Wildfires must be turning point for climate action

As the smoke clears, remember when you could barely breathe and everything became sepia.

  • Monday, September 21, 2020 5:40pm
  • Opinion

Words fail.

So this week’s editorial takes the form of a photograph, on page 9, that is a reminder of what this past week has looked like on Vashon, and what it will no doubt look like again if climate change is not addressed on a personal, local, national and global level.

Behold the image of a family on one of the beaches of our beautiful, storybook island, on Saturday, Sept. 12, as seen through the lens of venerable island photographer Ray Pfortner. Other photographs by Pfortner, taken the same day, appear on the front page of our paper this week.

For more than two decades, Pfortner has documented this island’s natural beauty, its sparkling waters and abundant wildlife. It all looked different last weekend.

But Pfortner, with his photographer’s eye, still found something poetic and timeless in the toxic landscape. He said his shots reminded him of the early works of historical photographer Oliver Van Olinda, who stood in many of the same spots as Pfortner stood on Saturday, capturing some of the same vistas.

Pfortner said his own photos looked like sepia prints, from a previous time — a long, long time ago. But of course, he also knew that his photographs look like the future.

“Of course we are all wondering if this is indeed the new normal — not just past COVID, but in the time of climate disaster and changes we cannot even imagine to our world, natural and man-made,” Pfortner said.

Our hearts go out to our loved ones, friends and neighbors throughout the Pacific Northwest and down the coast, where the situation is even worse, with the tragic loss of life, mass displacement and other beautiful, storybook towns destroyed.

Stay safe, Vashon. Obey burn bans. Read our page 1 story on all that VashonBePrepared is doing to serve islanders in time of disaster, and be grateful that you live in a caring and functional community. And when the smoke mercifully, finally clears, remember this time on Vashon, when you could barely breathe and everything became sepia. Take action, now, against the impacts of climate change, now that you have seen the future arrive with your own eyes and felt its terrible burn in the back of your throat.

Demand and vote for change, now.

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