Of sparrows, zombie fires and the tipping point

In this week’s LO Review, Pierre Zubrinsky’s Citizen View asks “Does our City Council not yet recognize the severity of the current [climate] crisis?”

With Pierre Zubrinski’s permission, we have reproduced his Citizen View below for your convenience and for those who don’t subscribe to the LO Review:

Confucious said, “A man standing on a hill with his mouth open will wait a long time for roast duck to drop in.” 

I’ve been calling her sparrow. That’s because she hasn’t yet been born nor given a name. At the moment, the only thing I know about my future grandchild is that she’s a girl. Sometimes, while dreaming of her and all the other sparrows of her generation, I shudder to think what kind of planet we’re leaving them. 

I believe it’s safe to say that all our little sparrows are in deep peril. The world’s suffering from the horrific effects of climate change. We’ve reached the tipping point where the changes are rapidly becoming irreversible and catastrophic. Each day brings the latest news reports of the impacts — heat domes, wildfires, 500-year floods, megadroughts, and rising sea levels. 

On Aug. 9, the U.N. released its latest report on climate change — a frightening document which makes it clear our planet is speeding toward destruction on an unimaginable scale. Record-breaking temperatures are being recorded across the globe. This past July was the hottest month on Earth since record keeping began. 

The increasing frequency of sub-polar heat waves is fueling zombie fires — the remnants of past fires that survive by smoldering in carbon rich peat deposits, reigniting in spring when winter ice and snow begin thawing. 

Since June, these zombie fires have contributed to the 800 megatons of carbon released from all fires currently burning in Siberia. One Russian observer on the ground says, “It’s possible that all these fires combined will be the biggest fire in the whole history of mankind.”

It’s no secret that trees sequester carbon dioxide. I therefore find it paradoxical that here in “Tree City,” at the moment when trees are most needed, our city’s tree and development codes allow developers to cut them down practically at will. Individual property owners applying to remove trees that are damaged, sick, or a threat to structures and people is not the problem. Development is. 

I recently submitted a public records request to the city’s Planning Department. The data I requested shows that from August 2020 to August 2021, builders and developers applied for the removal of 160 Type II trees. Excluding five tree removal applications that are still under review, only nine trees have so far been denied approval. These to me are shockingly lopsided numbers. 

Does our City Council not yet recognize the severity of the current crisis? I’d like to know why they haven’t taken the lead on this. As citizens, we can either sit around and do nothing as our planet goes up in flames or we can stand up and fight for a revision of the current tree/development codes while simultaneously pushing for a moratorium on Type II tree removals by developers. I strongly urge you to make your voice heard. I believe the time for inertia and business as usual is over. Contact LO’s council members, letting them know it’s time to take action. The world’s literally on fire and the stakes are too high to be waiting for roast ducks to drop from the sky. 

City Council email address: CouncilDistribution@ci.oswego.or.us

Pierre Zubrinsky is a Lake Oswego resident.