William deBuys: The West in Flames

6:49 am in Uncategorized by Tom Engelhardt

This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Firefighters

Firefighters in Colorado during recent wildfires (Photo: DVIDSHUB / Flickr)

The water supply was available only an hour a day and falling.  People — those who hadn’t moved north to cooler climes — were dying from the heat.  Food was growing ever scarcer and the temperature soaring so that, as one reporter put it, you could “cook eggs on your sidewalk and cook soup in the oceans.”  The year was 1961 and I was “there,” watching “The Midnight Sun,” a Twilight Zone episode in which the Earth was coming ever closer to the sun.  (As it was The Twilight Zone, you knew there would be a twist at the end: in this case, you were inside the fevered dreams of a sick woman on a planet heading away from the sun and growing ever colder.)

In 1961, an ever-hotter planet was a sci-fi fantasy and the stuff of entertainment.  No longer.  Now, it’s the plot line for our planet and it isn’t entertaining at all.  Just over a half-century later, we are experiencing, writes Bill McKibben in Rolling Stone, “the 327th consecutive month in which the temperature of the entire globe exceeded the 20th-century average, the odds of which occurring by simple chance were 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe.”

Speaking personally, this summer, living through a staggering heat wave on the East coast (as in much of the rest of the country), I’ve felt a little like I’m in that fevered dream from The Twilight Zone, and a map of a deep-seated drought across 56% of the country and still spreading gives you a feeling for just why.   Never in my life have I thought of the sun as implacable, but that’s changing, too.  After all, the first six months of 2012 in the U.S. were 4.5 degrees Fahrenheit above the long-term norm and Colorado, swept by wildfires, was a staggering 6.4 degrees higher than the usual.  TomDispatch regular William deBuys, author of A Great Aridness: Climate Change and the Future of the American Southwest, catches the feel of living in a West that’s aflame and drying out fast.  (To catch Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which deBuys discusses where heat, fire, and climate change are taking us, click here or download it to your iPod here.) Tom

The Oxygen Planet Struts Its Stuff:
Not a “Perfect Storm” But the New Norm in the American West
By William deBuys

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