By Harold Rook
Ah, California…home to Hollywood, no longer the home for The Daily Wire, and to a Katie Perry song that can’t get out of my head. Sure, I may be at odds with some of the policies and ideas proposed by many of the politicians in the state. And yes, I may channel my inner Holden Caulfield and make fun of how phony it is that actors and actresses from California tend to lead political dialogue, which is almost exclusively to the left. Nonetheless, I have always found some charm to the Californian environment: the magnificence of its urban centers like San Francisco and San Diego, the tropical climate, and its wonderful beaches are all features I find naturally appealing. However, like a Tinder profile that includes the phrase “single mother,” there is a massive drawback to this enchanting atmosphere: wildfires. According to the California state government website on wildfires, nearly 3.6 million acres of land have been swallowed by flames this year, leading to 26 deaths and extensive property damage. Looking outside of a window in the Golden State reveals an orange sky filled with a combination of ash and soot. So, why is California currently like my mixtape?
Looking at the list of causes, there are several factors that can be examined as the culprit. One such factor that contributes to this is the presence of climate change. Wildfires in California are nothing new; the state has had wildfires come and go in the preceding decades, so much so that many of the ingidenous people would purposely set fires to clear out wooded areas seasonally. Unlike previous years, however, what sets these fires apart have been the consistent presence of heat waves in California during the summer months. This can best be seen when analyzing the increase in temperature in the Californian climate, which climbed by 1.8℉ since 1980. Accompanying this increased temperature is the absence of rain; according to Climatewire, the amount of rainfall and other forms of precipitation in California has decreased by 30%, owing much to increased industrialization and air pollution. Consequently, the environment within California has become increasingly dry and ready to ignite, the perfect powder keg for sudden wildfires.
Of course, it isn’t just climate change that has made this possible; climate change has only made starting forest fires easier, but these flames don’t light themselves often. Rather, human failures can be pointed to as the main facilitator for these fires. The United States Department of the Interior estimates that as much as 90% of all forest fires have some human origin, whether that be failure to put out a cigarette appropriately or negligently leaving campfires unattended. Compare this to the negligible amount of forest fires started by natural causes, such as by lightning, and it becomes obvious that human error can be seen as a direct cause. Some of the fires that have been a result of downright absurd causes thanks to mankind’s ability to find increasingly stupid ways of destroying itself. The best example of this can be found in the El Dorado Fire (currently only 60% contained), which was ignited as a result of using pyrotechnics for a gender reveal party, according to Reuters. Surprisingly, this isn’t the first time a gender reveal party has resulted in a blazing forest fire that resulted in thousands of acres of burnt land; in 2017, a gender reveal party sparked devastation to forests in Arizona. While I won’t take this time to stand on a soapbox like Trevor Noah and speak about how “gender reveal parties” are outdated or some such woke nonsense, I am stupefied that such irresponsible behavior can result in this much damage. I can only imagine what criminal charges the soon-to-be-parents are likely going to face.
A final factor that has influenced the growing spread of forest fires in California is the failure by the state government to manage these forests. Managing state forests has been allocated by California’s government into two main groups: park rangers, whose job is to manage the ecosystem via both conservation and prescribed burning, and the fire brigade, who addresses out of control fires. Signs of mismanagement came first through the increased reliance on the fire brigade to put out fires for fire suppression, seen through its increased budget. By contrast, the number of park rangers in California began to shrink to just 250 rangers, resulting in a decrease in biodiversity within forests. This, in turn, made it easier for fires to spread. Comparatively, when comparing this with more attentive private forestation programs–such as the My Sierra Woods Project–public parks have been more prone to these wildfires, indicating that the government of California has engaged in some degree of mismanagement.
And all this time, while we sit amongst ourselves discussing the causes of these fires, California burns. It would be foolish to deny the impact that factors such as climate change, human negligence, and state government mismanagement have played in perpetuating the blazes. However, the apocalyptic nightmare that is Burning California continues. California itself is a beautiful place, filled to the brim with a lush culture and wonderful environment. Until then, it’s best to swipe left on California.