We would be remiss in talking about our time in Colorado if we ignored the profound impact the effects of climate change is having. Visually there was evidence everywhere.
As cyclists, hikers, campers, and nature lovers who spend as much time as we can outside, we are in tune with our surroundings and the impact climate change is having on them. It is important to us that we are aware of the issues, and do our part to help try to change the course of the present to create a better future. We alone will not change the world, but by having a company that thoughtfully considers how we make our products, using our company voice and dollars to support positive change, and personally shopping with our dollars (thank you Patagonia!) ~ we can do our part.
During our trip to the Routt National Forest and Flat Tops Wilderness in September 2020, there were at least three massive fires burning in the U.S., as evidenced by the hazy air we were in for a week, and visible in almost all of our pictures. Note behind Kurt in the picture above the haziness ~ that's smoke, not an Instagram filter. Much of this smoke was actually not from Colorado, but blowing in from California and Oregon (the wave of smoke slowly was moving across the entire U.S and we saw it in Minnesota when we got home).
A lot of the places we drove through looked like the picture above, where wildfires had previously ravaged the land and barren trees covered the landscape where nature was trying to return.
And we have become accustomed to scenes like this over the years traveling to Colorado ~ forests ravaged by beetle kill, ripe for a fire to rip through in increasingly dry conditions. Sadly not the beautiful lush green Colorado I know from camping trips as a child, or as a young adult living in Colorado.
Me and our friend Dunker (RIP) in the Rocky Mountains when we lived, and recreated, in Colorado in the late 1990s.
We have understood the need to treat our environment, our planet, better for a long time.
Kurt and I lived in Denver, Colorado from 1996-2002. During our time there we enjoyed an outdoor lifestyle with the benefits of living so close to mountainous nature. But we also started understanding the affect humans were having on the place we lived.
Even ‘back then’, there were frequent air quality warnings [noticeable by the smell of pollution in the air (yes, there is a ‘pollution’ smell), we had to have our car pass an emissions test (but commercial vehicles didn’t), water restrictions were firmly in place (and the encouragement of xeriscaping), the ‘lakes’ (reservoirs made for human consumption) where we kept our small sailboat actually dried up some years meaning we couldn’t sail (?!), there were fire burning bans (no wood fires allowed) to help improve air quality, and even then ~ hazy smoky days from forest fires were common (I remember one warm day eating Gelato outside with our dog Dunker and ash from wildfires falling out of the sky like snowflakes)] .
No one was talking about ‘global warming’ back then, at least not much ~ but it was already here.
With our good friend Dunker on a hike in one of our favorite places in the world, Mt. Tamalpais. ca. 2002. We could walk here from our apartment in Mill Valley!
We left Denver for California in 2002, arguably a place with more noticeable environmental concerns and restrictions in place. Although pollution was less visible in our daily lives (the pollution always blew out of the Bay Area eastward), it was discussed.
Although we always knew about fire season when we lived in California, it was never close to our home, nor did we think about the fires in relation to climate issues. I thought about our former hometown, Mill Valley, when reading the NYTimes articles this fall written by Abrahm Lustgarten who currently lives there and has written about 'is it time to leave California'? He writes...
“This summer has seen more fires, more heat, more storms — all of it making life increasingly untenable in larger areas of the nation. Already, droughts regularly threaten food crops across the West, while destructive floods inundate towns and fields from the Dakotas to Maryland, collapsing dams in Michigan and raising the shorelines of the Great Lakes. Rising seas and increasingly violent hurricanes are making thousands of miles of American shoreline nearly uninhabitable. As California burned, Hurricane Laura pounded the Louisiana coast with 150-mile-an-hour winds, killing at least 25 people; it was the 12th named storm to form by that point in 2020, another record. Phoenix, meanwhile, endured 53 days of 110-degree heat — 20 more days than the previous record." ~ from the NYT article "HOW CLIMATE MIGRATION WILL RESHAPE AMERICA by Abrahm Lustgarten
Read this article, please.
More and more common in recent years I hear from my family and friends in Colorado, California, and Arizona who talk frequently about fires and excessive heat. They have experienced exactly what was discussed in the NYT article quoted above; they can’t go outside for days due to poor air quality from smokey haze, they talk about the excessively hot and relentless weather, they have those visible signs of climate change right out their front door ~ sometimes in the form of an orange sky.
I worry about them. I worry about all of us.
Back home in The North, nature seems so untouched...but we know better.
Living ‘out West’ left an indelible mark on us in so many ways, but in specific regards to this conversation, it made us hyper aware of environmental issues and how easy it was to not ‘see’ them in Minnesota.
To this day in Minnesota, people burn wood fires (frequently with yard waste that is known to add to air pollution and harm the enviroment), they water their lawns in the middle of the day (which is a senseless waste of a precious resource taken so much for granted here), and on occasion I smell pollution in Minneapolis (no one else seems to take note or be concerned). These are irresponsible behaviors and noticeable signs of climate issues we learned years ago not to ignore.
I can't lie and say I don't like the warmer weather in Minnesota, but I also know it comes with a price. So... we have to agree with "Keep the North Cold".
Although I would not call my self a ‘climate activist’, I am definitely concerned about the future of this planet for future generations (of humans, animals, and plants) and am trying to figure out how I can better participate.
Sometimes it takes a visit west, and/or talking to our friends and family who still live there to keep the reality top of mind. That, I believe, is important. When you are not directly affected, by environmental change, or by a pandemic, or many other realities, it can be easy to wonder how bad it really is. But when you are ‘in’ it, it is hard to forget.
Please take this time to consider the impact you are making, how you can vote with your ballot and your dollars, and know that you too can do your part to make a difference.