As was the case for many Portlanders last week, my family lost power during the wind and freezing temperatures on Saturday the 13th. Our old house is not well insulated and the temperature dropped fast over that first weekend of bad weather. We think the inside temperature was below 40 for most of the 2 ½ days we were without power. We lit a fire in our fireplace, lit the gas stove top manually (haven’t yet electrified that piece of infrastructure), and piled on the warm sleeping bags and blankets. To participate in a zoom event I was part of, I walked to a friend’s house for two of the days. We were planning to spend a third night with a family member who had power; we adapted.
As I was walking home from my friend’s house on Sunday, I was aware of a longing for things to get back to normal, and my next thought was “there is no more normal”. As the climate catastrophe deepens, we will see more and more of these challenging situations. I grew up in SE Portland and when I was a kid, I remember losing power for multiple days only once— as a result of the Columbus Day storm of 1962. We had ice storms many times, but it usually melted the next day. Over the last 3 years, our family has experienced multi-day outages 3 times. Climate change is here and unusual weather is going to be the norm.
Even though I spend hours working with XR PDX and Climate Jobs each week, it’s hard for me to wrap my head around the idea that there is no longer an expected weather pattern for us in Western Oregon. We will see increasing extremes and increasing unpredictability. What do we do? Reach out for each other. That happens naturally in an emergency—we check on our neighbors and friends. We are an interdependent species and we need each other. In the US we’ve been trained in hyper-individualism. Part of our work has to be breaking that down, preparing for increasing change and building relationships that help us do that together, focusing on supporting the most vulnerable in our community.
2024 promises to be a busy year for all of us. XR continues to do the work: building community engagement, meeting the needs of us all, cultivating understanding of the underlying causes and effects of climate change and providing the opportunity and structure to work with others to nurture a more meaningful life. Contact us if you are ready to take steps to become more involved.