Over the following days everything in PDX dried out — the air, trees, soil. There was a snapping sensation as all moisture was expelled. Like … second crack (coffee roasting). I felt it. It smelled acrid… It’s no wonder the Pacific Northwest is burning in explosive wildfires. — David T. Lange in his description of impacts caused by the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge during 2015.
To say that climate change is a crisis intertwined with a vast, burning-driven damage to human, plant, and animal bodies caused by particulate air pollution and its related 7 million annual (human) deaths is the very epitome of understatement. No-one knew this better than my good friend and fellow scribbler David T Lange.
(David T Lange took this photo from beneath the hot dome of the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge during the summer of 2015. At the time, wildfire smoke from blazes sparking off in nearby forests ranging from British Columbia and down into Washington, Oregon and California had painted the sky a pasty pink and gray. In posts to this blog, David often described the air quality due to anomalous wildfires, stifling heat, and local air pollution as acrid and choking. Image source: DT Lange 2.)
On November 9, 2016 this sensitive and perceptive soul passed away suddenly due to cardiac arrest and organ failure. To members of this blog, David’s loss was conspicuous. Up until the point of his jarring absence in late October, he had posted over 9,200 comments during his two-and-a-half year period as a contributing member.
David’s blog handle was Wind Spirit Keeper. But I think of him more as a benevolent spirit surfing the spectral winds of the internet. One who provided a seemingly endless stream of helpful information and discussion. The value of his thoughts and research to this community could well be described as immeasurable. And I did my best to highlight his concerns in the over 250 blog posts in which he received a citation for his valued thoughts and contributions. It is an understatement when I say that he will be sorely, sorely missed.
A Concerned, Sensitive Soul Suffering From a Lung Condition and Breathing Acrid Fumes Beneath the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge
David (known affectionately as DT to his fellow scribblers) suffered from lung problems for years and had often said that his movement to Oregon was a quest for cleaner air. But during 2014 and 2015 a western drought featuring unprecedented tree deaths and associated with an odd climate change related Jet Stream feature called the Ridiculously Resilient Ridge (RRR) generated powerful heat domes and sparked numerous wildfires that conspired with already prevalent local emissions to take that coveted Oregon clean air away.
In one of DT’s first comments here (on April 29 of 2014), he noted:
The ‘interesting’ weather will commence here in Portland on Wednesday and Thursday with highs in the upper 80s… As I write, the whole western sky is half dome of gauzy Mylar haze that is likely from the fires and dust storms in Siberia and China — plus whatever is added the atmosphere in the Northwest.
Later that summer, the heat and dryness would spark an odd outbreak of wildfires throughout the Pacific Northwest (see image below). An event that validated DT’s concerns along with those of many fellow bloggers, commenters, weather/climate observers and scientists.
(Large wildfire complexes burning throughout Washington and Oregon during July of 2014. The extreme warmth and drought sparked fires on land — harming air quality. Meanwhile, the heat produced algae blooms, worsened low oxygen ocean environments, and greatly contributed to mortality among sea life in waters ranging from California to Alaska. Image source: LANCE MODIS/RS Files.)
The 2012 to 2015 RRR event appeared odd to DT. And like many climate researchers, he suspected that the RRR was induced by global warming. More to the point, I think the effects related to the RRR scared him on a visceral level. He could, after all, feel the damage being done to his sensitive and weakened lungs far more keenly than a healthier person would.
An Imperiled Life Reaching Out to Help Others
The above is just a small snap-shot of the various prophetic worries DT gave firm if wise voice to here. Others included the related death of trees due to a fossil fuel burning linked ozone pollution, the spurring of low oxygen dead zones in the ocean caused by combined warming and nutrient seeding, how polar amplification could be driving weather extremes in the middle latitudes, and the overall failure by the global community to move as strongly as possible to deal with the combined problems of pollution and climate change were the constant underlying themes of his work and expression.
(David Lange was born in 1948 on December 30th and passed away on November 9 of 2016. He was a passionate and insightful climate observer and an articulate writer. A fellow surfer, David [known here as DT] possessed an intuitive understanding of the natural world. It could be better said that he lived his life ‘in the zone.’ We scribblers here will sorely miss his wit, candor and kindness. A bright light has been extinguished and the world is now the darker for his loss. Image source: David T Lange II.)
To my eye, DT’s passion for posting such thoughts was driven by compassion and concern related to his own life experience. Compassion for those who, like him, suffered from lung ailments that were likely worsened by particulate pollution. Concern that under climate change — the heat, the worsening wildfires, the loss of trees and the ramping up of environmental toxins would add to human emissions to substantially worsen today’s already lethal air quality problems.
It is difficult for me to express with words how selfless, noble and valuable such a form of expression is. A lesser voice would have collapsed — choked by a dwindling circle of fear and isolation as the ability to breathe waned. Instead, DT used his last years to speak out. To lift his voice not only in a cry for help, but to use the shout-out in most noble way imaginable — speaking up to help others. To send the very clear signal that all was not right — not just with his own lungs, but with the still living but now struggling atmospheric lungs of our world. The ones we all rely on.
That, I think, was the message he was sending us. And he used his final efforts and last breaths to do it. It was a gift beyond measure. The precious wisdom of his final words and actions given to us. Ones we will ever-after honor and treasure.
Hat tip to Colorado Bob
Hat tip to Cate