A nation engulfed in flames

Mother Nature is hurting: flame after flame, her resistance leaves countless battle scars on her skin. Now fighting the West Coast fires, she is against the same formidable enemy that relentlessly brings unimaginable harm-human ignorance.

From gender reveals sparking 7,000-acre fires to the POTUS downplaying the effects of climate change, it is clear that environmental concerns are not our top priority. When an eerie, orange haze caused by wildfires spread across the West Coast and slowly moved to the rest of the country, we were finally forced to face the consequences for our lack of diligence and respect for the planet.

Over the past few weeks, these West Coast wildfires have destroyed countless homes, burnt down fields and left at least 27 people dead and more missing. As the weather grows increasingly dry and windy, these blazes may enlarge and become uncontrollable.

In light of the 2020 presidential election, many may shrug off these irrelevant, temporary natural disasters and focus on the greater topics that hold America’s attention: the fight between Democrats and Republicans, each clawing to beat down the other. While media outlets quote certain phrases from each candidate to ignite angry reactions from opposing party voters, the fact remains that we have caused so much destruction in the very world we live in collectively, we have decided to ignore the problems right in front of us and instead delve into our illusions of drama and superficiality.

Essentially, American voters have the power to help end the series of unfortunate news littered in outlets each week. We must pay attention to the environmental policies that each candidate advocates for, and consider if that is the voice we want to be represented by. If America still has not taken major steps toward sustainability by 2050, we will no longer have an Earth to live on, according to the World Economic Forum. That is a terrifying statistic, considering that many individuals are living as if there is a second planet waiting for us to inhabit after we have destroyed our current home.

For instance, a plan that will deliver change for America is the Green New Deal, a resolution put forward by Senator Ed Markey and US representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The Green Deal is the only plan put forward that follows scientific consensus and the guidelines from the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

There are two parts of the Green New Deal: how America can solve the impending climate crisis, and how we can do so in a manner where everyone, not just the wealthy, is able to benefit. To combat the rising temperatures, America must stop using fossil fuels. This results in changing vehicles, adjusting the way metal and iron is made, ensuring food is produced and sold locally. A more sustainable lifestyle will result in tremendous improvement for the environment.

However, the second aspect of the Green New Deals focuses on the occupations that many will lose if the fossil fuel industry collapses. To protect Americans, the Green New Deal guarantees jobs, public employment and universal health care, all ways to allow everyone to prosper if our country finally addresses the environmental issue.

Although the resolution was created before the West Coast fires, this natural disaster makes it abundantly clear that the Green New Deal is not a hoax, but rather a realistic way to deal with climate change.

Nonetheless, if there is any silver lining to this situation, it is that devastation has brought a shift in perspective.

California’s landscape has always had fires occurring, due to the desert-like weather. Despite this, for centuries, Native American tribes fought natural wildfires by creating controlled fires to encourage new plant growth and clearing excess underbrush.

Consequently, when early settlers stole the homes from the Native Americans, these controlled burns stopped as well. The indigenous people understood how to take care of the land, but the newly settled authorities were much less knowledgeable, and tried to suppress fires instead of cultivating controlled burns. This behavior wreaked havoc on the land, contributing to the environmental harm we see today.

Currently, the Karuk and Yurok tribes in Northern California have collaborated with the Forest Service to bring back the beauty of nature. Working with students, researchers and tribes, the region is slowly building back the land.

Furthermore, on September 11, California Gov. Gavin Newsom signed Assembly Bill 2147, allowing inmate firefighters to be eligible for EMT certification. This was formally prohibited for inmates to pursue, since discriminatory records would have prevented individuals from earning the qualification. This not only helps increase fire responders, but also gives individuals a well-deserved second chance. Many of these inmate crews have served their time by risking their lives in fires for a mere $1.90 a day. Now, with the certification, the courageous individuals have an opportunity to make much more.

Consequently, there is still hope: if we react to the West Coast fires with due diligence, our planet can be healed. However, like an old scar, our mistakes will always leave its mark.

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