Wildfires continue to ravage California, as seen here in San Francisco. Image provided by Creative Commons.

It is common knowledge nowadays that California is prone to wildfires, and within the last few years fires have been a large concern for many residents. As a consumer or an individual, it may seem as though this problem is out of the hands of the public. However, there is still time to turn things around for California, albeit not much.

As of Oct. 13, 2021 there are 11 active fires burning in California as reported by the Cal Fire government website. Although some fires of interest are almost completely contained, many are still ravaging the state. The Dixie Fire being the most destructive over the last month, which has burned through over 963,309 acres of land, making it the 2nd most destructive wildfire in California’s history. The fire is still currently active and was reported to be 94% contained on Oct. 13, 2021.

The KNP Complex fire is currently threatening the Sequoias, one of California’s most popular natural wonders. The fire is only 40% contained and has burned through nearly 88,000 acres as of Oct. 13, 2021.

The Department of Justice says 80% of California’s land is made up of forests and rangelands. Wildfires thrive in areas that are densely populated by dry trees and foliage, making California a hotspot during the warmer months. According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, a large portion of the state is experiencing an “exceptional drought”, which makes wildfires all the more dangerous and destructive when they do inevitably happen.

Life as California residents know it could be changing very soon if change is not enacted quickly. Although President Biden is already paying agricultural workers to refrain from farming in an effort to significantly reduce or eliminate greenhouse emissions by the year 2030, there is still much work to be done surrounding climate change considering some California cities are already running out of water.

Gavin Newsom declared a state of emergency in 3 counties as a result of severe drought conditions on May 10, 2021. However, Los Angeles County was not included despite the fact that the county is considered to be experiencing a severe drought. Because there is no sense of urgency pertaining to the water crisis in LA County, residents are expected to abide by the loosely enforced statewide water restrictions which have proven to be less than effective.

Californians are already being affected by climate change and researchers are sure that conditions are only going to get worse. “In LA County, hotter, longer heat waves caused by climate change are one of the major threats to the health and wellbeing of our communities,” the LA Department of Public Health warns. The UCLA Center for Climate Science predicts the number of days LA experiences extreme heat will go from ~60 days to ~100 days within the next 20 years if no effort is made to blunt the damage being done to the environment. Los Angeles is also a coastal city, which means rapidly rising sea levels as a result of climate change poses an imminent threat to the county. Public and private property damage, economic strain, flooding, toxic contamination and inability to access clean drinking water are all possibilities for LA residents if nothing is done about the environment soon.

The future of California, and specifically Los Angeles, lies with lawmakers and large corporations for the most part. The consumer has the power to make small changes that could impact their community, but at the end of the day large companies are responsible for the bulk of the damage. According to the NRDC, 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all industrial emissions. This means that even if the general public steps up and stops buying single-use plastics, driving gas cars, using less water, etc. there is still going to be a climate crisis if large corporations continue business as usual. It’s time to start putting pressure on both companies and consumers because the clock is ticking and soon the damage done will be irreversible.

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