California is currently experiencing its worst fires yet — again. Photo: Getty Images
California is currently experiencing its worst fires yet — again. Photo: Getty Images

With each year, California inches closer to Octavia Butler’s science fiction

With each wildfire season, California inches closer to a reality found in science fiction.


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California’s wildfires weren’t always like this, but each year, it seems, the wildfire season only grows to be worse than the year before.

President Trump has just issued a Presidential Disaster Declaration for the massive California wildfires blazing across the state. California Gov. Gavin Newsom expressed his gratitude at the White House aid, which he says will bolster the state’s emergency response to the fires.

“Thank you to the President for your partnership and granting this urgent Major Disaster Declaration. California is battling two of the largest fires in our history and has seen nearly 600 new fires in the last week caused by dry lightning strikes,” he wrote.

“These are unprecedented times and conditions, but California is strong – we will get through this.” Newsom continued.

At this rate, each year will continue to be unprecedented. 

With each wildfire season,  California inches closer to the fictional California in Octavia Butler’s science fiction novel, Parable of the Sower, wherein society has collapsed due to climate change, exhibited through rampant fires like the ones experienced today, and entire cities are forced to evacuate.

Today, California has not neared the stage of wide-spread evacuations and resource scarcity as described in Octavia Butler’s novel, but for a novel written in 1993, it is not so far-fetched today.

And nothing is expected to change unless California recognizes its history of colonialism, and tackles climate change head-on.

Colonialism is a factor in play, spanning hundreds of years — ever since Europeans arrived in what was then assumed to be an island, and changed everything about the Native Californian relationship with nature.

Many Indigenous peoples in California say their traditions once protected these at-risk lands, and they could do it again if given the opportunity. 

Tactics like careful, controlled burns where needed could limit the random blazes to which the ill-equipped California falls victim to every year.

Burns like these are essential to a forest’s overall health, but not at this scale.

Cultural burning not only keeps traditions alive, but would also preserve much of the land that is lost each year due to unconfined, and often uncontrollable blazes.

The current philosophy of leaving nature alone, dates back to John Muir, known as the father of modern environmentalism — and also quite racist towards Native peoples. Muir’s philosophy became a cornerstone of modern environmentalism — and we’re now seeing the effects of that.

But California has reached the point where recognizing colonialism isn’t enough. 

Climate change is now also a driving force in the wildfire crisis, and while important, tackles more than recognizing Native people’s practices.

“If you are in denial about climate change, come to California,” Governor Gavin Newsom said at the Democratic National Convention. “11,000 dry lightning strikes we had over a 72 hour period [led] to this unprecedented challenge with these wildfires,” he continued.

The fires follow a dry winter with little rain, and come on the heels of record-setting temperatures experienced across California. It’s a recipe for no good.

For the last 40 years, the “combined forces” of high temperatures and decreased rainfall have doubled the risk of extreme wildfire conditions in California, and each year sees new records.

Unless the world dramatically cuts-down on emissions, California will continue to experience higher odds. Perhaps not yet to the extent of Parable of the Sower, but it’s getting there with each coming season. 


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