Last weekend I went home to where I grew up in Eastern Washington state en route to another round of medical treatment. I was reminded of many memories of the past, as usual, but this time I was actually reminded of an ominous indication of the future we might come to expect as our planet reels from the way humans have been treating it.
As the clacking sounds of the logging mill echoed across the green rolling hills, my family and I had a hard time enjoying the beauty of the place for one seemingly small reason: bugs. Bugs having sex. Bugs flying into your hair. Bugs biting you. Bugs stinging you. Bugs under your feet. Bugs in your food. Bugs bugs bugs!
At first, I thought, "Come on, Kaeley, get a grip. Don't be Meredith the 26-year-old city girl from Lindsay Lohan's remake of the Parent Trap and squirm at nature" (yes, my parents and best friend and I stayed in because of the bugs and watched this movie).
But then I realized that these small bugs are kind of ruining our lives. And it's not their fault. It's ours. It's because of climate change. Let me explain.
There I was, laying on a couch recovering from night sweats, nausea, and nervous system dysfunction because of a vector-borne disease I caught from none other than BUGS which have been reproducing, evolving, and spreading because of a number of different human-caused factors.
Because of rising temperatures, bugs are able to get it on much more often, and birds and other animals are migrating and bringing different diseases across borders. They're also creating conditions for more severe fires, which of course are more likely to happen because of...rising temperatures. According to the WA state Department of Ecology, "Mountain pine beetle and other insect outbreaks are expected to increase as temperatures warm and forests experience more drought stress. Climate change allows beetles to spread rapidly and migrate to higher elevation trees. More beetles survive the warmer winters. Widespread areas of dead or damaged trees due to insect infestations make forests more vulnerable to large, severe forest fires."
There are so many consequences of burning fossil fuels in the circle of life and delicate balance of our ecosystems that we can't even begin to fathom. Oceans are dying from climate change as a surge of deadly red tides surface in places like Chile this morning. Fires ravage oil-soaked land in Canada and thousands are evacuated. As I start to notice these signs, I think of how much worse it is for others in the Global South and how much worse it's going to get for everyone. Forget little bugs inconveniencing my trip - what about completely losing my home to fires, floods, and severe storms? That will be an inconvenient truth.
I don't believe that it is too late yet. Almost, but not quite. We can "break free" from our dependence on fossil fuels and transition to a just economy that takes into account the laws of physics and ecology and respects humans and all species. We have so many other options that make so much more sense. We just need to truly make this emergency feel present - and that's why thousands are converging around the world and also specifically in my home turf, Anacortes, WA, to protest new proposed projects around two refineries that create over 47% of the oil and gas consumed in the northwest U.S.
I wanted to send out a message of solidarity to everyone in case I cannot be there as I'm still recovering from this stupid bug disease (I will be there tomorrow in a wheelchair if the plan works out) and heard that this Queen song is kind of an anthem of this action.
Lyrics changed for cheezy purposes:
I want to break free
I want to break free
I want to break free from your lies
You're so self satisfied, I don't need you
I've got to break free
God knows, God knows I want to break free
The world’s had enough
It’s time for a new way
And this time I know it's for real
We’ve all had enough yeah
God knows, God knows we’ve all had enough
It's strange but it's true, hey yea
I can't get over this inconvenient truth
But I have to be sure
When I walk out the door
Oh how I want to be free baby
Oh how I want to be free