Texas is in the grip of historic wildfires that have destroyed nearly 1.8 million acres of forest and grassland in the state as well as 400 homes. The almost 8,000 fires so far this year are unprecedented, which last weekend prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call upon the national government for assistance. Now Perry is calling upon the Man Upstairs for help.
Perry issued a proclamation on Thursday declaring the next 72 hours the "Days of Prayer for Rain in Texas," asking residents to appeal to whatever higher power they prefer for help. It states:
WHEREAS, throughout our history, both as a state and as individuals, Texans have been strengthened, assured and lifted up through prayer; it seems right and fitting that the people of Texas should join together in prayer to humbly seek an end to this devastating drought and these dangerous wildfires;
NOW, THEREFORE, I, RICK PERRY, Governor of Texas, under the authority vested in me by the Constitution and Statutes of the State of Texas, do hereby proclaim the three-day period from Friday, April 22, 2011, to Sunday, April 24, 2011, as Days of Prayer for Rain in the State of Texas. I urge Texans of all faiths and traditions to offer prayers on that day for the healing of our land, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of our normal and robust way of life.
Now, for a little bit of context: Perry is well-known for his skepticism about the existence of global warming—a phenomenon that has contributed to the conditions that cause wildfires. It's also more than a little ironic given that the state last year filed a lawsuit to block the Environmental Protection Agency's regulations of planet-warming emissions, claiming that the finding that climate change poses a threat to humans is based on flawed science.
I reached out to a Andrew Dessler, a professor of atmospheric sciences at Texas A&M University, for some thoughts on the governor's proclamation. "I certainly don't think that praying will hurt. My concern is that the Governor has no Plan B," wrote Dessler in an email. "If praying doesn't work, what then? If we don't start taking reasonable steps to protect ourselves soon, then I will indeed be praying—for better leadership in Austin."