As I passed Mount Tamalpais recently, I could only make out the hazy outline of Marin’s highest peak.
The mountain – and everything around it – was almost completely obscured by smoke from the forest fires. This disturbing reality is the prelude to what promises to be one of the worst fire seasons in state history.
Since the start of 2021, an astonishing number of nearly 7,000 wildfires have occurred across California – nearly 600 more than the state had experienced at the same time in 2020. The Dixie Fire has it. alone consumed well over 700,000 acres, making it the second largest recorded fire in state history.
In addition, California is in the throes of an unprecedented drought. On average, the Marin Municipal Water District reservoirs contain 61,526 acre-feet (or 77.33% of their capacity) at this point in the year. In contrast, only 30,281 acre-feet (38.1% capacity) were available as of August 26. The statistics are clear: Marin suffers from an exceptional drought. Disappointingly, we are 11% below the district mandated water conservation target of 40%. While counties in the state impose water restrictions, some people in Marin continue to keep their gardens and lawns well irrigated.
This shouldn’t be the new normal.
The cost of these environmental crises is immense. According to Drought.gov, Marin’s “exceptional drought” dramatically reduces crop yields and increases the risk of a “very expensive” fire season.
Although water restrictions are already in place, it is highly likely that further restrictions will be added as the crisis worsens.
In addition, our ecosystem is threatened. In droughts of this magnitude, forest mortality increases, wildlife deaths are widespread, fish have to be moved and algae blooms occur. Worse yet, our already severe fire season has been exacerbated by widespread drought.
Part of the ferocity of the fires can be attributed to the abundant supply of tinder created by the drought. Until California receives more rain, vulnerable areas of the state will become drier and more combustible.
While the fire season has long been a reality for Californians, historical data shows that the annual phenomenon intensified significantly in 2017. This is no coincidence. In recent years, the state’s average temperature has risen dramatically due to global warming.
“This link to climate change is simple: Warmer temperatures dry up fuels,” bioclimatologist Park Williams told The New York Times. “In areas where fuels are plentiful and very dry, all you need is a spark. “
These conditions pose a serious threat. More than 2 million buildings in California (15% of the state’s total number of properties) are at “high to extreme risk” of damage from wildfires. Damage from fires destroys homes, communities and people’s lives.
While it is easy to be overwhelmed by these environmental crises, it is essential that we respond by taking action against them instead.
It is important to adhere to Marin’s water restrictions. In addition, there are many ways to conserve water. You can save hundreds of gallons every day by finding – and fixing – leaks in your toilet: pour several drops of food coloring into the tank; If the water in the bowl changes color, your appliance needs to be repaired.
Instead of your irrigation system, water your plants on an ad hoc basis. Only operate your washing machine when it is fully loaded.
Likewise, we must take an active role – both as individuals and as a state – in fighting the California wildfires.
According to the US Department of the Interior, up to 90% of fires are caused by human activity or neglect. While it is vital for county, state and national leaders to spend more money on – and create legislation for – wildfire mitigation, we cannot afford to get complacent. Each of us must play our part if we are to truly resolve the environmental crises that threaten Marin County.
Andrew Hanna, of San Rafael, is a high school student, freelance writer and soon to be published author.