more wildfires.  Huge wildfires have raged in many countries over the past few years, from Brazil to Spain to Russia to Australia to the United States.  These fires are burning hotter, lasting longer, and burning an increasing number of acres.

In the Western United States, dry conditions are increasing.  Spring is now warmer and snow is melting earlier, which means that the fire season starts earlier and lasts longer.  Fires in the West now tend to be bigger and harder to control,  burning more acres and bringing more smoke.

How can we respond?  Besides following the Fire Safe Council’s guidelines, we can study the issue of climate change, pray for guidance and strength to take action to preserve the health of the earth on which we depend, simplify our lives and refuse to base our identity on consumption, join with others in our community who are concerned about this issue, advocate for public policies that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and engage in nonviolent direct action as needed to prevent egregious harm.

If you live in Nevada County, come to a presentation on climate change by Carol Kuczora this Sunday, August 25, at 7 p.m. at the Unitarian Universalist Community of the Mountains.  This will be Carol’s first power point presentation since being trained in Chicago by Al Gore as a Climate Reality presenter.  I will also be there, speaking after her presentation about what we can do to address this crucial issue.

At that time we will also schedule a meeting of our newly-formed Climate Change Coalition.  We have an active FaceBook page, so “like” us at Nevada County Climate Change Coalition FaceBook Page.  I hope to see you on Sunday.

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