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Image: Smoke from Oregon wildfires in 2020. Image courtesy of Joseph Wachunas.

Climate Change

It’s 114 Degrees in Oregon. Time to (Productively) Panic.

Here on planet Earth, summer is becoming the worst season. Instead of looking forward to sunny days lazing around on beaches, we find ourselves annually playing a game of climate roulette, with continuously worse odds, and megafires, off-the-chart smoke levels, and category 5 hurricanes, the outcomes of unlucky rolls.

This weekend, in my formerly mild, rainy, Northwest state, we’re rolling a broiling Death Valley-esque 114 degrees in Portland (similar to recent temps recorded in the arctic circle, which is even more frightening). The temperatures are so off the charts; so record setting (previous city record is 107 degrees); so impossible for an area that, up to ten years ago, rarely hit the 90s in late August; that we are stumbling around in disbelief and climate shock. And it’s only June. And it’s only 2021. 

Forecast for Portland, Oregon, as of Friday, June 25.

I think the proper response to these temperatures, given the circumstances, is panic. But not a run-around-with-your hands-in-the-air-type panic, rather a panic that wakes you up, dislodges you from what you thought was important (and wasn’t), and focuses you on the real and present danger. A productive panic. 

There have been moments in human history when productive panic ended up being the healthiest mindset given the circumstances. Think Europe in the late 1930s. As Hitler was strengthening his army and began invading other countries, productive panic was a very sensible attitude. Going about your daily life wasn’t. 

Smoke from Oregon wildfires in 2020. Photo by Joseph Wachunas.

Feels analogous to our own time. The climate pain gets worse, and more frightening, every summer and yet we wave it away, like the proverbial frog being boiled incrementally. 


It’s 114 degrees in Oregon and it’s only June, and it’s only 2021. 

So, how do we jump?

In my mind, the key to productive panic is to channel accurate fears of a looming threat into effective action. Don’t get waylaid in denial, or despondency, and of course don’t be a frog gradually getting used to lethal temperatures. 

The key, in my humble opinion, is to move, to jump, to get going on the climate game plans we’ve got sitting on shelves. If you’re reading CleanTechnica, you probably have a good idea of what those game plans should include. Let’s panic and start acting on them — as, fortunately, many are. And if you’ve already started, take it to the next level.

If you need help getting started, here are a few ideas for personal impact:

  1. Buy clean electricity — either through solar panels, or investment in community solar, or sign up for your utility’s clean electricity plan
  2. Electrify your home — kick fossil fuels out of your house and use clean, efficient electric heat pump water heaters and ductless heat pumps. 
  3. Electrify your rideget an EV ASAP. Bike, walk, and use transit as much as possible. 

Image courtesy of Electrify Now

Those three things will reduce your carbon footprint by 60%. And you’ll inspire others, translating personal actions into larger scale change.

But, please, do something now. It’s 114 degrees in Portland, and it’s only June. And it’s only 2021. Time to productively panic.

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Written By

Joe lives in Portland, Oregon, and works for the nonprofit New Buildings Institute, which promotes electric and decarbonized buildings. He also volunteers with Electrify Now because he believes that electrifying everything, from transportation to homes, is the quickest path to an equitable, clean energy future. And of course, Joe and his family live in an all-electric home and drive an EV.


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