Contest Winner Fall 2018: Sounds of Climate Change


By Russ Allison Loar

I’ve lived in Claremont more than 20 years. Claremont is a small Southern California town—home to the Claremont Colleges—in the Inland Valley where summers are increasingly hotter and longer. Temperatures now routinely soar above 100 degrees. I live on the northern outskirts of the city about a mile from hillsides that lead to the San Gabriel Mountains. When I first moved here, flood control channels drained torrents of water from the snowmelt of nearby mountains, during the winter months, and even during the hotter months of summer, outdoor pets were relatively safe from the coyotes.

In 2003, the accelerating Southern California drought sparked the Grand Prix fire which burned more than 60,000 acres and 136 homes in the hillsides just north of where I live.

There has been very little water runoff during the winter due to the lack of rain and snow in the nearby mountains. Water rationing by the city has encouraged numerous homeowners to replace their lawns with drought-tolerant landscaping. Outdoor cats in the neighborhood mostly disappeared due to the hungry coyotes and the great horned owls. Residents here have learned to keep their pets indoors.

The coyotes have become increasingly bold, walking through our neighborhoods in the middle of the day, keeping a minimal distance from people. They look weather-beaten and scrawny. Still, there is something hauntingly beautiful about the cries of coyotes, joining together in song as they gather for the hunt. 


Russ Allison Loar was a musician and songwriter for many years then returned to college, earning a journalism degree. He also was a newspaper reporter, for the Los Angeles Times. After leaving journalism, he taught newswriting at a community college and completed graduate work in American literature. He’s written poetry and short prose, and his photographs are used on websites throughout the world. His music has been featured on a few miscellaneous websites, most recently here.