While feeling a bit under the weather recently, I had a small “ah-hah” moment thinking about the phrase “under the weather.” As weather is becoming more erratic and powerful around the world, I realized that it’s probably not the prophesied “peak oil” or lengthy drought per se that will change our way of life, but it will be the escalating threats from weather – too much, too little, too hot, too cold.
Take our reliance on electricity. Do power outages seem to be happening much more frequently? My husband and I have lived in the Sierra for 48 years. We’re used to dealing with occasional winter outages caused by rain, wind, snow, and trees falling onto power lines.
We’re entering new territory now with power outages occurring regularly during the summer months as well. Over the last decade, we’ve been accommodating to record high temperatures, massive wildfires, and Public Safety Power Shutoff (PSPS) events meant to protect us by preemptively shutting off our power on Red Flag Days.
Back in 2018, I wrote this section of Heart Wood where Harmony muses on what will be the demise of civilization. “Luna Valley, 1987. During our communal dinners, we first catch up on each other’s week, then turn the conversation to what’s happening in the outside world. Last week we brainstormed how to eat lower on the food chain to avoid the accumulation of man-made toxins in the fish and animals we eat. This week we’re back to the prophesized great collapse of all society due to the impending depletion of oil….We’re so prepared for the prophesy that lack of oil will be civilization’s downfall, that I ignore my dreams where it’s always the lack of water.“
If I were writing this today, what would I say? Not lack of oil or water, but chaotic weather extremes?
I think about the escalating number of natural disasters where people are without electricity, water, or communications for long periods of time: hurricanes, snowstorms, tornadoes, wildfires, flooding, even an ice storm in Texas. Huge blocks of the power grid were physically wiped out in a very short time. Can you prepare for these?
After living ten days without power during the mega snowstorm in the Sierra last month, I wrote this in my journal:
“The power’s out again. I’m almost getting used to this. Almost. I’ve got a routine down: Unannounced, the power goes out; I text neighbors to see how widespread the outage is; turn off the beeping powerpack at our computers; phone PG&E to report the outage before our landline goes dead; then re-plan my day.
I must admit, my first thought is usually how long can I go without needing to turn on the noisy generator? How long can I be content with this peaceful silence, perhaps curling up with a book slanted to catch the window’s light. At some point, the siren’s call of the Internet beckons me to turn on the trusty generator and the spell is broken.”
I may not have answers, but I do have questions. Sure, we can prepare on the personal level: fill our “Go-Bags” with important documents, food, clothing, emergency supplies, etc. But I think the writing’s on the wall. How do we plan for the chaos of large weather-caused events where huge numbers of people are physically fleeing from the emergency and others are stuck in place without food, water, communication, or power?
Regardless of whether you feel these events are related to man-fueled climate change or are part of the earth’s cyclic nature, we still need to respond. I’m counting on man’s ingenuity and resiliency – like the growth of alternative energy and the energy of youth climate activists
When I get to this point in my thinking, I risk dropping into denial or despair. I know it’s time to close my computer and go outside where I’ll be greeted by early budding apple trees and two Red Shouldered Hawks calling to each other from the pine tops. (Is it mating season already?) Time to take a deep breath, grab a trowel, and dig into the earth.