I have had many a summer day in the Pacific Northwest where I watched the weather at night and saw some other part of the United States contending with a heat wave, and think that I was lucky to be in the cooler air of this corner of the nation. Yes, it has days where things get hot in Oregon and Washington, but it does not last long and the cooler weather is always right around the corner. That is until this week. It is blistering hot out there. This is the kind of heat that will melt you if you stand out in for too long, and it is not just breaking the heat records out here. It is crushing them. The hottest day in recorded Portland history up to this current heat wave was 107 F, but they have had temperatures hitting 114 F. That is like Arizona heat, and has me spending most of my time inside avoiding getting exposed to any of this extreme weather.
Even though Pacific Northwest is known for its humid climate, it is still nothing like the humidity that is found in tropical climates. Coming from a dry place like Colorado, yes, it is easy to feel the difference, but the air does not hang on to a person like it would in Thailand or Florida. It is still relatively dry, so the real feel of the temperature does not fluctuate much. If it is says that it is that hot, than it is that hot. It gives the heat a completely different feel to it. It feels more like being stuck in an oven rather than swimming through a pot of water ready to boil. You don’t sweat as much, but it still is not fun.
The interesting thing about this unprecedented moment in the history of this part of the country is how it is treated by the media. The best way I can think of to explain their coverage was the way the local weather lady reacted to the forecast on the news last night. She showed the high temperatures for the next day on the screen, and then just shrugged her shoulders as if to say, “What can I do about this?” It was funny to watch, but it hinted at the bigger thing that was slapping everybody in the face who was watching it. There is a bigger news story that is going on here, and they have an opportunity to talk about it, but they would rather just shrug their shoulders and walk off screen instead.
One reporter came out and said that this event was a once in a thousand years event even though earlier in the news cast he talked about how the city of Portland had flirted with these temperatures just 13 years earlier. This is another thing that I hear on the news a lot. During recent floods in Colorado, they called the events a once in a hundred years event, and then reported the same thing two years later when it happened again. The cliche does not ring true when they have to repeat them every year. This is not an Orwellian society and I will not forget what you have told me in the past just because you want to change the narrative.
There was only one place that really addressed the bigger issue of what has been going on in the Pacific Northwest during the last few days, and it did not come from an American source. I like to get my news from the BBC because it allows me to see what is going on in America from an outside perspective. They do not always portray us as being that great of a country, and sometimes what we view as being important is pushed further down in their news feed than if it had come from an American source. They were not afraid to talk about what the source of this insane amount of heat is coming from even though they did add the provision that “not all phenomenon can be easily explained scientifically.”
But it has been explained scientifically before. Over fifteen years ago, scientists came out and warned about events like this. They stated that would not only be about the rising heat, but we would see more of these once in a hundred year phenomenon. Droughts would last longer. Storms would be more destructive. Hurricanes would become more frequent. We can no longer continue to ignore what is being said, and we need to come out and say it ourselves every time we are face with this evidence. We need to admit that we have a problem, and we can no longer push it behind us in the hopes that it will somehow fix itself. That is not how this works.
And it just can’t be you that comes out and says what everybody is thinking. It is the media that needs to quit hiding behind the safety of banality and come out and say it as well. It needs to be one of the things that is the among the first that we look at when we look at fixing the problems of the world because it is the world’s problem. We need to be strong. We need to be courageous. We need to be bold.
We just need to come out and say it.