When it Comes to Climate-Change Adaptation, As Goes California, So Goes…the World




 

It's almost biblical: Apocalyptic images of fires sweeping through communities. The worst droughts in recorded history, followed by floods overwhelming dams and levees. Homeless encampments. Power outages for millions of people.

Is this the "end of California as we know it" and the result of a "failure to live sustainably" as New York Times opinion writer Farhad Manjoo suggested? Is the state "ungovernable" (the Economist) and a failed, "collapsing" experiment (Forbes)? Are we suffering the inevitable consequence, as some right-wing pundits have gloated, of a "series of foolish, unrealistic policy choices" (Rich Lowry, National Review) and democratic attempts at social engineering (Travis Allen, San Francisco Chronicle) ?

In another era, Joan Didion poetically described a future in California that "always looks good in the golden land, because no one remembers the past. Here is where the hot wind blows and the old ways do not seem relevant." That hot wind is still blowing, now spreading burning embers that threaten to consume us all. Californians remember the past only enough to understand how it has failed us and that it can no longer be a guide to our future. What we thought we understood about yesterday's climate, energy and water systems, housing, transportation, and education, no longer serves us.

But the idea that California's failures and challenges are unique is wrong. What's happening here offers all Americans a glimpse into the failures and challenges of the U.S. as a whole. California's worsening wildfires look a lot like the worsening hurricanes and flooding afflicting Florida and the rest of the Gulf Coast. The homeless problem in California is difficult and unsolved, but it's certainly not unique to the Golden State. America has never successfully tackled the shame of having deep poverty despite being the richest nation on the planet. California's hesitant and uncertain steps toward a zero-carbon-energy future are the same steps the whole planet must take to overturn and reverse the damaging legacy of 150 years of burning fossil fuels. The state's imperfect but real commitment to social and cultural inclusion isn't a fad or a whim but the only actions a truly just, equitable, democratic society can take.

How California chooses to respond to its problems will either be a guide to the rest of the country if it gets it right, or a cautionary tale if it fails. And it's not just about the little things, like banning straws or plastic bags. The state has also led the way in moving to more renewable energy, real cuts in greenhouse-gas emissions, the nation's best automobile standards, rapidly expanding electric car technology, and the restoration of rivers and natural ecosystems. These are all efforts that tend to threaten the existing political and corporate status quo; efforts that have made the state a target of Donald Trump's petty tweets and more substantive legal and regulatory assaults.

The good news is that California is an economic powerhouse-by some measures the world's fifth largest economy. The state is increasingly powered by one of the most racially, ethnically, and socially diverse population in the world-a strength, not a weakness. The fires will be put out, the power will go back on, and the debate about how to respond will continue.

When Mark Twain was visiting London in 1897, a rumor started that he had fallen ill and then died. To an inquiring reporter, he wrote "The report of my death was an exaggeration." Reports of the death of California, or its dream, are an exaggeration. Rather than signing a death certificate, or gloating about the worsening challenges California faces, the rest of the country and the world should start taking lessons from California: watch to see the challenges that arise, how the state responds, hope we succeed, and plan their own actions accordingly.

COMMENTS

More Related News

Man who poured bleach on food in California also struck stores in Arizona, AG says
Man who poured bleach on food in California also struck stores in Arizona, AG says
  • US
  • 2019-12-06 03:05:00Z

A man facing charges for dumping bleach on food and drinks at retail stores across California is in even more legal trouble - in another state.

California asks Trump administration to release money to fight homelessness
California asks Trump administration to release money to fight homelessness
  • US
  • 2019-12-06 02:20:01Z

In the latest skirmish over California's homeless crisis, the state's governor, Gavin Newsom, asked President Donald Trump on Thursday to stop withholding federal housing vouchers that could benefit 50,000 homeless people. Newsom told Trump he could "immediately order" the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to issue federal housing vouchers, a program to assist low-income families, the elderly and the disabled find affordable homes in the private market.

California bars insurers from dropping customers in fire-prone zones
California bars insurers from dropping customers in fire-prone zones

California state regulators on Thursday banned insurance companies from dropping customers who live in fire-prone areas, a move aimed at helping some 800,000 people across the state. The decision calls for a mandatory one-year moratorium on insurance companies refusing to renew policies in areas at high risk for wildfire. "This wildfire insurance crisis has been years in the making, but it is an emergency we must deal with now if we are going to keep the California dream of home ownership from becoming the California nightmare," Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara said in a statement.

'Atmospheric river' sweeps in behind bomb cyclone as heavy rains batter California, Arizona

As if last week's bomb cyclone wasn't enough, an "atmospheric river" began its assault Wednesday on parts of California and Arizona.

Powerful storm to slam West Coast with feet of snow, flooding rain late this week
Powerful storm to slam West Coast with feet of snow, flooding rain late this week

After one storm system wallops Southern California and Arizona with heavy rain and high-country snow through Wednesday night, a much larger storm is set to slam Central and Northern California with a wide array of impacts from Friday into Saturday.Although the center of the storm system will move ashore in Oregon later Saturday into Saturday night, the worst of the impacts will occur farther to the south.Heavy rain and gusty winds will target coastal areas from San Francisco northward into southern Oregon spanning Friday into Saturday, as well as the Central Valley's I-5 corridor from Sacramento to Redding. The foothills of the Sierra Nevada will also be hit hard with flooding...

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked with *

Cancel reply

Comments

Top News: Latin America