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When an acorn fell on Chicken Little’s head, she began running around warning her fellow chickens. “The sky is falling! The sky is falling!”

Chicken Little

For years, climate activists have been doing the same thing, running about frantically, trying to save their friends from the danger fast approaching. Politicians, and the voters who put them in office, think no more of us than they do of Chicken Little.

Now when I read another account of present (not future) climate disaster, I’m actually a little bit happy. If warnings are not enough, perhaps consequences will be.

A native of New Orleans, I grew up knowing that flooding was “normal.” One evening, when I heard a particularly heavy downpour, I told my partner, “That’s a flooding rain.” I looked outside to see if the streets were clear. They were. My car was safe.

When the 10:00 news came on, the first story was, “Major flooding throughout the city.” I ran back to the door and looked outside again. It was already too late. Water was halfway up the car door. Within moments, it was coming in the house. Fourteen inches of rain fell in just two hours.

Back then, when I told other people from different parts of the country about that evening (it got worse), they didn’t believe me.

Today, 25 years later, people believe me without protest. Events of extreme precipitation happen often in many other places these days.

Along with more frequent flooding, we have more frequent droughts and wildfires. While it was heartbreaking to see Paradise, California obliterated, part of me felt relieved. Maybe now people would understand what we’re up against if we don’t take drastic action.

But no, we still don’t get it. We can’t pass a Green New Deal in Congress. In Washington state, where the governor’s bid for the presidency is based on action to address climate change, we can’t even ban fracking or new pipelines.

When the American Midwest experienced catastrophic flooding in the spring of 2019, I was…happy.

It’s an awful thing to say, isn’t it? I remember some of my relatives being happy when I contracted HIV. Maybe now I would repent and stop being gay. Their happiness on my behalf did not feel as loving as they seemed to believe it was.

So, yes, maybe I’m an ass. I can live with that.

The past two summers in Seattle, smoke from wildfires hundreds of miles away made our air so thick with particulate matter we could often see no farther than two blocks. The news reported almost every day that our air quality was Very Unhealthy. Other days, it was Hazardous.

Almost 20% of coral reefs around the world have died in the past few decades. 15% more will likely die within the next 15 years. Another 20% will follow in the 20 years after that. Within 35 more years, we will have lost 75% of coral reefs around the world.

Indonesia has committed to moving its capital from Jakarta to a city deeper inland. In the next 30 or so years, 95% of Jakarta will be under water.

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30 years sounds like a number too large and unreliable to worry about. But it’s not the distant future. 14 years have already passed since Hurricane Katrina forced me to relocate thousands of miles from my hometown, and I still feel like a newcomer in Seattle.

An addict often won’t seek treatment until he or she hits rock bottom. Apparently, we need to sink even deeper into the gutter of climate disaster. I keep hoping the next algae bloom or wildfire or flood or hurricane will finally open our hearts to an intervention.

What’s most mystifying to me is why conservatives complain that combating climate change will cost too much.

Yes, tackling carbon emissions is expensive, but that just means someone is going to make money. Conservatives, don’t you want it to be you?

Someone is going to make money developing and selling solar energy technology and products. Someone is going to make money developing and selling wind power technology and products. The same for wave energy and thermal energy and carbon capture.

Doesn’t the Party of business want to get in on this? Promote commerce? Make millions from advances through Research and Development? In retrofitting homes and businesses?

These changes will have to be made sooner or later. Why not be the ones to corner the market now? The sooner we develop the products and technology, the sooner we’ll make money.

Of course, we’ll not only make money, but we’ll also help limit future losses. Burned and flooded homes, the relocation of residents and businesses, and the widespread loss of crops all cost billions. Those losses will only increase if we don’t act quickly and drastically.

Fiscal conservatives should be on board solely out of self-interest.

But they’re addicted to the drugs they’re on now, fossil fuels and the money derived from them. So I keep hoping the next disaster will hurt enough people to make a difference.

Being Chicken Little, or even Paul Revere warning of danger by land or by sea, doesn’t seem to be enough.

Sometimes, when a couple realize they need to divorce, they put it off because of the hassle in finding lawyers, dividing the assets, the cost of finding a new place to live. It’s all too emotionally and financially overwhelming.

But delaying the inevitable because it’s hard only prolongs the misery. We can’t start building the new life we need till we finally face reality and do the hard work that must be done.

I see on the news tonight that lawmakers are still refusing to address climate change. But there’s hope. Tomorrow when I turn on the TV, maybe I’ll see a report about another catastrophic flood. Hurricane season starts soon, too. And wildfire season is just around the corner.

Johnny Townsend

I’ll keep my fingers crossed and hope the people I love won’t die before they get into recovery.

Johnny Townsend