I’m writing this after spending the day hunkered down indoors next to an air purifier, as I have the good fortune of being in Washington state while it’s home to some of the world’s worst air pollution. For the second year in a row, smoke from wildfires has rendered the normally refreshing air practically unbreathable. My primary source of entertainment these days is checking air quality monitoring websites for signs of ominous red and purple bulges making their way down from Canada. Fires in other parts of Washington aren’t helping.
As if things didn’t already feel apocalyptic enough, there’s something about these wildfire episodes, with their sickly grayish-orange skies and sense of entrapment, that truly give one the sense that the end of the Anthropocene is nigh. Scientists say that warming temperatures plus population growth in burn-prone areas are causing the surge in wildfires; meanwhile, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is, of course, blaming environmentalists. Hard to see how we come back from this brink, since we’re already so far over it.