Watch Where You Breathe

We’ve all read the jaw dropping numbers on this summer’s catastrophic wildfires: over 8 million acres burned so far, the cost of fighting those fires decimating the Forest Service’s budget, the scorched watersheds ready to dump a lot of debris downstream this winter.

Our Healthy Headwaters leadership advocates for the smart restoration of western forested headwaters for water security in the time of climate change.

To which I think we need to add: breathable air security in the time of catastrophic wildfires and a warming planet.

As a New York Times article pointed out last week, if you’re downwind from a huge fire, you’re sucking up a lot of smoke. This isn’t new-news – what is new is that these fires are so huge – so that if, for example you were in Denver in July, you were breathing smoke from fires in British Columbia.

For residents of California’s Central Valley, adding to the misery of contaminated water and high temperatures, is smoke. That means that your kids don’t go outside and that the asthma clinics are overflowing.

Dr. Vipul Jain, a pulmonologist who runs a lung clinic in Fresno commented in the NY Times article: “What we have now makes the good-air days bad and bad-air days worse.” It jacks up the air to a whole ’nother level. What the fire and particles do is like sunburn in their lungs, putting the smoke right down in their lungs. We see a whole bunch of people get exacerbated and getting hospitalized, no matter what we do.”

This summer is proving once more (though few people need it proven again), that western healthy forests – forests that burn naturally, forests that are our primary water source – are the lifeline as we go deeper into climate change.

Seize that day.

Kimery Wiltshire

Kimery Wiltshire
September 14, 2015

Photo Credit: NOAA

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