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California wildfire chaos wrecks lives

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In California, the mansions of the rich are better protected against climate catastrophe than ordinary people. Changing that means challenging the logic of profit, writes Sarah Bates
Issue 2679
Flame retardant is dropped on a Californian mountain (Pic: Senior Master Sgt. Dennis W. Goff/

Climate catastrophe ripped through California in the United States last week, as more than a dozen ­wildfires burned.

The Kincade Fire—the largest blaze—has burned since 23 October, and destroyed an area equivalent to about 80,000 football fields.

New blazes were ­appearing quicker than ­firefighters could put them out at the start of this week.

In some areas, people have been left without power for days and hundreds of homes have been destroyed.

President Donald Trump has responded to the crisis by threatening to withdraw federal funding for tackling the fires.

The National Weather Service last week issued evacuation orders and an “extreme red flag warning”—a category never used before 29 October.


This means that the growth and behaviour of the fire are extremely dangerous.

Wildfires have become more frequent and extreme in the US, and climate change is to blame.

Global warming causes vegetation to dry out and become more flammable. And extended periods of drought make fires more likely.

A study published in April in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal argued that huge wildfires are possible in any year. It said global heating and other factors mean that a wet winter will no longer prevent wildfires.

Some authorities are adopting a novel approach to fire prevention.

In Los Angeles, a herd of 500 goats was credited for protecting the Ronald Reagan library from fire.


The goats were employed to munch at flammable ­material around the building.

This reduced the risk of it being engulfed when fires began.

Meanwhile in California, the mansions and swimming pools of the rich are better protected against climate chaos than ordinary people.

Public services are stretched to breaking point.

A report released in October showed how emergency services were unprepared for destruction and mass evacuations in the wake of the huge Woolsey Fire last year.

It warned that future tragedies could be even worse.

Fighting climate and ­ecological disaster will mean fighting the logic of profit.

A chance to do that comes on Friday 29 November, the day of the next global school students’ strike.

Join Election Rebellion

Extinction Rebellion (XR) has declared an “Election Rebellion”.

“This general election, XR and those that care about the climate and ecological emergency will do everything they can to ensure that this very real emergency is the defining issue,” it said.

The group promised “creative, powerful, funny and imaginative acts of peaceful rebellion”.

It encouraged activists to demand their MPs support the “Climate and Ecological Emergency Bill” proposed by XR, which incorporates the group’s three demands.

A survey last week showed the climate crisis will influence a majority of voters in the coming election—with the proportion rising to 74 percent for under 25s.

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