For generations — maybe since the gold rush — California has been where our dreams gather, the Elysian coast where palm trees sway in the ocean breeze and entire industries rise to sate our fantasies and our appetites. A bite of an orange is endless summer.
Now, in this scariest of seasons, California is also where our nightmares collect. At the moment, the largest fire in the state’s history burns out of control; Yosemite Valley is closed indefinitely because flames lick at its access roads; and Death Valley has just registered, for the second straight year, the hottest month in American history. Meteorologists are scrambling to make sense of a so-called fire tornado that lifted 39,000 feet from the fire that burned near the edges of the city of Redding, twirling for more than an hour and stripping the bark from trees.
Ever since a record drought began near the start of the decade, a mild dread has hung over the state; now, you can see the smoke from San Diegoto Lake Tahoe. Even the Pacific offers less relief — ocean temperatures are at a record high, and in any event, a federal government analysis last year warned that up to two-thirds of the state’s southern beaches may disappear as the sea rises this century.
Like in most places, California’s troubles are made more acute by Washington’s descent into ideological delusions. President Trump is trying to revoke the state’s longtime authority to regulate automobile emissions within its borders even as he tweets nonsensically about the region’s hydrology. MORE
By Bill McKibben
Image by Mikey Burton