Sweat pours into my eyes and down my back. After riding only a few minutes, our chamois are soaked. The heat rising off the road blurs my vision further. It is only 7:00 am along the Oregon Outback Trail, but the oppressive Pacific Northwest heat wave threatens to derail the gravel bike adventure - 365 miles from Klamath Falls to the Gorge. Every day, the temperature is over 100 degrees. There is no green. Cows move listlessly through barren fields. They have nothing to drink or eat outside of what the ranchers provide. A foreshadowing of what is to come. “Jameson,” I tell my adventure partner on the ride, “this is all going to burn.”

On our ride, ranchers stopped us multiple times to share their fear about the epic drought and begged us to be careful. Although we had no intention of using anything that could start a fire, their fear was palpable. Many of these ranchers explained this property has been in the family for decades and the loss of the farm would result in the loss of their livelihood. There are no second opportunities there, no way to move, just the destructive fire encroaching on their crops. Although you couldn’t find two more different lifestyles between athletes and farmers, we are bonded by our desires to prevent damage and care for the natural world. 

But the desire to prevent fire is not enough. The Bootleg fire was sparked by lightning one week after our adventure ended. 413,717 acres burned. It is the 3rd largest fire in the history of Oregon. As I watched the fire unravel from the safety of Portland, the eyes of the ranchers haunt me, knowing their livestock, homes and property burned with their dreams. Now that fire is barely a memory as the fire season rages in California. Mega fires with their own eco-systems and weather patterns are the new normal for the West Coast. 

As of August, more than 37,803 fires have burned over 3 million acres across the United States. News and scientists preach we are passing the point of no return and fear reverberates as discussion of the climate crisis spreads among those listening. And among those not listening; justification, denial and fear influence their ability to address our world which is begging for change. We are all impacted by the climate crisis. It is no longer a fringe theory, but is literally burning our cities on the West Coast and flooding them on the East Coast. 

Do you feel that low incessant buzz in your ears and stomach when you turn on the news? How about each morning when you wake up to check the AQI? In the West Coast, this has become our norm starting as early as May when the ‘new’ fire season begins. However, as quick as the buzz starts to crescendo, we as humans learn to quiet it through some of the most effective coping techniques. The ability for justification is fierce these days with people normalizing the climate crisis.

Let me weave this story together on how my desire to decrease the buzz turned ignorance into understanding and connection. Now is the time to turn anxiety into action. We are still alive and we have the beautiful opportunity to change the course of our future. The time is now. We can’t wait for someone else to do something and we all must act collectively to protect the earth. Start today by calling your representatives.