Wildfires and Climate Change

            Over the past 15 to 20 years, there has been a noticeable uptick in wildfires globally. Just here in the United States, it seems fire season has become a year-round thing. The Australian wildfires of 2019-2020 burned over 46 million acres and were declared one of the world’s worst wildlife disasters in modern history. In 2018 the Attica fire of Greece claimed the life of 102 people, making it the second most deadly wildfire of the 21st century.

Google Images
Google Images

Climate Change and Wildfires

            Climate change has had a massive impact on the number of wildfires we see worldwide. These fires are more prevalent in areas experiencing drought and dry conditions brought on by climate change. The drought conditions dry the organic material in the forest to a point to favor fire conditions, then all that is needed is an event that creates dry lightning or high winds down a powerline in dry brush. The next thing that happens is millions of acres burn, wildlife is displaced or killed, and people have lost their homes and potentially their lives.

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Living with Climate Change and The Wildfire Threat

            Until a substantial effort worldwide is put into combating climate change, it seems the wildfire threat will continue. This manageable threat will result in higher insurance and building cost for everyone. The following points should be considered when living in a world plagued by wildfire threats.

  • Discouraging developments (especially residential) near fire-prone forests through smart zoning rules.
  • Increasing the space between structures and nearby trees and brush, and clearing space between neighboring houses
  • Incorporating fire-resistant design features and materials in building
  • Increasing resources allocated to firefighting and fire prevention.
  • Removing fuels, such as dead trees, from forests that are at risk.
  • Developing recovery plans before a fire hits and implementing plans quickly after a fire to reduce erosion, limit flooding, and minimize habitat damage.
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A Call to Address the Issue

We as citizens need to take climate change and wildfire threats seriously. We may say to ourselves, “It’s not affecting the area we live in.” Yet it is or soon will be with rising insurance costs and taxes to combat the issue. Also, you never know when the weather may shift, and the area you reside in will experience a long-term drought and become a tinder box ready to ignite. We should hold our elected officials’ feet to the fire and tell them we want the climate issues in our world addressed. This is an issue that will eventually affect us all and making our planet a livable place for all is everyone’s responsibility.

Urban Oil Drilling and Neighborhood Refineries

            I live on the east coast of the United States in a rural area. In this area, mineral companies mine for kaolin, a white clay. These mines are located out in the woods, nowhere near a neighborhood. The other night I was browsing the internet and found a story on urban oil drilling rigs. I thought to myself, “That’s insane.” After a lot of investigating, I found this practice to be very prevalent in southern California. Los Angeles has the largest concentration of urban oilfields in the country. It’s not only drilled right in the middle of neighborhoods but also refined there as well. People can walk out of their house and look one way to see a drilling rig pumping crude oil out of the ground; then the other way to see the refinery that turns the crude oil into gasoline.

image taken from google images

            Over 53,000 people live in the Wilmington neighborhood in Los Angeles’ 15th district, most of which are Latino. The most extensive oil refinery infrastructure on the west coast is here. Affected by5 major oil refineries, 3 of which are in the Wilmington neighborhood, there are 479 active oil wells and 154 idle wells. There are oil wells next to hospitals and even in church parking lots.

image taken from google images

            Studies have shown the air quality in Wilmington to be at dangerous levels for its citizens at times. Some studies have measured air particulate matter as high as 76 parts per million. Anything above 30 parts per million is harmful to human health. Many suspect that exposure to smoke and soot from these refineries has caused adverse health effects in the community ranging from headaches to cancer. There are many dangerous chemicals used in the refining process that can get into the atmosphere, like methanol, hydrofluoric acid, crystalline silica, and formaldehyde, to name a few.

image taken from google images

            By contributing large sums of money to the community, the oil companies get some community members and leaders to look the other way from the havoc they are creating. With a wink and a nod, they contribute to schools, community projects, and recreational programs while knowingly poisoning the community. Some young activists are beginning to organize though and demand change. Communities for a Better Environment is one of those organizations. They are rallying young people to address these issues and hold their community leaders and these oil companies accountable. They have proposed an ordinance to the Los Angeles City Council to restrict any new oil-related facilities within 2500 feet of areas like neighborhoods, churches, schools, and hospitals.

            I have argued so many times that society needs to cut its dependence on oil. It is an archaic, inefficient, and environmentally unsafe path for humans to continue down. It gives me hope to know those young people are taking up the cause in their community to make it cleaner and safer. Maybe in my lifetime, I’ll get to see the world end its dependence on oil.