Dan Hazen: Climate migration gets thoughts moving on cause

We’re watching plants and animals head to healthier climes, but should corporations get the blame?

Dan Hazen

Dan Hazen

By Dan Hazen / Herald Forum

Not many people would feel blessed to live beneath a busy flight path, but I do. Of course, the blessing hinges on the fact that it’s geese and not jets flying overhead.

At this time of year dozens of flocks pass over my Marysville home in the mornings and evenings. Some comprised of only a handful of geese and some flocks so large they remind me of news reels of the Battle of Britain.

The size of the birds never ceases to amaze me. The fact that they call to one another, take turns in the lead and navigate with precision a route of sometimes thousands of miles is wonderous.

The constancy of their migration is a wonder too. Seeing them in the air reminds me that we’ve circled the sun yet again. There was winter, spring, summer, and now we’re rounding the final turn. It helps keep life in perspective.

But there’s a shadow stretching across this blessing too. Yeah, it’s still autumn when they start heading south, but it’s just a little later every year. Some don’t leave at all; they’re called resident geese. Maybe it’s climate change; they just don’t need to head as far south anymore.

Sometimes, when I look up and to the east to watch them, my gaze lingers on parts of Three Fingers that I’ve never seen without snow before. It reminds me of the changing views of Mount Baker and Mount Rainier, looking like emaciated old women wearing thread-bare shawls of too-thin glaciers. I gaze at the mountains through the dead branches of a 100-foot tall western red cedar (now comically called “Golden Cedars” by experts who monitor their demise amongst growing suburban developments). This in turn reminds me of hikes through the Glacier Peak Wilderness, Mount Baker National Forest and the Mountain Loop Highway which were sullied with thick smoke; something unheard of until 10 years ago or so.

Each spring seems to bring with it (along with the Canada geese’s return) some new variety of weed or insect in my vegetable garden. Research inevitably revealing that species’ steady, northward migration.

And, continuing with this migration theme, I was equally awed and saddened to learn a few years ago that the arboreal royalty of the Puget Sound region, (King Douglas Fir and Queen Western Hemlock) are migrating too. Yes, these trees which mark the climax of our unique and luxuriant home are slowly escaping up mountainsides, following water and lower temperatures. Not so much migrating as escaping. Refugees.

All of this is troubling enough but add climate change denial and it gets scary. If we can’t admit we’re in a house-on-fire, the likelihood of escape approaches zero. But beyond scary is the growing tendency to blame shift among those who do acknowledge the reality. I sense a growing trend to exclusively blame large corporations for climate change. Sure, big corporations are the proximate cause of most pollution and greenhouse gases. But the originating cause is our use of their products and services. BP doesn’t turn gasoline into carbon-doxide. I do. In other words, stop driving a car that burns fossil fuel and BP will stop producing it.

The growing move to saddle non-corporeal “corporations” with will, intelligence and unction belies the human obsession with avoiding personal responsibility. Sure, I’m with you: “Tax the rich!” But what are you going to do with the money? Sure, make it hard (or impossible) to extract oil, gas and coal, dam rivers and pollute the seas. But what are you going to do when your 401(k) starts to lose value?

Friend, we are The Corporation.

Dan Hazen is community pastor at Allen Creek Community Church in Marysville.

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