California Governor States That “This Is The New Abnormal”, It Will Get Worse, And We Will “Need To Invest More And More In Adaptation”

NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey, and MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.

November 12, 2018
CS Sherin

As the terrifying effects of wildfires fueled by merciless and ongoing winds in California are happening now, I am struck by what I included in my blog post from last week about California:

“”Here in the US, California produces more than 1/3 of our vegetables, and 2/3 of our fruits and nuts. That means that 80% of all water used in California is for that produce. The average American consumes more than 300 gallons of California water” weekly, by eating the produce. With California experiencing droughts and wild fires, farming is anything but predictable there.”

If we depend that much on one state for food and water, and that state continues to face greater and greater hardships, the chain of consequences will be felt throughout the country. These facts further highlight the quite serious consequences we are only beginning to have to deal with due to damages to our ecosystems and natural resources. If we needed any more impetus to begin really changing our fundamental approaches to environment, resources, and health–I don’t know what it would be.

My heart goes out to all the people dealing with the trauma and devastation of the wildfires in California. With every tragedy and hardship, our planet becomes smaller as our need for interdependence and better and healthier systems for all becomes obvious. Whether it is wildfires, floods, hurricanes, drought, pollution, or violence–these challenges belong to all of us.

At a televised press conference on November 11th, Governor of California, Jerry Brown took the opportunity to make a crucial statement and plea for going forward:

This is not the new normal. This is the new abnormal. And this new abnormal will continue…certainly in the next 10-15-20 years. Unfortunately, the best science is telling us is that dryness, warmth, drought–all those things are going to intensify. Predictions by some scientists: we’ve already gone up by one degree, I think we can expect a half degree rise, which is catastrophic, over the next 10-12 years. We have a real challenge here, threatening our whole way of life. We need to pull together….and we are going to need to invest more and more in adaptation….So we’ve got lots of work to do. It is a time of sadness, but also one to reflect on where we are, and this resolve to pull together to do everything we can to help those in need, and to take the steps to minimize and mitigate the damage that’s so obvious….we’re dealing with existential conditions that, once they take off, the certain amount of dryness in the vegetation and the soil and the air and the winds get up 50, 60 miles an hour — this is what happens….we have to keep understanding it better, but we’re in a new abnormal. And things like this will be part of our future… things like this and worse.That’s why it’s so important that we take steps to help communities, to do prevention, and then adaptation to the extent we can…some of that’s forest management, vegetation management, but even with all that, you must have escape routes, and ways to identify people and to notify them. So we’re trying all that, but we’re getting caught up here in a changed world that not so many people were aware of or thinking about. So I’d say people are doing the best they can, but it’s not good enough and we’re going to have to do a lot more.”

“The new abnormal”, the “need to invest more and more in adaptation”, and “a changed world that not so many people were thinking about” are the big truths that stand out to me as statements to hold on to, and actively live with. These statements are true and applicable to everything we face related to environmental pollution and destruction as well as the structures we have continued to live within.

The news conference went on to state that investigators in California are dedicated to painstaking study in order to accurately determine and eliminate causes of the fires. They stated that there will be no release of an official statement on the cause until they are completely certain–time not being a factor over accuracy. They did say that forest management is a part of the consideration, but not even near to the whole of it.

Causes of fires in California, in general, like last year, have been due to drought, dryness, heat, and wind–combined with sources for fire like: lightning, power lines, and human activity. There have always been fires in California, however, the intensity and increased destruction have only been occurring in recent times:

“California’s fire record dates back to 1932; of the 10 largest fires since then, nine have occurred since 2000, five since 2010…” ~ Kendra Pierre-Louis

The new abnormal is important wording, considering all of this.

This isn’t normal, and we can’t get used to it. Professionals who work in an emergency room, for example, are aware of the fact that what they see on a day-to-day basis isn’t normal, it is unusual and abnormal. That is an essential frame of reference in order to maintain mental health and critical thinking in stressful conditions. I am hoping that the majority of us will heed these warnings and pleas for action, in time.


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