Greenville burns as the Climate Crisis Rages Around the World

Listen to this article

Top photo of the King Tide by Tim Forkes

The Dixie Fire in Northern California, Plumas County in particular, burned down an historic town and it barely made a blip in the news. Compared to the coverage Paradise received when that town was burned to the ground in 2018 — rightly so, by the way — the total destruction of the historic mining town of Greenville hardly got a mention.

The loss of Greenville was noted by nearly every news outlet, but most people in California would need to hear or read more information to know what we’re talking about if the subject of Greenville, California came up. You can read a little about it on Wikipedia.

It’s a small town with just over 1,100 residents who, through no fault of their own, are now homeless. “Well, they have someplace to go.” Umm, yeah, but they lost their homes, everything really. Decades, generations of memories and history, gone in just two hours.

This is a heavily Republican district of California, but that doesn’t matter. These are human beings, forced out of their homes when a pandemic is raging.

The Dixie Fire started when a tree fell on a power line causing sparks that ignited the brush and trees. The fire quickly spread up the Feather River Canyon, burning the town of Canyondam, population 31 before the fire. The Dixie Fire is now the largest single source wild fire in California history, at (as of this writing) 446,723 acres burned. It is 20% contained, which is good news.

Greenville, by the way, is just over 77 miles northeast of what is left of Paradise.

I bring that up because when Paradise burned to the ground three years ago people wanted to know why anyone would build homes and businesses in a place that was prone to wild fires. Well, that area wasn’t prone to wild fires before this 20-plus year drought hit California, a drought that is the result of the climate crisis.

Both Paradise and Greenville are located in or near the Cascade Range, the mountainous area where they should be getting lots of moisture, melting snow pack in the spring and generally a low risk of fire area. But look around the state — all over the west — and every reservoir and lake is experiencing extremely low levels not seen since the Great Depression era, when many of the dams were built. California, like all the states that border it, is in a severe climate crisis. Which explains the top photo of this piece. That’s from the King Tides of 2015 when the ocean was swallowing up every beach on the West Coast. The Pacific Ocean covered the entire beach (La Jolla Shores), reaching all the way to the sea wall. It was big news then, but now it’s common place every winter when the seasonal storms whip up much bigger waves that, when coupled with stronger gravitational pull created by the moon, make short work of man-made structures and carefully groomed public beaches.

If you’re living in a state like Wisconsin that is governed by a lot of climate crisis deniers, you might be wondering, “What does the climate have to do with me?”

The Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources wrote this in their statement about the effect of the climate crisis on the state: “Climate change’s impacts on public health and safety are primary concerns for all communities. As the state has seen in recent years, more intense and frequent heavy rains due to climate change can result in flooding, eroding soil and coastlines, washing out roads and bridges, breaking dams, overwhelming sewers and wastewater treatment plants and causing greater algae blooms, bodily harm and illness. Increased frequencies of extreme heat due to climate change can cause heatstroke and exacerbate chronic illnesses, such as asthma, cardiovascular diseases and diabetes.”

They also said, in regards to one of Wisconsin’s biggest industries, “Climate change impacts the habitat and survivability of many plants, wildlife and fish and is a threat to the state’s $2 billion a year fishing industry. Different fish species have different temperature requirements for feeding, growth, reproduction and survivability. Rising water temperatures in streams and lakes due to increasing air temperatures will favor warm-water species like Largemouth Bass and Bluegill over cool-water species like Walleye and Northern Pike and cold-water species like Brown Trout and Brook Trout. Wisconsin has destination fisheries for trout in the coulee streams of the Driftless Area, forested streams of the northeast, and tributaries of the Great Lakes. If summer temperatures do rise as expected, scientists project that by 2050 trout habitat in streams will decline across the state by 32 percent for Brown Trout and by 68 percent for Brook Trout.”

You like fishing in Wisconsin?

Their statement doesn’t go into great details, it’s designed to be a quick read for lay people not accustomed to heavy scientific text, so it is worth reading.

We could do the same for every state and territory in the United States. Florida — all the Gulf Coast states — plus the territories in the Caribbean Sea have been brutalized by extreme hurricanes. Hawaii, Guam and the other U.S. territories in the Pacific Ocean see the sea level rise eating up their land. In fact, the Marshall Islands atolls where the government has tried to hide its years of testing nuclear weapons are under threat from rising waters and, to no one’s surprise, neglect after 60-plus years. A few years ago the Los Angeles Times reported that the Runit Dome, known by the locals as “The Tomb,” was in danger of being over taken by the ocean.

The Runit Dome was built in the early 1970s and contains 3.1 million cubic feet of nuclear waste and even without the rising seas has become a hazard. There are cracks in cement, which could be leaking radioactive material — oh wait, a 1981 Pentagon report stated the Runit Dome, which is an unlined crater covered by 18 inches of cement, was leaking radioactive material and would continue to do so.

What a fucking nightmare.

All you people excited about nuclear energy, please answer these questions: What do we do with all that nuclear waste? How do we prevent the next Fukushima disaster? “Oh, but that was Japan, Dude.” Um, dude, in less than a year the West Coast began detecting radioactive material from the Fukushima disaster. These catastrophes know no geopolitical boundaries. They know currents and tides. Same with the Bikini Atolls, where the Runit Dome is located and leaking radioactive material.

The science on the climate crisis — and the sixth mass extinction — is settled. In fact scientists say this mass extinction is happening much faster than expected and it’s entirely the fault of human activity. Between 2001-2014 173 species went extinct around the globe. That’s 25 times faster than expected, according to scientists.

Much of what has happened is irreversible. And now we have to work on slowing down the climate change and then finding ways to adapt to the changes that have become — and will become — permanent. Like the tens of millions of refugees that have been forced from their homes. Many of them will never be able to return to their homes because the land no longer exists, or it has become uninhabitable.

From the West Coast to Colorado we will have to find new ways to live with and fight wild fires because they are not only yearly events, the fire season now last 365 days a year. We can’t go on as if this isn’t happening. We are deep in the climate crisis and the sixth mass extinction. There is no going back to the way it was.

The ubiquitous “They” say everything happens for a reason and in this case, the current crisis happened almost 100% because of human activity. The burning of fossil fuels that have polluted and destroyed the atmosphere, causing global warming, which has warmed the oceans destroying reefs and other marine life. Loss of habitat for the other living creatures, not to mention unfettered poaching of endangered creatures. Sharks are in peril, along with elephants, rhinoceros, tigers and too many others.

The destruction of rainforests to make room to grow more beef for our burgers. We once referred to the Amazon Jungles as the lungs of the planet. Now those lungs, and those in Southern Asia, are in danger of going away permanently and Brazil, which holds a large portion of the Amazon rainforest, is run by a guy that is dumber and more corrupt than Donald Trump. But, he could be impeached soon.

As the United States we have to clean our own house and start pressuring the rest of the planet, through the United Nations, NATO and other alliances, to do the same. And we have to do it all at the same time. We cannot wait.

Our differences with Iran, Russia, Syria and so many other nations are petty compared to the climate crisis. Every country, including Afghanistan and the Middle East, are going to suffer permanent harm from the climate crisis. They most likely already are, but we don’t hear or read about it because we are consumed by the geopolitical turmoil that dominates the news.

The Biden Agenda, through the two infrastructure bills, is making a small start, but it isn’t nearly enough. President Biden has even acknowledged that, maybe in an effort to mollify the vocal progressive wing of his own party. Maybe Kamala Harris, his VEEP, can help push him and the so-called moderates of the Democratic Party to do a lot more and get rid of the filibuster, or at least modify it to create real policies to mitigate this crisis.

Call me a dreamer, but there are enough people in both houses of Congress that want to make substantial changes to our economy and infrastructure to slow down global warming. We have past several tipping points and now it isn’t a matter of when we will have to adapt, it is a question of how fast can we adapt to our new normal?

The house is literally burning down for too many Americans — and Europeans for that matter. Have you seen the news from Turkey and Greece? And Germany with its floods?

We are not going to escape, none of us. Not even the billionaires with their space programs. Where are they going to go? Mars? As noted astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson said, and I’m paraphrasing, “If we can afford to colonize another planet then we can afford to fix Earth and make it livable.” Or something like that. I couldn’t find the quote. I even checked his Facebook page. Maybe he didn’t say something like that but it rings true. We need to start making the effort, financially, to fix our planet. The lives of the younger generations depend on it.

The next Paradise and Greenville is just around the corner.