Is It An Emergency Yet?

NBC News: “Portland, Oregon soared to 116 degrees – hotter than Dallas, Miami and L.A. have ever been”

The Guardian: “The hot weather had berry farmers scrambling to pick crops before they rot on the vine and fisheries managers working to keep endangered sockeye salmon safe from too-warm river water.”

Willamette Week: “Multnomah County Medical Examiner Identifies 45 Heat-Related Deaths. Those who died were between ages 44 to 97, including 17 women and 27 men.”

So, THAT happened. A Heat Dome came to the Rose City.

For me the moment of absolute horror during this unprecedented #PNWHeatwave happened in my air-conditioned home office, when I read online that a farm worker in St. Paul, Oregon had died in a plant nursery moving irrigation lines. Looking at the heat maps days before the record-shattering weather between June 26th and 28th, I had shuddered, thinking: “Death is coming.” But it’s one thing to dread, another to confirm, the irrevocable impact of climate change, made worse by environmental racism and lack of safety protections. I sat alone in silence, stunned.

For many of us, the small things hurt first. The roses that were so beautiful last week, burnt to a crisp. The lethargic pets. The birds outside, seeking water. The trees, drooping and dusty. The low-hanging power lines. The power outages. The MAX lines out of service. The empty shelves in stores, sold out of window A/C units. The aluminum foil and cardboard against the windows to keep out the killer heat. The slump of exhaustion on our loved ones’ faces.

This predicted hell zone coming home, this nightmare becoming waking reality, is why Extinction Rebellion was created three years ago in England.

Extinction. The almost-taboo, biological science term, came into public view at long last, on banners and signs and the news, with the hourglass timepiece symbol anchoring it. The threat that hovers, not only over the orcas and the orchids, but over the human species.

Rebellion. NO, we do not accept a world of increasingly desperate have-nots while a tiny elite of “haves” escapes (briefly) the consequences of global climate breakdown, which they are largely responsible for. NO, we will not leave young(er) and future generations to suffer short, brutish lives on an utterly depleted planet.

Extinction Rebellion has burst across the world into unrelenting action. The XR movement in the United States takes it further with the 4th Demand for justice.

Time is not a renewable resource. The greenhouse (an unfortunate metaphor, but we’re stuck with it) gas emissions that have already poured into the atmosphere, trapping heat, are what caused this latest extreme weather event. The current, much-higher emissions will create much worse impacts, if we cannot bring down the carbon-equivalent levels, to flip from a fossil-fuel-based, extractivist system to a circular economy based on renewable energy and systems of care, and to do it quickly. Tribal attorney and #StopLine3 organizer Tara Houska warns us this will not be easy or comfortable. But the struggle is necessary. The time to act is NOW.

So, please, take action with us – see the rest of this newsletter for details. If you can, donate. Check out our Resources page, tell a friend, follow us on social media, attend an orientation, catch us on a zoom meeting.

And see you in the streets. Because, YES, on the one-year “anniversary” of the Portland City Council unanimously passing the Climate Emergency Declaration…and then doing almost nothing, setting no annual benchmarks, letting Zenith Energy run its bomb trains through our town – we cannot just live on our keyboards and search for comfort in our private lives. The status quo has to go.

A livable planet is the most minimal political demand in the history of politics. But it will take maximal effort to achieve that demand. Let’s go!

About Janet Weil

Janet Weil is a writer and climate activist who works on the XRPDX media working group. She also serves on the Advisory Board of Ethics in Tech, and the Climate Crisis and Militarism working group of Veterans For Peace. A bird lover, Janet is inspired by the decades-long quest to bring back the California condor from the brink of extinction.

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