California’s orange skies are not just a glimpse of our future


A runner photographs the Bay Bridge in San Francisco under a smoke-filled sky.

A runner photographs the Bay Bridge in San Francisco under a smoke-filled sky.
Photo: Philip Pacheco (Getty Images)

Apocalypse has struck the western landscape. The bay area is so dense in a layer of smoke, it breaks everything Camera sensor For the weather model.

The situation has compared the future, the real and the imagined. blade Runner And Blade runner 2049 Both have been touch points Stuck in the fog for future cityscapes. Others referred Martian, A science fiction film set entirely on another planet in the future (although astronomers pointed out that Venus and Titan Are also fully acceptable analogs). And the situation in the West, in part, the climate is depicted as a glimpse of the future, we may be soon Face.

The wildfire season of 2020 has made time and space feel elastic, present and future, Earth and space collide like a snap of rubber bands. But I can’t help connecting the resilience to the present and the past and blundering the fate of those under the blood-red sky with decisions made in board rooms around dim mahogany tables. Our environments and forests are influenced by those decisions, and we forget them at our own risk.

Let’s start with the forest side of the equation. Long before there was a National Forest Service, indigenous groups managed the land using fire as an integral part of the landscape. But after the US government removed them from their land, things did not go unnoticed. Then, a terrible fire in the Northern Rockies in 1910 changed everything to Big Burn.

Eventually, the federal government implemented the 10 am rule, which decided to fire all the fires, you guessed them 10 days later. William Greeley, the chief of the Forest Service at that time, was some It was a fire proof that “the devil was at work.” He also said that “the punishment inflicted on me is that fire prevention is the number one American firearm.”

It was, on its face, a matter of public safety as communities were expanding into the jungles and Big Burn killed 87 people, including many firefighters. But underlying this was cold, hard economics. The mission of the Forest Service is (Emphasis) “to health, diversity and sustain Productivity“Of land. One of the main pillars of the agency is leasing land for timber.”

The suppression of fire, then, was actually trying to preserve as much of the forest as possible, in which some racism was overthrown (indigenous attitudes as Greek were taken out “Peak Forestry”). The Forest Service was hardly alone in this; A former Wisconsin Conservation Director who served around the time of Greece Noted That “as a nation we have the value of every land we own, that it has a possible use for all.” And the mindset of earning money from the land continues even today. In 2017, companies cut $ 179 million Price of wood on Forest Service land alone. While the agency and other land managers have corrected the course Recognize the value of fire In this scenario, fuels made in the forests for decades are ready to burn.

Then there is the climatic side of the equation. This one you may know a little better. But let’s really recap to keep the blood flowing and because frankly, feeling anger is a lot more fun than feeling numb that I’ve felt lately.

Fossil fuel companies spent decades lying about the risk of burning their products. Dissolution campaign Exxon was wider than Chevron and others and Still on.

Has been aided by fossil fuel companies Courageous politicianRepublicans in particular, in preventing any meaningful climate action. These companies have changed from hardcore denial to kinder, denial. Party line now climate change is real, but we will Fine. There is no better distillation of this mindset than former Exxon CEO and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson 2012 interview:

“If you take one, I’d say a reasonable scientific view on that, we believe those results are manageable. They require us to initiate optimization or spend more policy effort on adaptation.…

And as humans, as a species, that’s why we are all still here. We have spent our entire existence adopting it, okay? So, we will adapt to it. “

I am sure that the people whose houses burned down or those who are breathing the most polluted air on earth agree, Rex.

Policy makers had a lot of advice about what kind of morality we can avoid now. The most famous is former NASA climate scientist James Hansen. Alert to Congress in 1988, But it is only a warning or the earliest. Here is a snippet of testimony for more than 30 years that could leave California at risk of being hard on the burning of whole fossil fuels:

We haven’t quite reached that stage (yet), but we’ve seen California swinging in a deep, dangerous drought this decade that has helped fuel fires. And the danger of too much ominous Multi-decade “Megadros” Growth there and in Texas, as Revell predicted. Despite this, the Congress did nothing for action.

Oh, and then there are developers who have spent decades wooing people for the woodland-urban interface and local governments that have enabled dispersal. From 1990 to 2010, a staggering 13.4 million homes were built. The fire prone landscape. And half of all the houses burned with fire are Rebuilt within five years, Getting people back in harm’s way.

While it is tempting to look forward and warn of a more turbulent future, looking at the past has never been more important. We need to understand how exactly we ended up here and who are captured by the special interests that continue to advocate for the futurist Alex Stafel call “”Hunter’s delay. “Only then can we find our way out of the spider webs that have entangled us in this moment of crisis and we will not constantly compare dystopia to fight for the future.

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