This week began feeling like a failure, but ended with hope for humanity.
Yesterday, I finally gave in to the San Francisco public health warnings and purchased a respirator mask. For days, the air quality index has been hovering above 180, or in the “Unhealthy” range. It wasn’t even this bad when the Napa and Sonoma fires of 2017 blanketed the city with smoke.
These respirators represent a grim future I fear already is here — one in which breathing masks are the norm. I imagine a dystopian world where my grown up niece and nephews will consider shopping for the latest fashionable respirator as mundane as I might shop for shoes today.
As you’ve probably heard, my home state of California is on fire… again. The Camp Fire has taken the crown from the extreme fires I wrote about this summer as the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California history. It has annihilated several communities in the Sierra Nevada foothills, including Paradise and Concow. Other towns, such as Magalia, Centerville, Pulga and Yankee Hill, have all been devastated by the flames. As of this writing, 56 people have died from the fire and 8,817 structures have been destroyed. Hundreds are still missing. Meanwhile, the Woolsey Fire and the Hill Fires are raging in Southern California.
In all my life, I’d never seen anything like it. From where I stood in the mountains above Tahoe City, there should’ve been a breathtaking view of Lake Tahoe, but today all I could see was something that looked like what could’ve been Karl the Fog’s evil twin. This was in stark contrast to the clear blue skies I’d seen there a month earlier. The smoky haze blanketed the sky for as far as the eye could see — which wasn’t far.
I was struck by the fact that I could see such smoke even hundreds of miles from the Carr, Ferguson or the Mendocino Complex fires. That really showed the sheer scale of the blazes. Climate change incarnate, I thought.
That was last week — and the California wildfires continue to burn out of control. But while even as everyone seems to agree that this situation completely sucks, many Republicans continue to purport false narratives which deflect blame away from climate and onto environmentalists. According to President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, it’s those doggone tree-hugging-and-avocado-toast-loving liberals in California who are oppressing lumberjacks and hard working American farmers.