My daughter lives and works in San Francisco. I had been worried about her with the smoke from the deadliest fire in California history, the Camp Fire. Especially since she has had life-threatening asthma for most of her life. The kind that would involve weeklong stays in ICU.
But Shannon assured me she was OK. She worked in a tall office building with good air conditioning. True, her apartment didn’t have AC and was pretty smokey, but she was working late, taking rides to work, wearing a mask outside, taking it easy. True, the better mask, the one with filters, ordered from Amazon had been delayed in shipping. Still, she believed her worst problem was that she was growing restless from lack of exercise.
And then she passed out at work.
I quickly rented a car and drove up as fast as I could from Los Angeles. The smoke started getting bad—looking like thick fog—4 hours from the city. By the time I got there, my daughter was out of the hospital, where she had been taken by building paramedics. Shannon told me her lungs and heart had tested ok, it was “just the smoke” which had caused her blood pressure to drop enough that she collapsed. “Just the smoke” that had caused toxins to build up an an infection to course through her body. Her voice was so hoarse she could barely talk.
So at 10 pm at night, after I had just driven 6 hours from Los Angeles, we studied the pollution map from a parking lot outside her apartment to find a place we drive to in order to get her out of the city. We settled on Half Moon Bay, on the coast, staying in a hotel room with good air conditioning. The pollution map showed the area orange instead of dark purple, the danger zone.
As we drove out of San Francisco, the city was already almost completely deserted.
The air today is supposed to be better. Look, patches of red around San Francisco, not all deep purple! But it won’t really be healthy again until the rains come. Another week.
And “better” is deceptive.
The air here in Half Moon Bay is filled with smoke. And the thing I notice most is—everybody is coughing.
But the people don’t even seem to notice they are coughing.
You just hear the sound wherever you go. A group of teen tourists on the street exclaimed, “Don’t make me laugh, I’ll start coughing!” The sound is as if I walked into a smokers convention, into a conference hall filled with the thick cloud of smoke and people who had hacking coughs for years and were in complete denial.
It’s the collective denial I’m worried about. The long, slow murmurs of coughs, as if people are trying to consciously be quiet, so as not to disturb others. Because god forbid the sound of coughing becomes loud enough for people to worry about. They might sound like an alarmist.
San Francisco and vicinity is a cautionary tale. Climate change is a thing, and it is affecting us all. If we all work together—there are solutions. But we have to start now. It is up to us to sound the alarm and put in place real change as soon as possible.
Our community talks about AIR as part of our series on Climate Change by the Elements. Join our LIVE CALLS and you can be a part of the change.
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Here was the first of our conversations on Climate Change by the Elements: AIR
There will be more. It’s up to us to spread the word about the impending apocalypse.
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