The worst wildfire season in West Coast history is torching millions of acres across multiple states and Californians are facing the prospect that the Golden State's golden days are permanently over.
This is the latest iteration of the California Dream, a Gold Rush-era slogan meant to capture the hopeful migration of an old nation to a new, rich West. For generations, the tacit agreement for California residents resembled a kind of too-good-to-be-true deal. Live in the lovely if often drought-plagued Sierra, or beneath the beachfront Pacific Coast cliffs, and work in an economy constantly reinventing itself, from Hollywood to the farms of the San Joaquin to Silicon Valley.
But for many of the state’s 40 million residents, the California Dream has become the California Compromise, one increasingly challenging to justify, with a rapidly changing climate, a thumb-on-the-scales economy, high taxes and a pandemic that has led to more cases of the novel coronavirus than any other state.
During the course of his term, President Trump has singled out California, a state he lost by 30 percentage points, as an example of Democrat-caused urban unrest, irresponsible immigration policy and poor forest management, even though nearly 60 percent of the state’s forests are managed by the federal government. Several are burning today, with millions of acres already scorched.
Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) has responded specifically in some cases, but in others, he has invoked the California Dream, an aspirational noun attached to no other state. In his January 2019 inaugural address, Newsom warned that “there is nothing inevitable about” that dream.
“And now more than ever, it is up to us to defend it,” he said.
As the state’s climate has shifted to one of extremes, soaking wet seasons followed suddenly by sharp, dry heat and wind, no region has been safe from fire. This year — even before peak fire season has gotten underway — widespread fires have forced evacuations, from San Jose in Silicon Valley to the distant hamlet of Big Creek along the western slopes of the Sierra.
More than two dozen major fires are burning around the state and have consumed a record 3.1 million acres of land, more than 3,000 homes and at least 22 lives. Los Angeles has reported the worst air quality in three decades as a result of fires surrounding that city, already notorious for orange air and seasonal dry cough.
Wine Country has burned four straight years, with a number of vineyards lost. Homes have been destroyed far to the south in San Diego County, and more than 200 campers had to be airlifted to safety amid the Creek Fire, still burning hot and fast between Fresno and Mammoth Lakes.
The mountains behind Santa Barbara County, which gave way after being burned bare by the Thomas Fire three years ago, have turned a worrisome gray-brown tinder in recent weeks.
Those slopes, prepared by one of the state’s largest fires in history at the time, slid during rain-saturated mudslides in January 2018. Twenty people were killed in the wealthy enclave of Montecito, sweeping some from inside their foothill homes all the way to the sea.
The mandatory evacuation orders issued then included the home recently bought by Prince Harry and Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, newcomers to Santa Barbara’s shifting climate.
“Hopefully, this is a wake-up call,” said Anne-Marie Bonneau, who two decades ago left her home in Ontario, Canada, for the Bay Area but misses the clean air and less-fractious political environment beyond the northern border. “What is it going to take for this country to do something about the climate crisis? Millions of people are affected by this.”
She sees what is happening in California as just the beginning of what is to come across the continent.
The Trump regime's response? Climate change doesn't exist, and California can go extinguish itself.
David Legates, a University of Delaware professor of climatology who has spent much of his career questioning basic tenets of climate science, has been hired for a top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Legates confirmed to NPR that he was recently hired as NOAA's deputy assistant secretary of commerce for observation and prediction. The position suggests that he reports directly to Neil Jacobs, the acting head of the agency that is in charge of the federal government's sprawling weather and climate prediction work.
Neither Legates nor NOAA representatives responded to questions about Legates' specific responsibilities or why he was hired. The White House also declined to comment.
Legates has a long history of using his position as an academic scientist to publicly cast doubt on climate science. His appointment to NOAA comes as Americans face profound threats stoked by climate change, from the vast, deadly wildfires in the West to an unusually active hurricane season in the South and East.
A second Trump term will continue to make the effects of climate change worse as the regime will actively pollute more, burn more carbon, and spend less money on mitigation and prevention. Ironically, it's rural Trump voters who operate farms and ranches who will be the hardest hit, but they've already shown they will vote for him even as he continues to destroy their livelihoods.
It's a death cult, and we're all going to be put to the torch.