Here’s Why California Is Burning

Tracy Barbutes/ZUMA

Facts matter: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter. Support our nonprofit reporting. Subscribe to our print magazine.

In case you’re not interested in 2,000 words on the subject, here’s the tl;dr version:

  1. Climate change has made the weather hotter, which creates lots of dry, brittle undergrowth that makes perfect tinder for wildfires.
  2. In the past, fires settled down a bit at night when temps went down. Now, thanks to higher nighttime temperatures, they just keep spreading.
  3. For the past several decades the timber industry has clear-cut California forests and replaced them with dense new plantings. These new “forests” have no natural firebreaks to stop fires from spreading at warp speed.
  4. The local power company, PG&E, is unusually greedy and has refused to spend the money necessary to clear trees from around its power lines. Every stray spark from a PG&E line is a potential fire starter.

There’s more, including a history of misguided fire suppression policies, but these are the basics. There’s not a lot that can be done about climate change in the short term, but we could certainly stop the clear-cutting; adopt better forest management; and force PG&E to follow the law. That would go a long way toward gradually reducing the fuel load and cutting back on fires started by power lines.

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

THE END...

of our fiscal year is Thursday, June 30, and we have a much larger fundraising gap than we can easily manage with only days left to go.

Right now is no time to come up short: If you value the hard-hitting, democracy-protecting, justice-advancing journalism you get from Mother Jones, please help us keep charging as hard as we possibly can with a much-needed and much-appreciated donation today.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate