California: A Personal View of a Dystopian Reality–Today, Not In Some Distant Future

This is one of the most knee-buckling stories I’ve read in a very long time, and that is quite a statement. Today, we focus exclusively on California and what life is like without power, water, clean air, or access to food…for millions of Californians.

This is 2019, Not 2050. A Smoke-Filled View to Our Future

Millions of people are living in these areas and this article describes what life is like for those people. A harbinger of the future?

Roxanne and I were raised in Southern California and spent our adult lives in Northern California, so we have followed the last 2-3 years of firestorms with more than a political interest. And our hearts are seared by the flames that are engulfing that great state. On Saturday, Roxanne shared with me We Are Living Act One of the Disaster Films We Grew Up With, a NY Times article by science writer Shannon Stirone.

It is a highly evocative and descriptive report on life as children everywhere may face, not in 2050 or some distant decade, but soon. I provide several excerpts because many of you don’t have online subscriptions to the NYT, but I think you can read up to 10 articles a month free without subscription. This piece is so full of powerful observations, it is well worth one of your ten free downloads.

From the NYT:

Imagine: Seven Firestorms Simultaneously Torching an Entire State

For days, almost all gas stations in the North Bay were closed. I went a week without electricity. To save fuel, every couple of hours I’d swap sitting at the desk inside of my chilly apartment for warming up and charging my devices in the car. It’s the sort of depressing ad hoc solution that countless Bay Area residents have been forced into creating. On Facebook, I see friends from college mark themselves as safe while others announce that they are looking for shelter; on Twitter, a follower reported that her elderly parents, who were in the affected area, were ill and left without power, fresh food or access to their caretaker. During the last shut-off, a man relying on an oxygen machine died after losing his electricity.

Depending on the day, grocery store shelves are gutted and schools are closed. Family members throughout the state have been evacuated, losing days of pay, as they cross their fingers that their houses won’t be ash by the time they return. The air quality is still officially so bad that it’s unsafe to be outside in a large, patchy network of area codes. And if you have no power, you can’t run air purifiers inside. Hospitals have been running out of generator fuel. Life in the Bay Area hasn’t come to a complete halt, but weeks into this fire crisis it has become disturbingly halting. “

Shannon didn’t just opine on the personal challenges faced by over 2 million Californians, roughly equal to the entire population of NM, she also wondered what these challenges might do to our personal temperament and our capacity to respond with compassion and concern for others and whether a more basic search for self-preservation may prevail.

Some signs have made me wonder whether our more Hobbesian tendencies can be contained too. Every day, I drove to the East Bay, to a tiny pocket of Berkeley that still had power, so I could go to one of the few grocery stores still open in the area. Hundreds, unsurprisingly, had the same idea. Even though everyone is supportive in the aisles — asking “Are you safe?” and “Where are you heading?” — there is tension in the air, too, as we practically lunge for the last bag of ice or can of food, as if we are all in the first act of some bad post-apocalypse movie.

Are we?

Shannon then cites the recent article from Bioscience based on research by 11,000 scientists who noted:

“The climate crisis has arrived and is accelerating faster than most scientists expected. It is more severe than anticipated, threatening natural ecosystems and the fate of humanity.”

Maybe now — when it’s clearer than ever that eventually everybody has skin in the game — more of us will listen to calls for the radical reforms we’ll need to avoid burning alive.”

Are you reading this, Governor Lujan Grisham? If so, please take a look at the full NY Times article here and then consider if you are you willing to continue your “all of the above” energy policy when its byproduct is captured in all of the above narrative?

Readers, I am guessing the Governor subscribes to the NYT, but after you share this link with friends, please also send a link to the Governor and tell her you are very disappointed with her courtship of the gas and oil industry and that you want her to begin looking for ways to keep it in the ground, with funding for a study to create a just transition being a good start. You can access the full NY Times article here

Why Write the Governor?

On Sunday, the Governor’s My View was published in the Santa Fe New Mexican: Our Environment is Endangered. She touted her commitment to reduced use of fossil fuels and her commitment to energy efficiency (again in terms of what we use). Yet while she warns the gas and oil industry that she will hold them accountable, that accountability is limited to methane emissions and increased monitoring of leaks.

In her My View, nowhere does she mention plans for funding a plan for a just transition; nowhere does she mention pushing for Community Solar; nowhere does she declare a climate emergency. In short, nowhere does she address the real problem. It is nice that she wants to improve energy efficiency, but the real goal should be to expedite New Mexico’s finding a way to keep it in the ground. Our oil production is drilling us towards disaster and no energy efficiency can compensate for that. It is projected that if NM continues to drill southeast NM until dry, it will be the equivalent of operating 22 coal fired plants like the one about to close in San Juan. 22! In your own words, please tell the Governor how you feel, and ask a few friends to do the same. Our Governor is doing an excellent job of challenging the gun lobby, of developing policies to improve our education system, and reform our election process. Now we need her to show the same courage and vision to challenge the gas and oil industry.

Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham

In solidarity,

Paul & Roxanne

3 thoughts on “California: A Personal View of a Dystopian Reality–Today, Not In Some Distant Future

  1. Hi Paul and Roxanne. Dr. Barry Commoner once famously posited the cold reality that there is no such thing as ‘waste’ and no actual place to put it that is not in ‘our’ space. We are living and dying with the filth that we have created by our untoward actions and beliefs. Principal among these beliefs is that we can do no wrong because we are the ‘wise’ species of bipeds, and far superior to any quadruped that ever existed.

    There is zero evidence to support this, and 10k years of evidence to refute it. If we were wise we would be efficient. We would have, in place, a foolproof mechanism for constantly being able to feed ourselves with our own waste. We would, as the highest pinnacle of that efficiency and survival, eat ourselves, or at least each other. Soylent Green would be our diet. In this way we would be the assumed carnivore we believe we are, the wisest and best species, efficiently eating the best proteins, us, recycling ourselves continuously while always keeping our population balanced.

    That would be utopia. We certainly have the mental breadth to devour ‘other’ animal lifeforms, which, by the way, almost exclusively eat nothing but plants. After all, that is what we feed the animals we choose to consume.

    Humans create dystopia. We create chaos, we manufacture filth, we destroy life all around us, and produce mountains of death out of the life of the planet. This is not new. Neither is it new that we have learned little or nothing about this dead-ended behavior. I will expand on the scene at the Berkley grocery store.

    I manage a property that is not lived in by humans. Somehow, field mice find their way into one of the houses, via the sewer piping, and end up in the jacuzzi tub. They can get in, but due to some unknown logistics, they cannot get back out. Every now and then I find the desiccated remains of one in that tub, a slow death via dehydration and starvation. Today I found two in the tub, both presumably trapped at about the same time. One had died whole, but the other had been partially eaten by the first, either alive or after demise, as a last ditch effort to survive until some miracle occurred that would free the remaining one from bondage.

    A dystopia created entirely by humans. In the mouse world, there are no sewer lines, no dungeon tubs, no porcelain graves.

    Your writer asks if the grocery scene will be the norm, the tension of looming extinction fraying the nerves and scrambling the brain. Well guess what? This has been the scene for thousands of human years. Most of us have avoided the worst of it in this one generation, and we have done so by wreaking massive havoc on all else around us.

    There is no NIMBY available, and, as Commoner said, there never was. But in its stead there is massive denial. Like the guv, we all now are tantalized by playing with dynamite, spinning the cylinder in Russian roulette, putting lipstick on every pig in creation, labeling entertainment as reality while we wait , cluelessly, for the other shoe to drop.

    To believe in leadership is to support slavery. To fear leadership is to be enslaved. Not until we each accept personal responsibility for each and every action and its consequences, will we be able to come together as a community that needs no leader, no oracle, no god, no savior. We live together, we die alone.

    Mick Nickel

  2. Yikes.
    Here’s one path to better futures: http://www.riograndesun.com/news/returning-to-the-north-the-limits-of-the-northern-new/article_e92ffbba-00ee-11ea-bf46-d3f207b15b89.html
    Young people are returning to ancestral lands and are working very hard to live sustainably.
    A not-so-young person is working toward community land tenure and sustainability through that route: https://milabrazoscommunitylandtrust.blogspot.com/ . New Mexico, with the ancient tradition of acequia irrigation and democracy, is maybe an ideal place to find our way to sustainability.

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