Burning Up: California’s Climate Crisis

By: LILJA NICHOLSON

Every year, children on the East Coast wait excitedly for winter and the first snowfall of the season, hoping to get a snow day from school, where they can rush out and go play in the frosty snowflakes. On the other side of the country, children on the West Coast wait apprehensively for fire season, when the air quality becomes so unsafe that schools decide to call a smoke day to keep kids indoors. Once their parents lock them safely inside, chances are the TV is turned on and tuned to the local news station, where the entire family sits, waiting anxiously for new information on the status of nearby fires. 

“Fire season never used to be a thing.” is a statement I keep hearing over and over from older adults that have lived in California for many years. “We always had fires, but they were never this bad!”.  The past couple of years have been absolutely terrible in terms of fire magnitude, property damage, and loss of life. The Atlas Fire in 2017 burned 51,057 acres, destroyed over 780 buildings, and killed 6 people. The Camp Fire in 2018 wiped out the entire town of Paradise, CA, burned over 150,000 acres, and claimed 85 lives. The 2020 LNU Fire Complex has burned 365,000 acres and ended the lives of 5 civilians, and it is still burning at the time of this writing. 

Wildfires are a normal part of California’s environment and climate, and they help keep our vegetation healthy and our fauna thriving. However, the intensity of the fires in recent years is not normal. LA Times reports that “…wildfires and their compounding effects have intensified in recent years — and there’s little sign things will improve.” This is incredibly worrisome for many reasons, but it, unfortunately, doesn’t come as a surprise. The state of California has over 40 million residents, and the average Californian uses over 85 gallons of water per day, according to the LAO. The fact of the matter is that we are depleting our resources, and draining the environment of its lifeline. This won’t get better anytime soon. By 2050, the population is supposed to hit 50 million according to worldpopulationreview.com. If we don’t start taking action to resolve this problem, future fire seasons are only going to get worse.

As an ordinary citizen, you may think that your actions don’t make a difference, but they absolutely do. “By installing a low flow shower head and cutting your shower time to 5 minutes you can reduce your water usage and the CO2 emissions by 70-80% savings thousands of gallons of water and hundreds of pounds of CO2 emissions a year.” is some of the information provided by greenlifestylechanges.com.  You can encourage friends and family to follow a more environmentally friendly lifestyle as well, and before you know it, you might create a spider web effect on your community. Regardless of what you decide to do in an effort to save our environment, please do something, for all of us.

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