California Blaze Foreshadows Darker Days
Is 2020 the year for us to live in a dystopian novel?
Between the global pandemic, political and moral divide, and racial injustice, the months are trudging by slower than ever. Another thing to add to the myriad of 2020 disasters; wildfires. This year began with wildfires plaguing Australia and now they are affecting the west coast of the United States with millions of acres burned, homes destroyed, and 31 people dead. Resources are being stretched thin as fires blow through California, Oregon, and Washington. It has already been the worst fire season on record, a trend that has been escalating for several years; but with the risk of COVID-19 still prominent, the danger of the fires is infinitely worse. People need to evacuate, restricting their ability to socially distance. The poor air quality means trouble breathing and an increased risk for catching COVID-19. Particle pollution is extremely dangerous to people's health, particularly those with asthma and other breathing condition, which only adds to the paranoia. Is it coronavirus? Or the air making it difficult to breathe?
As we see over and over again, the wildfires are not random nor are they part of some "2020 curse." They will continue beyond this year, into 2021, 2022, and all the years that follow, unless we take action. This year, unusual weather patterns caused an uptick in lightning; nearly 14,00 bolts hit northern California in August in a matter of three days, according to The New York Times. Although this particular fire was caused by lightning, scientists argue that it is not the cause of ignition that defines a fire, but rather the size; and this fire spread up and down the entire west coast. Winds send the smoke, haze, and unhealthy air quality far beyond the regions of fire. The heat and drought conditions, which are caused by climate change, are ideal for fires and contribute to the increase in wildfire over the past several years. Climate change means dry conditions and not enough rain. It also means warmer weather, which contributes to the fires season expanding from four months to almost half the year. We are affected more and more each day by climate change; it easily could be your family member, or even you, stuck in a state that is burning to the ground.
There is not one quick fix to the fires or to climate change. It starts with individual actions, as 95% of fires are actually started by human beings. The El Dorado fire raging through California was started by fireworks at a gender reveal party. We also need better leadership both in this country and on the world stage. Climate change has never been first on the list of issues for past presidents. The Trump administration already abolished various environmental protection laws. However, Trump spoke about waning clean air and water at the presidential debate on September 29, 2020. In past presidential debates, climate change has not even made the list of topics. In the first 2020 Presidential Debate between President Trump and Democratic nominee former Vice President Joe Biden, however, moderator Chris Wallace asked pointed questions about the candidates' plans for the climate. Amidst the unprofessional trading of insults and babble, no specific answers were given. Biden tried to distance himself from the Green New Deal but also tried to portray himself as the candidate who will work to fix climate change. In comparison to Trump's hypocrisy and lack of plan for climate change, however, Biden is the best option for our environment. We are in deep trouble on this planet if we continue to abuse it for personal gain. The number of natural disasters, from wildfires to hurricanes, that plague the earth are rising, with each worse than the last. We are running out of time to reverse the damage human beings have created, and that should scare us. Our generation is growing up in a world that may not even be there for our future children. We will shoulder the burden that past generations bestowed on us; the generations that brought us to the pivotal point of needing change. There is so much change that needs to happen and everyone needs to accept that and work towards a more sustainable future.