Rising Tides

The Fifth Season


Here on the West Coast, we’re witnessing the birth of an ominous new season: smoke season.

Fire season is nothing new, especially for California and eastern parts of Washington and Oregon. Many forestry experts maintain that wildfires are part of the natural cycle for these forests. But as the size and number of fires has increased over the years, so too has the smoke.

What was once a short time marked by an evening or two of strangely colored sunsets and a scent of campfire in the air, is now days or weeks of thick blankets of smoke and air quality warnings.

There are many explanations for this change — decades of fire suppression and a reduction in logging combined with a lack of proper forest management are large contributors to the issue. This September’s fires were worsened by unseasonal easterly winds.

And while some experts argue about the degree to which climate change plays a role in this particular issue, its influence remains a general consensus. It cannot be ignored.

We are a radically innovative species. Our greatest strength is perhaps the ability to adapt our surroundings to our needs. Our greatest weakness, however, may be our unwillingness to adapt ourselves to meet the needs of our surroundings.

We’re far from incapable, though. In July, King, Snohomish and Pierce counties decided that eligible employees would continue to work remotely due to the coronavirus until 2021 at the earliest. There have even been hints that some employees may be able to continue working remotely beyond the pandemic response.

It’s a departure from an old model of the American workplace that these organizations have clung to for decades. It gives me hope that we can adapt in a crisis.

The effects of climate change are many and far-reaching. Solutions will undoubtedly be complex, difficult to implement, and require both personal and collective sacrifice. We must rethink our relationships with food, modes of transportation, energy production and the use of man-made materials like plastics. It will not be easy or comfortable.

But more importantly, any and all climate solutions will likely be impossible unless we can acknowledge the problem and work together to find remedies.

In spite of what you may see in the media, this is not a partisan issue. Climate change is an immutable fact and we must come together to face it if we are to maintain any semblance of an American way of life.

It’s time to flex our muscles as a species and prove our heritage of adaptability. It’s time for radical innovation.

Because there is change in the air.

Caleb Galbreath is a freelance journalist who lives in Longbranch.