|I have never really been that interested in climbing mountains. Sure, in theory, it sounds like a neat thing to do, but when I go outdoors, I’m more interested in experiencing things like wildlife, flowing water and wildflowers than getting on top of the biggest thing around me.|
Still. I feel like my life is somewhat governed by Livingston Peak. If not in actuality, in emotions. The mountain towers over the town, but it also peers down on me at my desk.
Lately, I have not seen the mountain. For the last week the peak has been hidden behind clouds. Snow came almost every day, totaling at least 30 inches. It snowed even it was like -5 degrees, something I didn’t realize was possible. Snowfall has always been the product of temperatures above 20, at least.
This morning, it was -28 degrees, but Livingston Peak made an appearance, towering over Livingston, peering through the windows at my office at my desk. I went out on a photo assignment and the mountain seemed to want a picture of itself.
Overall, Montana has been less cloudy than most places I’ve been, and the reemergence of the peak today reminded me of one other time the mountains reasserted themselves after being obscured, which was at the end of wildfire season.
Both wildfires and extreme cold and snow are all-encompassing weather events that make themselves known, that change the way you live, that establish the Earth doesn’t adjust for you, you adjust to it.
Most of the time, in most of the places, we live our lives as if we are impervious to weather and natural elements. We might stay home during a tornado or a blizzard, but after one day, we get the itch to go to our appointment, to grab coffee, to get that thing we absolutely need at the store.
But things like 30 inches of snow, temperatures reaching 28 below and smoke so thick you can’t see the local landmark change that. People used to change their lives for weather. They didn’t have to go go go, they would cancel appointments because of weather, not just power through regardless of the road conditions.
These extreme weather events – the ones that disrupt our lives – are increasing because of climate change. But they also present a question: Why do we continue to live our lives as if we’re impervious to the planet?
Sure, we drive through blizzards and crank our heater or our air conditioner. But we also continue to drive, eat meat, spray pesticides and do other things that we know damage the world around us and even contribute to these disrupting events.
This week, The New York Times wrote a story about the weaponization of weather. How politicians and climate scientists use weather events to suit their desired case – either pro-science or anti-science. The article discusses how dangerous it can be to do this because it can be turned around by people like President Trump.
On social media, I saw people paint this story as a form of “climate denialism.” Those critics argued that The New York Times is performative toward climate deniers because, instead of recognizing that these extreme weather events are actually happening because of climate change, they act like scientists are using them as a tool to show why action is necessary. Basically, framing climate scientists as reacting to a trend, rather than speaking the truth, is a form of climate denialism. Or providing equal weight to that idea is a form of denialism.
It is important to have these conversations.
I have also seen many people who are active on climate change issues on social media discuss their personal decisions they have made to adapt to climate change, eating less meat or giving up a car.
It is also important to have these conversations.
But often, it just seems like it is a small group of self-important people who end up having these conversations among themselves in order to seem holier than thou.
While those conversations are important, I’m not necessarily interested in having those conversations. I’m more interested in recognizing the extent of the problem we face and doing something about it.
We don’t let weather dictate our lives, but soon, the climate may. The way we grow food, the way we get water, the air we breathe, the rivers, the forests are changing so much that we can’t help but adjust our lives to it.
Recognizing the extent is the first step.