Why I'm Leaving

by Rachel Stone


SEATTLE, WA: I’ve lived in Seattle since college. When I moved here, I believed I could become someone out here, among the fishmongers and the culture and the coffee. I found love; I started a zine. But after learning about the Cascadia subduction zone, I realized that I didn’t want to live through an earthquake that will destroy the entire Pacific Northwest, including my favorite coffee shops. So I wave goodbye to all that, and pack my bags to California.

LOS ANGELES, CA: The city feels different, but it’s growing more familiar. I find myself an alright sublet situation in Mid-City, lease a car for the first time, and zoom across the wide expanse of roads. But I learn about California’s uncontrollable wildfires and how they are only becoming more dangerous in the growing drought. I tuck my copy of The Road in my suitcase and head north.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA: I love the feeling of money moving through my hair, but when I learn that the drought might mean I die of thirst, I move again.

JACKSON HOLE, WY: The rent here is nothing, and the valley is perfect inspiration for my zine-writing. I drive to Yellowstone for weekend excursion, only to discover the supervolcano lurking beneath the national park. Ryot.org tells me that, if it were to blow, which it might, it would kill around eighty-seven thousand people in the immediate explosion, spread a ten-foot layer of ash into the air; the resulting combination of sulfuric acid in the earth’s atmosphere would plunge the world into a volcanic winter, so I head east.

WATFORD CITY, ND: In Watford, I’m safe from volcanoes, wildfires, and drought; I’m nowhere near hurricane territory and no one would attack this small of a city with chemical weapons. But then I heard some neighbors talking and apparently your new property is right on top of shale, which means I’m squarely in fracking territory, which means, according to the New York Times, I could enjoy contaminated, radioactive water, methane gas explosions, and earthquakes caused by deep injection wells, and that just won’t do.

PHOENIX, AZ: I find myself in a desert metropolis. I take to wandering around Echo Canyon Park and feel my sense of place restored, only to be dashed again when I learn of the looming megadrought. Fortunately, I hadn’t even stepped outside of the car.

CHICAGO, IL: I move back to the Midwest, even though I promised myself not to. My mother is happy, though, and I figure that before the world is plunged into chaos I could at least give her that. When I learn that when water scarcity will soon grip the United States and freshwater sources like Lake Michigan will probably become dangerously contentious in wars over resources, I don’t move. When I learn that Illinois is squarely in Tornado Alley, I stick around. When I find out that the Midwest has its own mega fault line, the New Madrid Seismic Zone, that might not fracture anytime soon, but if it did it could create unprecedented and catastrophic damage across the region, I decide it might be better to observe from elsewhere.

IOWA CITY, IA: Potential death by corn blight. I move again, and abandon my zine.

MINNEAPOLIS, MN: Potential death by polar vortex. I move again.

MONTGOMERY, AL: Potential death by extreme heat, which will probably morph into drought. I move again.

MIAMI, FL: Potential death by flesh eating bacteria. I move again.

CHARLESTON, SC: Potential death by massive, seventy-foot tsunami that could occur if the volcano Cumbre Vieja erupts and breaks into the Atlantic Ocean. I think I miss Seattle

FARMINGTON HILLS, MICHIGAN: The last safe town in the entire United States. There are few natural disasters. The population is small. My grandparents live here, as will Detroit-via-Williamsburg expats. But it’s starting to get a little too crowded.