As of this writing on November 16, 2018, the death toll from California's Camp Fire has risen to 63 — making it the deadliest wildfire in California history — and the list of the missing contains 631 names. It is the worst of the fires currently ravaging California, but the Woolsey Fire in Malibu and nearby areas has burned nearly 100,000 acres and hundreds of houses; the Hill Fire in Ventura County, more than 4,500 acres.
Pictures of people and animals fleeing the fires are heartbreaking; the thought of those who couldn't get away is even more so. California Governor Jerry Brown observed that "we’re in a new abnormal, and things — things like this will be part of our future. And this won’t be the beginning. It’ll be things like this and worse."
His remarks are not some dire, apocalyptic pesssimism but rather an honest assessment based on what research tells us about climate change. In her interview with Juan González, "Climate Scientist Who Fled CA Wildfire," broadcast journalist and investigative reporter Amy Goodman points out: "The fires are so large they can be clearly seen from space. Smoke and ash have left millions of Californians exposed to air quality rated 'unhealthy' or 'very unhealthy' levels, with residents of Los Angeles, Sacramento, and the Bay Area warned against spending time outdoors."
And so we pray this news . . .
You are the one who entrusted the elements to human beings
and taught us to keep their balance:
Fire for warmth, water for cleansing,
earth as foundation, air as inspiration.
These fires wake us up to how far we have strayed
from that awesome responsibility ...
and they follow floods that bore the same message.
Our scientists have become like the biblical prophets,
telling us what we need to do to turn things around —
and like the stubborn recipients of prophecies,
we do nothing or way too little or way too slowly.
Scientists tell us that they cannot change people's hearts —
they know that work belongs to spiritual leaders.
Help us to lead, to know what to say and how to act
so that disasters do not happen one after another.
Guide us to ways we can help this very day
by contributing to groups supporting first responders,
rescuing animals, sending disaster relief, and
providing housing. Guide us to console broken hearts.
But most of all, guide us not to be afraid to think and act
outside our culture's extravagance and exploitation.
Help us to listen to indigenous elders who value the care
of our Mother Earth for the sake of seven generations to come.
Let us slow down and listen as if our lives depended on it,
and as it the lives of all creatures depended on it.
Keep jolting us awake until we realize that our "new abnornal"
is no time for "business as usual" — it is a time
to weep, to care, and to change our ways.
Thank you for being a God nearer than breathing
who sees our deeds and the secret places in our hearts.