Is This the End of Summer We Know?


LOS ANGELES – In the state that perfected, if not invented, American summer, 17 million gallons spilled sewage lingered on a Southern California beach last week. Where snow once covered the Sierra Nevada there were bare rocks and tub rings Where the water once shone in Lake Shasta.

Forest fires roared across the west, threatening power grid, the smoke can be so thick that seen from space, falling into the jet stream, Delaying planes in Denver, Turning the sun red in Manhattan, create your own mood. Health officials have warned of the recent Death Valley-style heatwaves. contaminated shellfish From Washington State. monsoons Cars swept off the road in Arizona. Pennsylvania songbirds they were dying.

The season that Americans thought we knew – playtime and ease, a sun we can trust, the air we breathe and, at worst, an indifferent natural world – has become something else, something ominous and vast. This is the summer where we see climate change coalesce from the abstract to the present, the summer we realize every summer after that will be more like this than any weird memory of past summers.

Forest fires, drought, sewer leaks, a resurgent virus – each individually a familiar danger. This year, however, worst-case scenarios have come en masse, and expectations were high that this summer would be particularly joyous.

A “summer of joy“In fact, that’s what the White House had openly promised after more than 600,000 Covid-19 deaths and more than a year of loss, sacrifice and isolation. Vaccines were quickly, almost miraculously, leaving the coronavirus behind us. Governments were lifting emergency health orders. Families were getting together. they were planning to come in. Restaurants reopened their booths. The hug was back. And the handshake.

Everything changed in the tumult of heat-twisted roads, grotesque monsoons and collapsing buildings. Our password has become “extreme” – extreme threats to public health, extreme violence, extreme division, extreme weather.

Algal blooms known as red tide in Florida have destroyed hundreds of tons of marine life. In the spring, a leak at the former Piney Point phosphate plant was drained. more than 200 million gallons Wastewater to Tampa Bay.

scientists I’ve been wondering for months how this might affect the red tide this year. Now, they got their answer. “The smell was so disgusting,” said Mia Huffman, an 18-year-old tourist from Maryland, who recently came to Pass-a-Grille Beach in Pinellas County, Florida, just in time to see a young boy reach into the water and pluck a fingernail. . foot-long dead fish.

America has had terrible summers before. The article that the Manson family was murdered in Los Angeles in 1969. Summer of Sam in 1977 in New York. a Walmart in El Paso. What is different this time around is the sheer volume of natural and man-made disaster and the feeling that there is no going back from it.

“Here in Los Angeles we experienced periods of extreme drought, periods of extreme flooding, political turmoil, ecological degradation and an epidemic in 1918, and of course heat waves and wildfires,” said cultural historian DJ Waldie. He writes in Southern California. “But they didn’t all come on the same summer day.”

Scientists say the discouraging pile is the result of population and climate-related pressures they’ve been warning about for decades.

“Climate science couldn’t have predicted it would be in 2021 as opposed to 2017 or 2023,” said Rick Thoman, a climate expert at the University of Alaska. “But it’s not unexpected, and we have a pretty good idea of ​​what it’s like in the long run: It’s going to be a painful transition, and in a few generations the world will be different – different and different from the old and present world.”

We live in summer regionally, personally, universally. For some, this summer has offered an opportunity for a carefree, near-normal rest as the pandemic permits. It was air travel rebound. national parks set up visitor records. More than two-thirds of US adults had at least one vaccination shotallows them to assemble. And togetherness was actually joyful. At the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles last week, a large outdoor audience clinked wine glasses and danced in their seats, removing their masks as the hills around them darkened.

But scientists say that unless greenhouse gas emissions are reduced, the massive flooding, severe drought and devastating ocean warming the world is currently experiencing will only get worse, creating bigger fires, more severe storms, more severe flooding and more extinctions. The World Meteorological Organization reported last month that average temperatures on the planet are already consistent. at least 1 degree Celsius warmer than the late 1800s.

“You see a gradual change for a while and then you reach this pressure threshold that causes all hell to relax — that’s what we’ve seen this summer,” said Anthony Barnosky, a Stanford University biologist who manages the Jasper Ridge Biological Preserve. The Santa Cruz Mountains, where he studies the impact of humans on the environment and other species.

The bigger wake-up call is human dominance, a fact so important that some scientists argue it is forming a new “Anthropocene” geological epoch.

Dr. “The Anthropocene has arrived,” Barnosky said. “Humans have had as much of an impact on the planet as the asteroid that wiped out the dinosaurs.”

What looks and feels like day-to-day this summer hasn’t been reassuring as Americans turn on the new must-have smoke-purifying air cleaners in Western homes and avoid awkward encounters with vaccine resisters in the next step. door. appeared in small forms. ticks who has numbers exploded in the Midwest and as big as the cost of repairing roads in the top of Alaska melting permafrost.

He’s on the payroll at Day & Nite Plumbing & Heating in the Seattle area, where staff work in 16-hour shifts for nearly a week during the recent heat wave. “I see this going to become the new norm, it’s extremes and things like that,” said Bruce Davis Sr., co-owner of Day & Nite. air conditioning demands It tripled to 150 a day.

A recent study probably showed that there were many record-breaking days. Scientists predict that if warming continues relatively quickly, record-breaking heatwaves will be 21 times greater towards the end of the 21st century than in the past 30 years.

For many American kids, this new summer may be all they know. The type of summer high school football camp takes place moves inside a gym After the terrible 115-degree June days in Arizona; where School buses in Kennewick, Wash. get too hot to ride and playgrounds get too hot to play.

On a sunny, scorching July afternoon in Glendale, Southern California, a boy perched on the climbing structure at Holy Family Grade School while trying to start a summer school tag game.

He said something over and over that no one could understand, his words muffled by a thick black face mask.

Finally, she put down the diapers and shouted the playtime question that schoolyard kids have been screaming for ages, never mind the heat and the threat of airborne diseases.

She screamed, her voice defiant, her unbound face sweaty and red: “Who is it?”

Hallie Gold and Elizabeth the Genie contributing reporting.


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