Just like last year and the year before, wildfires are raging out of control in the Western states such as California, Oregon, and to a lesser extent, Washington. One such in Oregon has been named the Bootleg Fire, presumably for the shape of the path of destruction it is leaving.
By now, there can be no doubt … NO DOUBT … that these fires are as a result of humans’ complete disregard of the environment for more than a century, leading to what we now know as ‘climate change’. However, the people in a swath of towns along the fire’s likely trajectory remain deniers of man-made climate change. Though urged by fire officials to evacuate the area, despite having to spend days and nights under a thick blanket of smoke, water down their yards and watch the wind for signs that the flames may be shifting, they are adamant that their god is protecting them and will continue to do so. I am reminded of that age-old joke …
A fellow was stuck on his rooftop in a flood. He was praying to God for help.
Soon a man in a rowboat came by and the fellow shouted to the man on the roof, “Jump in, I can save you.”
The stranded fellow shouted back, “No, it’s OK, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me.”
So the rowboat went on.
Then a motorboat came by. “The fellow in the motorboat shouted, “Jump in, I can save you.”
To this the stranded man said, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the motorboat went on.
Then a helicopter came by and the pilot shouted down, “Grab this rope and I will lift you to safety.”
To this the stranded man again replied, “No thanks, I’m praying to God and he is going to save me. I have faith.”
So the helicopter reluctantly flew away.
Soon the water rose above the rooftop and the man drowned. He went to Heaven. He finally got his chance to discuss this whole situation with God, at which point he exclaimed, “I had faith in you but you didn’t save me, you let me drown. I don’t understand why!”
To this God replied, “I sent you a rowboat and a motorboat and a helicopter, what more did you expect?”
Says one resident of Sprague River, Oregon, a young pastor named Matt Wolff …
“We prayed a lot, ‘Lord, just keep it away.’ And so far it stayed that way.”
The West has been beset by historic drought and heat waves this year exacerbated by climate change, but among the small towns that have been threatened by the Bootleg Fire — Sprague River, Beatty, Bly — there is little talk of global warming. Instead, residents vent about the federal government’s water policies and forest management. They blame liberal environmentalists for hobbling the logging industry and Mexican marijuana farmers for sucking up the area’s water.
A classic case of “Shoot the messenger”? Another local, Jim Rahi, opines …
“Now the top end of the Forest Service are a bunch of flower children. That’s what the real problem is. It’s not that much hotter. It’s environmentally caused mismanagement.”
Oh yeah, blame the people trying to fix the problem, trying to save lives.
Scientists agree that climate change driven by the human burning of fossil fuels has raised the Earth’s temperature an average of about 2 degrees Fahrenheit, a warming that has led to more frequent and extreme natural disasters. Some 800 people died in the recent record-breaking heat waves in the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
About 70 percent of Klamath Count where the Bootleg Fire is raging voted for the former guy last year, and residents often echo his skepticism on the topic. The thing that puzzles me is … these aren’t bad people … many have volunteered their days at community centers and fairgrounds packing up produce and canned goods to distribute to those displaced and now sleeping on cots or inside churches. No, they are not bad people, not evil, but ever so close-minded, unwilling to consider facts that may be beyond what they know of the world thus far. It is one thing to be ignorant, meaning not to have or know the facts, but quite another to be stupid, to deny the facts even when the evidence is singeing your back door and likely to take the lives of your family while you point fingers at all the wrong people.
With over 220,000 acres burned thus far, the Bootleg Fire is the largest in North America at the moment, though fire season lasts another two months.
On Wednesday evening, a few dozen Sprague River residents gathered at the community center for an update on the situation, as the arrow on the fire meter outside pointed to “extreme.” Men and women openly carried pistols on their belts; one man wore a cutoff T-shirt that read “Protected: The Right to Bear Arms.” So … WHAT??? Do they think they can shoot the fire out??? Or maybe they will find somebody else to blame and shoot them? I shake my head in disgust that now, at a time when their homes and livelihood, their very lives are endangered, they’re more concerned about their guns and their “right” to carry them wherever they go, to use them to intimidate others. Welcome to the United States of America, a nation I once thought I knew but now realize I never did.
My heart goes out to all the people in the areas that are affected or threatened by wildfire this year, and I hope they all keep safe, but I would urge them to use those brains for something other than keeping their skull from caving in and heed the warnings to evacuate. And for the rest of us … not just in the U.S., but around the world … it’s obviously well past time for us to take the environment seriously, to stop driving gas guzzling cars wherever we go, to turn the thermostat down, to turn off the lights, and to support government policies and politicians who are working to protect and repair the planet rather than those who are still living in a state of denial. If we don’t, we may live to see the world burn down around us.