|The Stillaguamish River looking downstream toward Oso, 2013|
When 15 million cubic yards of earth, rock and forested mountainside came crashing down on Oso, Washington, sweeping away the lives and homes of dozens of victims, horror and disbelief quickly gave way to an all-out rescue effort by volunteers and relief workers from across the state and beyond.
There is a global message from this local tragedy.
For years before the most recent landslide, the mountainside was identified as a risk. A smaller slide less than a decade ago sent a loud signal that even an unmovable mountain could alter its character in a flash. Despite warnings from scientists and documentation of the looming danger, homes were built and lives lived in the shadow of impending crisis.
For decades scientists worldwide have been piecing together the global disaster awaiting us: glaciers crumbling into the sea and surging from mountains; snow-packs evaporating to be seen no more; sea currents and air disrupted and turbulent. Global warming is documented, and projected to become worse than we can imagine.
Yet we live our lives, drive cars and trucks, fly in planes, heat our homes and light our cities, burning, burning, burning age old carbon in a worldwide bacchanal of fire.
The dozens killed in Oso, and the many more displaced and grief-struck, are real and near and need our compassion and support. They are a tiny fraction, however, of the ongoing greater tragedy worldwide, as sea levels rise and the earth, our only home, undergoes a momentous and calamitous shift we have triggered and accelerated. Multitudes will be displaced, drowned, lost. There will be no bystanders.
The warnings have been sounded. Where are the leaders to exhort and mobilize us to prevent the unimaginable? Where the throngs of willing hands and hearts to avert it? We can wait, as Oso did, for disaster to sweep away all that we have built and love, or we can take action. Now.
|Earth as we know it|