Fires on the mountain

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The Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge/Sevierville area of the Great Smoky Mountains–and the word “Great” does apply to this region–is a beautiful place. I’ve been there on a few occasions, beginning when I was ten years old, and I’ve written about it here before. So the news that there are 14 fires burning there right now is very saddening.

Fires are natural, and the region has no doubt burned before. But this is awful news, and rebuilding won’t be an easy process. Some will certainly lose all they have. My heart goes out to them, absolutely.

The beauty of the mountains won’t look like this again for quite some time. I’m glad I have memories of how it once looked.

May those who suffer losses one day feel whole again. And may we wake up to the reality of what we’re doing to our planet.

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Cool, cool water

After this summer, I’m never again going to take water for granted. The droughts in Texas, and other places in North America and around the world, have made it very clear that water is needed above everything else for life to go on.

I took the picture above after I had finished cutting the grass in front of my house this morning. I turned the sprinkler on, which I haven’t needed to do much this summer because of all the rain we’ve been getting. As the water passed back and forth, I felt fortunate to have the wonderful old house I do, and the great family that shares it with me, and the sense to appreciate what these things mean.

But at the same time, I thought about a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago with the dried-up lake bed in Texas. If there was a way to send water down their way, I would certainly do it. I haven’t done anything to deserve all the water that we have here. It was an embarrassment of riches moment, for sure.

But that term–embarrassment of riches–isn’t ever used with something so elemental as water. There are places on earth, and even right here in the USA, that are shriveling up for want of water, and I’m running my unmetered water from one of the Great Lakes to my heart’s content. I can’t say I feel bad about it, but I do stop and think about it, at least. And I’ve never done that before.

I hope that the rains fall and all will be well in the affected places. If I could turn on a spigot and make the rains flow down, as they did from my sprinkler this morning, I would certainly do that. But for all the technological advances humanity has made, we still can’t make it rain whenever we want to.

We’re all in a lot of trouble

It’s been rainy this summer in the large city where I live. The rainiest 24 hour period in recorded history happened not too long ago, and the rainiest July was just completed. All of those melting glaciers seem to have made their way into the rain system, or whatever the right word for it is.

But, as always, there’s another side to this story. For as rainy as it’s been in my little corner of the world, it’s been dry (and hot) in Texas. The picture above brings that into focus like no words ever could. The man in the picture should be under several feet of water. Instead, he’s standing on the dried up bed of a 5400 acre lake that’s nearly all gone. And this isn’t someplace on the other side of the world, either. It’s right here in the U.S. of A. I could drive to this place if I wanted to, but knowing what it’s like there, I’ll take a pass.

This hurts all of us. Yes, the crops in Texas can’t grow, and the livestock can’t actually live, and there isn’t enough A/C to change the fact that you can’t go outside for very long in those conditions. But on a biological level, the fish that once lived in this lake, and all of the microbial stuff that we can’t observe with our own eyes, have just gone away. Forever.

Let’s say it storms like crazy in Texas for a week. It’s my fantasy, so just work with me. If the lake water is even partially restored, does that mean all of the life that depended on the lake will return too? No, that stuff can’t just fall out of the sky. And rainwater alone won’t repair the livelihoods that have been lost when the rain decided to stop falling in Texas. I can’t divert my extra rainwater down that way, either.

Trouble is brewing for those of us on this planet. It’s easier for the people in Texas to see that than it is for me, but the ecological ripple effect of all the screwy weather we’re having seems crystal clear to me. Are these the End Times, like some people seem to be foretelling? No, I don’t believe in that. But I do know that our planet, like this former lake in Texas, are being changed beyond all recognition.