01 July 2015

The Party's Over

Global warming has turned out the lights on a family tradition, another sign the place I love more than any other has changed drastically.

For as long as I can remember, my family has hosted an Independence Day party, and for just as long, the party has ended with a fireworks display. Each year, the children in the family bring their fireworks and light them off after dark, a practice I once lived for and which I now supervise. We always save the biggest firework for last so that the family can howl at it in memory of my dog, a rare animal who loved the colorful explosions.

This year, the family will get together as usual, but we won't have any fireworks. With the entire state of Washington in drought and a record heat wave strangling the area for more than two weeks, we made the sad decision to eliminate fireworks from our party.

Losing the fireworks themselves isn't what makes me saddest--it's what the loss symbolizes: the break in a shared family experience and a major shift in Washington's climate. The lack of snowpack, which triggered the drought and which I blogged about last month, and the record temperatures relate to a Pacific Ocean that is two degrees warmer than normal, and the result is an early-July Washington I don't recognize. Everything is brown and withered--a sight more typical of August than this time of year.

When everyone leaves our party on Saturday without a climactic fireworks display, I won't recognize that either. The event brought people together just before they went their separate ways for the nearly six months until the holidays. Now, a simple goodbye will have to suffice.

Above all, to me, the canceled fireworks suggest that until we address global warming, we'll lose more than we celebrate.

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