Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Dear Common Dreams Readers:
Corporations and billionaires have their own media. Shouldn't we? When you “follow the money” that funds our independent journalism, it all leads back to this: people like you. Our supporters are what allows us to produce journalism in the public interest that is beholden only to people, our planet, and the common good. Please support our Mid-Year Campaign so that we always have a newsroom for the people that is funded by the people. Thank you for your support. --Jon Queally, managing editor

Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Without your help, we won’t survive.

We’re going to end up spending money either way: whether we pay to develop non-polluting energy sources, restore forests, and take other steps to prevent catastrophic climate change, or whether we don’t, and then we have to pay for the consequences. (Photo: Shutterstock)

We’re going to end up spending money either way: whether we pay to develop non-polluting energy sources, restore forests, and take other steps to prevent catastrophic climate change, or whether we don’t, and then we have to pay for the consequences. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Here Out West, ‘Smoke Season’ Keeps Getting Worse

Addressing climate change costs money. Wildfires gobbling up our country — and seas swallowing up our shores — costs more

Jill Richardson

 by OtherWords

Right now, much of the west is affected by wildfires.

An unlucky minority will have to evacuate their homes, and some will lose their homes altogether — or even their lives. But for millions more across the west, “smoke season” is a real thing.

Vast swaths of the west can be covered in smoke for extended periods, and inhaling the fine particles in the smoke is deleterious to one’s health.

This year, fires resulted in the closing of Yosemite National Park and part of Glacier National Park. The Ferguson Fire in Yosemite is just one of many recent fires within the park, including the enormous Rim Fire in 2013, the fifth largest fire in California history.

As a Californian, fires are a regular part of life.

The Cedar Fire of 2003 in San Diego was so massive that the smoke interfered with air traffic. I canceled a backpacking trip in 2015 due to the Rough Fire in King’s Canyon National Park.

I went on a road trip that summer and the sky was hazy with smoke in Utah, Idaho, Wyoming, and Colorado. I was told the smoke came from fires in Washington.

In 2016, I spent a few weeks staying with a friend in rural San Diego County. I loved the area, and thought I might like to live there. Then, I thought, “This place looks like it could go up in smoke.” Within the month, it did. The aptly named Border Fire broke out in Campo, and my friend had to evacuate.

All of that is nothing compared to what a friend went through last summer in Montana. She and her family (including a toddler) were cooped up in their home for ages, trying to avoid inhaling the smoke. She had to install air filters to attempt to keep at least the indoor air clean.

As the effects of climate change get worse, they’re also going to get more costly — in dollars, lives, and in quality of life. It would be far cheaper to prevent and mitigate the climate crisis.

The increase in wildfires is linked to the climate crisis.

The equation is simple. When it’s hotter outside, water evaporates faster, so the “fuel” (trees, vegetation) is drier and more flammable. The many trees killed by drought and bark beetles also contribute to the dryness of the fuel.

As the effects of climate change get worse, they’re also going to get more costly — in dollars, lives, and in quality of life. It would be far cheaper to prevent and mitigate the climate crisis.

Cheaper and better.

We’re going to end up spending money either way: whether we pay to develop non-polluting energy sources, restore forests, and take other steps to prevent catastrophic climate change, or whether we don’t, and then we have to pay for the consequences.

The costs of inaction? More wildfires and more hurricanes destroy more homes and take more human lives. Inhaled smoke from wildfires leads to increased respiratory illnesses. Sea levels rise and some parts of the world end up under water.

Unfortunately, simply leaving it all up to individuals and to the market isn’t enough to prevent this outcome. We need to act collectively — as a nation and as a world. We’ve already pulled out of the Paris Climate agreement, which was inadequate but at least it was something.

Climate change is real — ask anyone living through smoke season. With midterm elections coming up, candidates should be pressed to clarify just what they’re going to do about it.


This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License.
Jill Richardson

Jill Richardson

Jill Richardson is pursuing a PhD in sociology at UW-Madison, where she studies natural resources and the environment.

"I'm sure this will be all over the corporate media, right?"
That’s what one longtime Common Dreams reader said yesterday after the newsroom reported on new research showing how corporate price gouging surged to a nearly 70-year high in 2021. While major broadcasters, newspapers, and other outlets continue to carry water for their corporate advertisers when they report on issues like inflation, economic inequality, and the climate emergency, our independence empowers us to provide you stories and perspectives that powerful interests don’t want you to have. But this independence is only possible because of support from readers like you. You make the difference. If our support dries up, so will we. Our crucial Mid-Year Campaign is now underway and we are in emergency mode to make sure we raise the necessary funds so that every day we can bring you the stories that corporate, for-profit outlets ignore and neglect. Please, if you can, support Common Dreams today.

 

Poll Shows Majority Oppose Supreme Court's Attack on Fundamental Rights

Fifty-six of respondents said they're now concerned the court will attack marriage equality and the right to obtain contraception.

Julia Conley ·


Global Windfall Profit Tax of 90% Needed to Address 'Catastrophic' Food, Climate Crises: Oxfam

Taxing the excess profits of large corporations within the G7 alone could raise an estimated $430 billion to fight world hunger, deliver vaccines to the entire world, and make a giant dent in the fight to drive down fossil fuel pollution and jumpstart the necessary renewable energy transition.

Jon Queally ·


NATO to Boost Ranks of High-Readiness Forces by 650% to Over 300,000

Anti-war campaigners responded that "this is not the path to peace and will not make the world safer."

Jake Johnson ·


Ilhan Omar Says Plan to Fix Supreme Court Must Include Impeachment Probes

"We need an impeachment investigation into Clarence Thomas' role in the January 6th coup, as well as into Gorsuch, Alito, Barrett, and Kavanaugh's testimony on Roe during their confirmation hearings," said the Minnesota Democrat.

Jake Johnson ·


Right-Wing Justices Should Be Impeached for Lying Under Oath, Says Ocasio-Cortez

"We have a responsibility to protect our democracy," said the New York Democrat. "That includes holding those in power who violate the law accountable."

Kenny Stancil ·

Common Dreams Logo