Try to imagine the Northwest with average daily temperatures of 100 degrees or more, maybe reaching 106 or 116. Highs once reserved for “out-of-the-way” places like Death Valley but not anymore.
Imagine a future that is here and that we are living in climate change with all of its new possibilities and challenges, such as hundreds of people dying each year from extreme heat like those who already do so in other parts of the country.
Now is the time to imagine possibilities like going outside in 105 degrees every day, not just for a couple days but for weeks or months, even longer.
Of course ignorance challenges the imagination. It is difficult in the Northwest to see the climate future because we have not experienced it. That is, until now. Now — whether we accept it or not — we are facing the future directly. Climate change is an immediate reality for those who have felt like outside observers of extreme weather events in other parts of the nation. Pacific Northwesterners no longer simply need to imagine a future of scorching heat.
How or even will we prepare? To fight extreme forest fires. To adapt an unprepared economy and infrastructure. To function in unbearable conditions. To assist the vulnerable and helpless. To save exposed wildlife and susceptible pets. Even just to sleep at night. What drastic possibilities are we NOT imagining?
We could try not imagining and avoid responsibility. As individuals, we might succeed. But what about others who are unable to? For survival, individual apathy needs compassionate re-imagination — picturing life too hot for kids to play outside. Too hot for young adults to find any work. Too hot for loved ones to take the dog for a walk.
More than ever, we need to recreate imagination and to imagine the real. Now.
Ken W. White