Harlan Crawford is a freshman politics major.
As a born and raised Los Angelenian, our recent wildfires have justifiably frightened and caused panic for many. However, it’s crucial that we use this fear to fuel stronger efforts to prevent fires from worsening, through both local government action and broader education on why these fires happen in the first place. While it’s impossible to completely prevent our wildfires, it is imperative we educate ourselves about the root of the problem — climate change. Ultimately, California’s approach to wildfire management has been characterized by hypocrisy.
We must hold our elected officials accountable when they say one thing and do another. With the 2020 election rapidly approaching, we must keep climate policy as a key factor in who we entrust to govern our districts, states, and our nation as a whole. Climate change is a massive threat to our planet. With this in mind, the evident reality is that we do not have time to waste on ineffective action in California if we hope to preserve our state and the larger planet for future generations.
Even though I’m lucky to live in California, I’ve always felt ashamed of our unsuccessful actions toward combating the climate crisis when, every September, our fire season worsens. The fire season of 2020 has by far been the worst, as fire and climate experts alike have begun to label this one as the worst in decades. For years, particularly the past few years under President Donald Trump, better forest management has been proposed to combat this, but that alone will not solve the problem at hand without serious climate action happening simultaneously. Another solution that has failed over time is former Governor Jerry Brown’s high-speed rail project, which was intended to bring forth cleaner forms of transportation and a decreased dependency on polluting automobiles. Long term, this project has been labeled one of the biggest state policy failures in state history, while also being deemed a financial disaster.
In order to prevent these ineffective policies from continuing to persist in our state, one thing we can do is make sure we properly hold our elected officials accountable for their actions, which is something that we haven’t been doing enough in the status quo. An example of this can be seen with Gov. Gavin Newsom, where despite the fact that he has delivered inflamed remarks regarding climate change’s link to these wildfires, his actions have in no way mirrored this.
For example, since the beginning of the year, oil and gas drilling permits have jumped by more than 190% under his watch, along with 48 new permits for hydraulic fracking being handed out as well. This hypocrisy from the governor is especially frustrating, as the prices for cleaner renewable energy has seen a substantial decline, which displays a promising solution for the future of our planet. Despite this, the leader of the state continues to side with the corrupt, climate-denying machine that is the fossil fuel industry, which is no way acceptable, as the energy supplied by this industry has become a driving force for climate change’s most disastrous impacts. Our planet cannot survive the fossil fuel industry as these fires have displayed, and yet we continue to ignore cleaner, cheaper forms of energy that will save our planet from these catastrophes.
Wildfires have plagued the coast for years as a side effect of our extractive agricultural practices, but, in response, all I’ve seen is contradictory action and empty promises that have done nothing to ensure that my fellow Californians and myself will have a fair shot at avoiding an evacuation warning each year. Although it is thought of as one of the most environmentally-conscious states, California has become a playground for the ultra-wealthy who are largely able to circumvent wildfires and climate change’s most disastrous effects by moving to their houses in other states and garnering other advantageous deriving from their vast reserves of wealth and yet everyday Californians continue to grapple with polluted air, a lack of healthcare raging fires, and a deadly pandemic. I struggle with a confusing mixture of pride and envy for my hometown of LA while Hollywood Boulevard and raging wildfires coexist.
We must fight for climate justice like our life depends on it, because it does. The wildfires in California have undoubtedly been frightening and devastating, but what’s worse is our state not taking effective and serious action. We have the tools to fight our reality by going out to vote in November to ensure responsible, environment-conscious leaders are put in charge of combatting this crisis.