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All the Windows Are Taped at the Seams

Hi David, 

Hope you are experiencing fall colors and fresh air. Our AQI map looks like colors from a bad psychedelic trip.

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We’ve been off the Air Quality Index scale with number up into the 520s. (300 to 500 is hazardous.) It’s slightly better today — right now AQI is at 314. We’ve considered it “progress” if it dips into the “very unhealthy”.

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All windows are taped at seams. The only outside activity has been venturing out briefly wearing a painting/lacquer ventilator mask.

I responded to one of your social posts that I do not have a New York Times subscription. I boycotted them when they greenlighted the Iraq war and also showed abject lack of leadership on climate crisis, often giving substantial print inches to climate and science deniers to appear "balanced.”

That said, I have Covid coverage access to the Times because of my academic email. The Oregon town where I am from just appeared on their front page.

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In a better world, I would see a front page article in the New York Times and every other news outlet about the success of defeating the climate crisis.

Will we ever see that story? It's not looking that way from here.

My house is 10 minutes away from a mandatory evacuation zone, with fires still burning 0 percent contained.

John Luther Adams* left Alaska due to wildfires like this (effects of climate change as you know more extreme closer to pole and equator.) Now it's in zones between equator and poles, appearing much faster and more dire than many worst-case scenarios.

Right now I’m just processing grief. And pain. Actually I feel that I still do not have access to full extent of emotions.

We’re evacuated and ready to go. Saved for the moment because the winds shifted direction. But fires not out.

This has been going on in Brazil. And Chad. And snow melt in the Himalayas. And Australia. Now, fiercely, in the lush forests of Oregon.

I want to turn pain into power but right now it's just pain.

Air still too hazardous to open windows. The crickets have stopped chirping.

This is hell on earth.

If you are near a place alive with birdsong and insect song and the sound of the wind in the trees and the music in the rain and waters please listen for me.


* John Luther Adams is a composer. The New Yorker called Adams "one of the most original musical thinkers of the new century." He moved to Alaska at 22, and professed an "almost erotic" attachment to the place. His memoir, Silences So Deep, will be published Sept. 22.

Duncan Neilson is Composer-in-Residence for the Portland Chamber Orchestra in Portland, Oregon, and recently premiered a new multi-arts project for the orchestra entitled The Monster, a retelling of Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein, from the Monster's point of view. This essay comes from an email he wrote to his colleague, the composer David Rothenberg.

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Read the New York Times here on Western wildfires. Excellent. And heartbreaking.

Jerry Brown Tells It Like It Is

LOS ANGELES — Jerry Brown, the former governor of California, could barely make out the mountains in the distance from his ranch in the city of Williams on Sunday. Every few minutes, he picked up his phone to check the latest air quality reading. “Unhealthy,” he said.

Mr. Brown, who served over 45 years in state government and politics, has been warning about this day for years. But he said by telephone from his ranch that he never expected this moment to come so soon. And he never thought the air around his home, which he built in the wilderness of his family ranch, an hour’s drive north of Sacramento, would be this shrouded.

But still, for all the fire and the smoke, Mr. Brown presented himself as the resolute chief ambassador for the state that has so long been associated with the Brown family name. He declared he was not going anywhere and dismissed the latest round of talk about people fleeing California.

“You might say, ‘We are getting out of here — we are going someplace else,’” Mr. Brown, 82, said. “No. There are going to be problems everywhere in the United States. This is the new normal. It’s been predicted and it’s happening.

Read more here.

Steve Talbot, documentary producer

Good old irascible, truth-telling Jerry Brown, our retired two-term governor and champion of the fight for a green economy. From his ranch in the Sierra foothills, a little wisdom: there's nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Climate change is gonna get you, one way or the other, unless we do something major about

(This on a day when the worst fires in America are burning to our north in poor Oregon.)

Here's something for people elsewhere in the United States to ponder. The wildfires so far this season in California have burned an area the size of Connecticut.
The only good news is that the fires have mainly been in remote areas with scattered populations, hence the low death toll. (Thanks also to our firefighters and our state emergency officials.)
The bad news is that the infernos that have burned such vast areas in the past month -- I'll repeat: the size of Connecticut! -- have created massive clouds of smoke that have descended and settled in over most of the central and northern state, including major cities like Sacramento, San Jose and San Francisco, where the air has been unhealthy for weeks, sometimes very dangerously so.
Imagine the whole state of Connecticut burning and sending noxious plumes of lung-poisoning smoke rising into the atmosphere and blanketing Boston, New York and Philadelphia...
for weeks on end.
That's what's happening.

Duncan Neilson and orchestra ::: The Monster

John Luther Adams ::: Become Ocean