Fire and Rain

smoke haze along the bitteroots

Missoula  From the time we turned towards the Bitterroot Mountains and the northwestern area of Montana at Butte, we could hardly make out the mountains on either horizon for the haze being created by the fires ahead. Forty-five miles south of Missoula in Drummond, Montana we got out to see if we could see anything ahead. The smoke was not acrid. The firefighters had been active for days, but the haze was everywhere around us.

Later in the evening we prepared to drive down our familiar route along Rock Creek Road twenty-five or so miles south of Missoula. The road was closed to campers and fishers. Half was blocked off and troopers were exchanging shifts near the Fisherman’s Mercantile to prevent vehicles from proceeding any farther. We talked to the first trooper when we checked on our trailer in the early afternoon. He felt there had been progress in containment farther down in the Lolo National Forest, but there was still something happening five or six miles in from the I-90, though he didn’t know for sure. That evening the feeling was positive, but the road was completely closed at Philipsburg on the other end of the Rock Creek Road.

We were going to see the changes made over the summer at our friends’ property before we moved the Silver Bullet to Wyoming after a seven-year residence on the creek. We waited while he knelt on his knee for ten minutes to explain to some young Canadians where they might find a location to camp farther down the highway, and chatted with some other hangers on. Finally, he cleared us to drive down to the 22-mile bridge and see what was up.

 

fire along rock creek below Missoula

Fires in the West are common in the dry, heat of late July and early August. We’ve seen our fill of them. We’ve watched helicopters scoop water from the creek in a huge bucket, fly over, and dump than just as we saw employed by firefighters after Katrina in New Orleans. Still this one was different at 8000 acres. Lightning was said to be the cause. We felt like we were driving into it as we neared the smoke plumes rising ahead. Even in the late dusk there were hot shots and fire fighters on both sides of the road still digging out breaks where the trees met the grass in locations that normally we would have looked for Bighorn sheep coming down to feed at this time of the evening. Signs were posted in front of some houses thanking the fire fighters. One home had a cooler outside and a sign calling them to snacks if they stopped anywhere near.

The Weather Channel reported on a tropical storm in Florida and cooler temperatures across the deep south from New Orleans to Atlanta. At the same time the forecaster listed cities in Oregon and throughout the West that were over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and approaching historic records that might be broken later in the day.

Maybe this isn’t climate change. Maybe it’s just the usual, “wait a minute, and the weather changes,” but if this is the new normal, our on the ground report would be that there’s no one on the ground celebrating the change.

***

Please enjoy Ringo Starr’s We’re on the Road Again.

Thanks to KABF.

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The Peoples’ Climate March Demonstrates the Danger of the Numbers Game

New Orleans  There are many iron laws in organizing, and one of them has to be that the more any tactic is repeated, the less effective it becomes.

The so-called resistance may be on the verge of painful reality, as the triumphant numbers of the Women’s March in late January was followed by disappointing numbers in the Women’s followup, and even smaller numbers in the parade-like, rather than protest-like, recent Science March. The related Peoples’ Climate March was this week’s march story with a march on immigrant rights and protections scheduled for the next week.

The Peoples’ Climate March was met by news that a federal judge may have approved the Trump Administration’s executive orders to delay and likely dismiss the last of President Obama’s climate protection orders. They did stumble on a small piece of luck as reportedly “tens of thousands” surrounded the White House. For a change President Trump was not enjoying another taxpayer funded golfing weekend at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida, but was actually at the White House trying to establish that he was hard at it on the 100th day of his presidency. We can hope he looked out the window and that he heard the voices still trying to convince him not to pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Accord.

Organizers claimed that there were “300 sister marches” around the country, and that’s a good thing for sure, but coverage was spotting and targets were thin. Organizers have to be concerned though. The Peoples’ Climate March in September of 2014 was in New York City and the estimated crowd was 310,000 and touted as the largest climate march in history and was joined by global action largely initiated by 350.org, but also enjoying the sponsorship of 1500 organizations. The “tens of thousands” the Associated Press and New York Times reported in Washington, DC on this second march is a long, long way from 310,000 in New York City only 2 ½ years ago, especially in light of the fact that the recognition of the potential catastrophe inherent in unchecked climate change has grown exponentially everywhere in the world perhaps except in the antediluvian and atavistic crew bunkered down in the White House with the President.

Like it or not, marches are a numbers game. If organizers don’t want to take the risk of discounting the anger of their base and the urgency of their issue, they either have to prove their mass support with the tactic or risk inadvertently diminishing the perception of their base and its willingness to fight and take action. The Peoples’ Climate March did showcase a nice, creative tactic by pausing as they encircled the White House and letting out one sustained roar that was symbolically intended to “drown out” the voices of climate deniers ensconced in behind the columns.

If we’re going to sustain the energy and momentum of this moment, maybe we need more unexpected twists and turns like that roar and fewer times where the targets will be counting our boots on the ground, until we’re ready to rise up and swell the numbers to new heights again?

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