The downfall of our climate

August 26, 2021 1:51 PM

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View of smoke from the author's car window. Photo taken by the author.

View of smoke from the author's car window. Photo taken by the author.

​​August 3rd, 2021, Yakima, Washington, High of 99, Humidity-14%, Air Quality Index: Unhealthy

I sit in my bed and look out at the sky. All I see is brown and gray, no blue, no sun, no clouds, just haze. I walk into the backyard and take a deep breath. The smell of smoke seeps into my nose as I start to cough. I walk back inside where the cold, fresh air conditioner greets me. I sit down on my bed and open my book. This process repeats for three days. Each morning I wake up hoping the haze has passed, and each morning I am disappointed by the gray sky. I try to go for a run outside but my lungs start to burn from the smoke and my body aches. I walk home defeated and depressed. Washington wasn't always like this.

July 26th, 2016, Yakima, Washington, Sunny, High of 88, 25% humidity, Air Quality Index: Healthy

Today I feel reflected by the weather. It is sunny with no clouds in the sky, the perfect temperature for a fun day at the pool. I sit with my feet in the water as I try to read my book without squinting from the sun. It is loud — there are splashes from the water and I hear my cousins fighting about a game they are playing. The adults sit on lounge chairs sipping rosè, talking but mostly laughing. We are in Yakima, Washington. My grandparents have decided to move out of their Spanish villa and into assisted living. My grandparents have had this house since my mom was in the 7th grade, and it means a lot to my family. The new house does not fit my big boisterous family which means this will be one of the last times we are all staying under one roof together. As a 10-year-old, I am sad, this means things are changing, but most of all it means I can not hang out with my cousins. Luckily all these sad thoughts do not hit me until I am going to sleep, so for right now, I am at peace with myself reading by the pool surrounded by my loving family.

August 6th, 2018, Spokane, Washington, Smoke, High of 92, 17% Humidity, Air Quality Index: Healthy

It is the end of a chaotic weekend and we are driving to meet the rest of my family in Central Washington for a week. I am with my little sister, my dad, and my dog as we drive through the rolling hills of Spokane. My sister and I are floating in and out of sleep until I hear my dad say, “Winona, Delila, wake up, look outside!” I stretch out of my uncomfortable half sitting, half lying down position, and look out the window. I see in a distance smoke swirling into the sky and bright orange near the trees. As we get closer, our car fills with the smell of smoke. I pull my shirt up over my nose to avoid the smell. I reach for my phone in utter shock at what I am seeing. In front of me are trees on fire, across the highway, eastbound lanes are closed, and I turn behind me and see the fire rapidly come towards our lane. We are stuck in traffic, and I start to worry. I am scared. I feel like I am stuck in a cave and the entrance is closing. I start to hyperventilate, but then the traffic starts to clear, and my dad steps on the gas. The smell of smoke starts to fade, and the further we get away, the sky starts to clear. Everything returns to normal except for me. I can not believe what I just saw. If we had left any later from our hotel we would not have made it across the highway or we would have been stuck in the fire. I feel the fear leaving my body slowly as miles start to mount between us and the fire raging behind us, but the fear never is completely gone again. The weather inside me is gray, and in the corner, you can still see the orangish-brown of the fire.

August 5th, 2021, Yakima, Washington, Haze, High of 98, Humidity 38%, Air Quality Index: Unhealthy

Today the air quality is so bad I can not go for a run. I feel trapped. I wish the weather was better, and I wish people would do more about the environment. As a teenager constantly told by the world to enjoy the time I have as a kid, I am aggravated. I can not enjoy my time as a kid when looking up at the sky, I am reminded of all the work my generation has to do to fix the climate the adults have left for us. Now that I am older the world does not seem like this perfect paradise. I understand that I must stay in the moment and be more present. I have learned that there is a balance between enjoying the moments and also looking towards the future. But when I look towards the future all I feel is stress and anxiety. Our country feels like it is being ripped apart and I struggle to see a way out of this where our country as a whole will make it through the next two centuries.

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