Le’ts talk climate change. The evidence can be seen in my backyard. The tragedy of the pines is a little like the canary in the goldmine.
Five years ago, my husband and I bought a tiny cabin in the woods of Amador County, in California. The forest was the selling point because the house was a contractor’s dream come true. The sunlight filtered through in long streams of light between the trees, leaving a canvas of modern-art-like shadows on the forest floor. The quiet of the forest was only broken by the skittering of deer and jackrabbits. We fell in love.
Slowly, the bark beetles moved in. I am not an expert in bark beetles, but I’m told that they attach themselves to trees that are dry and under stress ad and they suck the life out of them. We were in the middle of a very serious drought — the result of our changing climate — and many of our pines were vulnerable.
You can tell a tree that has been hit with an infestation of bark beetles because they die quickly. Brown and brittle, they started appearing all over the forest. At one point, I remember driving into the neighborhood and thinking it looked like autumn — all the brown trees shining golden in the sun, but it was spring. The disconnect was not just disconcerting — it was alarming. These dying trees are the stuff of forest fires. A tinder box ready to ignite.
Every time we’d come up for a visit, there were more trees to down. To date, we’ve probably cut down 30 trees, but honestly I’ve lost count. We have one man in the neighborhood who can cut them down, but given the size of the trees, he doesn’t have the equipment to remove the trunks. PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric) will take down trees that threaten their lines, but so far, they haven’t removed the remnants. They are supposed to; they just don’t have the manpower. Our property looks a little like a logging company, with logs scattered about.
We’re not alone in this battle. All of Amador County is struggling with cutting down dead trees and having the trunks removed. From what I understand, trees must be a certain length for logging companies to even be interested in them — and there just aren’t enough logging companies for the job, even if all the trees were to spec. There were logging firms brought in from out of state, but the process got to be too expensive and cumbersome. The crews are gone.
Local fire departments are sending out letters admonishing homeowners about the state of the forest (dead trees, scattered logs, and fallen pine needles), reminding us about the need for “defensible space” around our home. According to our neighbors, there is talk of grants and future assistance, but nothing has solidified into real help.
We long to comply and create a safer forest, but resources are limited (if existent at all). Meanwhile, the forest we fell in love with is in a worrying state. There are new saplings, for sure, but just this morning there are 8 more trees that must come down. We can’t seem to catch a break or our breath in staying on top of the destruction.
As scientists and other experts talk of melting glaciers and rising sea levels, the effects of climate change can be seen in much smaller ways, ways that directly and immediately affect people. Droughts are expected to happen more frequently, last longer, and have even more devastating and long-lasting effects. The devastation is staggering.
I am grateful that California is among the leaders in combating climate change. I only wish the Federal Government would stop digging their heads in the sand as they pine for oil and fossil fuels. We need real leadership, and it isn’t coming from the White House.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to call Craig — our guy who will cut down more trees, because we’re having to fight climate change, day by day, in our own back yard.
I’ll see you all tomorrow for Day #10. I’m a third of the way there to Write Every Day #30.