Year 4, Month 6, Day 18: Trouble Ahead, Trouble Behind

The Christian Science Monitor offers an analysis of the fires in Southern California:

The Powerhouse fire, which erupted in scrub-covered rugged terrain north of Los Angeles and has blackened 30,000 acres, destroyed 6 homes, and forced the evacuation of thousands of people, is dramatizing the challenges facing states across the West, including a much longer fire season, analysts say.

The Powerhouse fire started last Thursday afternoon and now has 2,200 firefighters battling it on foot, vehicles, and in the air. It spread quickly, feeding on the several-decades-old scrub covering the area’s hills and canyons.

As of Monday morning, authorities said, the fire was 40 percent contained. Officials estimated the fire would not be fully contained for another week. Temperatures Monday were expected to climb into the mid-80s with wind gusts up to 45 mph in the hills and valleys south of Lake Hughes.

Analysts said the large early-season fire creates an opportunity to raise awareness about a long list of issues facing localities, states, and the federal government. Those range from man’s contribution to climate change, to choices of where to build homes, to what safety precautions to take in building those homes and how to enforce them.

Given that as a global society we are not seriously addressing climate change, says Dominik Kulakowski, adjunct professor of biology at Clark University Graduate School of Geography in Worcester, Mass., one good question is, “Is this the new normal?” The public, he says, should conclude not merely that this fire season is predicted to be longer, but that such longer seasons will continue for the foreseeable future.

I just don’t see what any of this has to do with me. . June 4:

As climate change accelerates and intensifies, the frequency and size of forest fires is going to go up — perhaps to the point that “fire season” is the default climate for parts of the world. In a climatically-transformed United States, we will have to direct more money to training, equipment and resources for firefighters, or face a far higher bill for lives lost, property destroyed, and ecosystems obliterated.

Republican lawmakers, fanatically averse to tax increases of any sort, will resist any policy that would increase funding for firefighting professionals, even if it means the final costs will be enormously greater. This penny-wise, pound-foolish approach characterizes conservative responses to every aspect of the climate crisis: rather than admit the existence of a very serious problem and take steps to protect their constituents’ lives from its likely consequences, these anti-science politicians would rather see their own country go up in smoke.

Warren Senders

Month 12, Day 10: Only YOU Can Prevent, etc., etc., etc.

Israel is burning, reports the Sydney Morning Herald. And (of course) it’s because of climate change — arguably the largest tossed-away cigarette to trigger a forest fire in humanity’s history.

The news accumulates daily, reinforcing a sobering message: climate change is not something that will affect the lives of our grandchildren, but a real-time emergency. Israel’s spreading forest fires are one among multiple symptoms of our planetary fever. Our survival depends on two things: we must learn to think in longer spans of time (for when the lag between climatic cause and climatic effect is measured in decades, where will a politician find the courage to do what is right?), and we must learn to think beyond national boundaries. In Cancun, the world’s nation’s are negotiating; the richest are reluctant to surrender their privileges, while the poorest simply want to keep their land, their lives and their hopes. A moment’s objective reflection makes it obvious: if humanity is to prosper in a post-climate-change world, an “us vs. them” mindset is an unaffordable luxury.

Warren Senders