By Pamela Chang, 9/9/2020
Yesterday the sun rose, a coppery disk that tracked its way across a grey haze.
Today, I assume the sun rose again but it has remained invisible. Instead, the whole sky has been a coppery-orange dusk, only brightening at midday to a dull-yellow. Indoors, I’ve had to rely on electricity to read before 11 am and after 4 pm. News reports say that the orange sky is caused by a high thick layer of wildfire smoke blocking the sun. In any case, it’s eerie, dim like a solar eclipse, and unlike anything I’ve seen in my life. It feels just wrong.
Two thoughts preoccupy me. First: Climate change is absolutely real. And second: This feels like withdrawal of the Mandate of Heaven.
In case you’ve been on a news blackout, let me mention recent climate-noteworthy events: 100 degree temperatures in Berkeley this past Sunday; Colorado’s one day plunge from 93 degrees to yesterday’s snow; 130 degree temperatures in Death Valley on August 16th; record quantities and early formation of 2020’s Atlantic hurricanes; never mind orange skies and this year’s record-breaking 2.2 million burnt California acres so far.
The Mandate of Heaven is something that my ancestors believed in for millennia. When the emperor ruled unjustly and human affairs went awry, heaven withdrew its support, thus causing natural disasters to occur. In response, change, even rebellion, was appropriate.
I believe that change is appropriate now and I believe that change is up to each of us. Admittedly most of us may have little power to change much, but I believe that what each of us does matters. We don’t know what influence we wield by speaking our minds, by refusing to sit at the back of the bus, by voting, by caring at the appropriate moment, by eating this vs. that. We don’t know. But I think it is time, past time, to ask ourselves what we think matters and what we can do that will make a difference.
I don’t have answers for myself. Not yet. But I want to remember this orange sky. I want to be haunted, inspired, and motivated by it to ask myself deep questions, to seek my own answers, and to follow through with appropriate action.