I read the papers and watch the news on TV, but never thought it could happen to me. Then, suddenly, it does.
Close to midnight on Friday evening April 29, police cars with lights flashing and sirens blasting came barreling down my quiet country road and up my driveway, 75 miles northeast of Santa Fe. An officer banged on my door and told me I had to evacuate my home. It’s not safe. The raging wildfire that had already consumed over 100,000 acres and 150-plus homes was just over the hill to the north. I had to leave now before it was too late.
Along with most of my neighbors, I quickly packed my car with family photos, clothes and whatever else I could squeeze in. I left the doors unlocked and my gate opened for the firefighters in case they were able to come and save my home from the uncontrolled firestorm. It was 2:30 in the morning by the time I arrived, exhausted, at my partner’s home in Santa Fe.
Now I just sit and wait. Nervously checking online several times a day to learn if the monstrous fire has destroyed my home. There’s nothing else I can do. A friend from across the way tried to get back up to her house on Saturday, but the road was blocked off for our own safety. All we can do is pray that our homes are somehow spared.
I am so grateful for the 1,000 firefighters giving their all to suppress the fire. I can’t imagine what they are going through. I read online that they don’t expect to have the fire fully contained until the end of July, three months from now. How many more acres and homes will be destroyed by then? It’s mind-boggling and depressing.
I am also very angry. I’m furious that myself and thousands of my fellow New Mexicans have been put in such a catastrophic state when it didn’t have to be this way. Climate experts have been warning us about the dangers of global warming since the late 1950s. In 1988 scientists and politicians from around the world gathered at the Toronto Conference on the Changing Atmosphere to address the threat to the Earth’s atmosphere from greenhouse gas emissions. “By the 1990s, most scientists thought action was necessary, but opposition from fossil fuel companies and ideologists opposed to any government action were effective in obscuring the facts and blocking action,” according to Spencer Weart, retired director of the Center for History of Physics at the American Institute of Physics.
The Southwest is in a megadrought. A recent study in the journal Nature Climate Change found “the last 22 years now rank as the driest such period since at least 800 AD.” Human-caused climate change is a major factor driving this megadrought. Yet, our government has failed to respond to this crisis with the urgency and magnitude it requires.
Call the White House, (202) 456-1111, and your senators and representative, (202) 224-3121. Demand they take immediate action to pass the strongest possible climate change legislation. Our lives and the survival of the planet are at stake.