A week ago 800 fires in the north, from the redwood country south to San Francisco, had already destroyed 44,000 acres of forest. Most are still out of control. In southern California the Big Sur/Ventana valleys are burning. Mendocino County residents were warned to stay indoors and avoid exercise, because of air pollution by wildfires -- the result of what the Los Angeles Times called an "unusual weather pattern" with more than 8,000 lightning strikes.
A East Bay blogger says: “All of us folks streaming along the Interstate in our gas-guzzlers, complicit in climate change, had the results thrust right in our faces. Traffic slowed down by 15 mph... in awe at the smoke drifting over from Napa.” Air pollution is double or triple the amount considered safe by federal standards.
Firefighter Blog reports:
The State of California is in the midst of the worst wildfire crisis in modern state history. More than 900 wildland fires are burning, many unstaffed. Incident commanders are making do with skeleton crews
DailyKos correspondents say there are 300 vacant positions and a shortage of fire engines at the U.S. Forest Service, just one of many environmental rollbacks by the Bush administration. “The lack of preparedness by the federal government and the loss of readiness in the National Guard is unforgiveable”.
Three weeks ago, Governor Schwartzenegger declared a statewide water emergency after two years of drought. “This March, April and May have been the driest ever in our recorded history... As a result, some local governments are rationing water, developments can't proceed and agricultural fields are sitting idle. We must recognize the severity of the crisis we face." The underlying cause: man-made climate change, despite official denials by the federal government.
From Circle's Diary: Last Friday the Feds were acting like they had the fire-response situation in California under control. They said they'd start hiring more personel this coming week, ahead of schedule. He quotes David Helgarv: “We had a million environmental refugees as a result of Katrina.”
"Why aren't we talking about the environmental refugees here in our own country?" Circle asks. "When are we going to acknowledge that natural disasters are as big a threat as terrorism, indeed, if frequency is the measure, a bigger threat? We're seeing the impact of oil wars, but what will it look like when the wars are over water? It's not that far in the future, you know. Part of the reason California is burning is because of the terrible drought here. And already there's a struggle going on over water, and who is going to get what little there is. It's part of the reason the salmon aren't spawning and there isn't a season this year."
Meanwhile, stock marketeers triumphantly crow that unprecedented profits can be made from the water emergency.
Further Reading: Jared Diamond, Collapse; Naomi Klein, Disaster Capitalism; Bill McKibben, The End of Nature.