Since moving from Manhattan to Hastings five years ago, I can now open my own door and walk outside. So, for eight or nine months a year, I begin my days on the deck, taking in the world’s news. 

The headline that captures recent times best: “Australian Brushfire Drives People from Lockdown.” They are double-masking in California too — inside for Covid and outside for smoke. This summer I’ve read about floods and droughts, heat domes and permafrost loss, and all the animals caught in fires from Sicily to Siberia.  

Against this, I can find reassurance on the deck. I hear the chickadees flittering around the massive oaks, which stand like giant green brushes, momentarily scrubbing the news away.

This summer has just burned a hole through that gauze. The smoke from those Western fires is in our sunsets over the Hudson. Rain comes violently. Thunder and lightning menace riverside concerts and Chemka swim meets. It’s the fourth straight day in the 90s here and I don’t even bother going outside. And yet, this could well be the coolest, calmest summer we have from here on out.  

I hear high school students, like some of the ones I teach, questioning the value of ambition if they are left with this ever-dwindling world. We’ve had and lost something we once thought infinite.

When it dips back down into the 60s and we’re invited outside again, some of these thoughts can be conveniently forgotten and dismissed as alarmist. But then the next alarm goes off. They seem to be coming with every Amazon box.  

The message here, from a fallible citizen, to this local paper, is simple: please, let’s do something about this. Thank you for what you have done, and please do more. Close the door where you’re running the AC; turn it off if when you leave. Reconsider flying to Florida for that three-day fling. Instead of idling your car, take in the air. It shouldn’t be a punishment to go out into the world we’ve made.

The goalposts of federal action on climate change are distant and shifting; it’s becoming less and less easy to wait. We will only address this by making connections — between what we use and what we breathe, and with each other. Chances are, people don’t want to throw in the towel just so we can get stuff with more torque. Find them.

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