More than half a million people are now fleeing the ongoing devastation being wreaked by gigantic wildfires across Oregon and the Pacific Northwest. Oregon has a population of 4.2 million, so this is more than 10% of the state that has now been forced to abandon everything in the face of cataclysmic climate change. One of the fires in Oregon is being treated as suspicious arson, though police have discounted right-wing theories circulating on social media that have tried to lay the blame at the feet of ‘antifa’ activists.
Across the whole of the United States, over 100 fires are currently raging, with Oregon, Washington, and California being the worst affected. 4.4 million acres have already been destroyed. Four human fatalities have been confirmed in Oregon, though the exact number will likely already be far larger. Oregon itself is currently seeing dozens of wildfires. Oregon Governor Kate Brown told reporters: ‘We have never seen this amount of uncontained fire across the state… This will not be a one-time event. Unfortunately, it is the bellwether of the future. We’re feeling the acute impacts of climate change.’
Thanks to capitalist climate change, wildfires, in general, are increasing in frequency and severity around the world. Hotter, drier winds, decreased precipitation, changes in vegetation, increased lightning storm activity—all consequences of industrial activity that have made it possible for blazes to rage like never before.
A 2016 study by Columbia University reported that the average temperature of Western forests had increased by almost 2.5 degrees just since 1970. In 2019 it was reported that California had seen 12 of the 15 worst fires in its history in just the last 15 years. In the EU, the fires of 2017 burned at three times their historical rate. According to a report on the fires in the National Geographic:
The worst fire years tend to appear amid seasonal extremes, when a wet season that fuels exuberant plant growth is followed by an extremely dry season that sucks the water out of the plants and the soil.
These conditions are exactly what caused the fires in northern Europe this year. A wet winter fattened plants across the continent, and then the heat set in. A historic heat wave—which scientists say was about twice as likely to occur because of human-caused climate change—settled in over the continent.
‘Seasonal extremes’ is exactly what climate change is bringing to the world.
The National Geographic report continues:
Bill DeGroot, a scientist with the Canadian Forest Service, explains that the fire “season” has extended over the past few decades in many parts of the world, largely because warmer temperatures dry out plants more thoroughly and sooner in the year. In the western U.S., the length of time between the first and last fires of the year stretched by nearly 80 days since 1980. In Canada, where he works, the season is about a month longer.
This is our new normal. With every passing day of political inaction, that new normal will get worse and worse. Nothing less than a total, immediate commitment to upending our entire political system and a cessation of fossil fuel capitalism will avert the worst of the catastrophe of which we are now only seeing the smallest glimpse. There is no happy ending to this. We are past the point of no return. The best we can hope for is already terrible. And what is the answer from most of our politicians? The same as it’s ever been. Contempt and complicity. The planet is divided between the voices of the 99% begging for some hope of a liveable future—with those in front line communities in the Global South at most risk most often being denied any voice at all—and the deafening silence from the capitalist elites on the other. I’ll be honest. Many days it’s becoming too much to take. I’m exhausted just from writing.
There are currently 20 large #wildfires burning 476,027 acres in Oregon & Washington. Extreme fire weather continues across the region. We all need to do everything we can to minimize every single spark because, w/these conditions, a spark could easily result in a wildfire. pic.twitter.com/DdyHKqGlOb— Forest Service NW (@ForestServiceNW) September 8, 2020
If you're looking for a map of where all the fires are: I highly recommend this one, I use it often. Even displays fires out of state, lots right now in Oregon/Washington.https://t.co/N1D5ad3BfV pic.twitter.com/2KOuLmIHUF— CA Fire Scanner (@CAFireScanner) September 8, 2020
There is no middle ground to this pic.twitter.com/6ALmKQLwSW— Jamie (@jamie_agust) September 10, 2020
It's noon in San Francisco. pic.twitter.com/id1qZ7rfr3— Jared Petty (@pettycommajared) September 9, 2020
As was 'The Day The Earth Caught Fire' (1961). Astonishing to watch that now. https://t.co/ZC5kjo0Zrl— Media Lens (@medialens) September 10, 2020
A few dozen people did this to the planet so they could make a billion dollars https://t.co/FnlQvO1qaV— Eva ''Bread Baker Girlfriend'' (@ayyy_vuh) September 10, 2020
The White House isn’t returning Oregon Governor Kate Brown’s calls, as the state burns. He’s literally watching Fox instead. I was going to say he’s only interested in his base, but there’s plenty of them in Oregon. He’s not interested in them. His world includes him. That’s it.— Joshua Potash (@JoshuaPotash) September 11, 2020
tbf it doesn't "look" apocalyptic. it actually is apocalyptic. like, its happening. why cant we experience our reality?— Annabel (@nan0bel) September 9, 2020
diane feinstein in this clip represents the entire democratic party establishment, from obama to biden, harris and pelosi: fuck off and resign yourself to slowly dying from climate change because that's what our corporate owners wantpic.twitter.com/oefOlNf84I— ☀️👀 (@zei_squirrel) September 10, 2020
US government gives fossil fuel companies subsidies worth $700 billion every year and only spends 0.2% of it's annual budget on the Environmental Protection Agency.— Lowkey (@Lowkey0nline) September 10, 2020
This is what that leads to. pic.twitter.com/2hYlX8oMMU
Climate experts have long worried about the cascade effect: Multiple disasters, triggering and amplifying each other in the same place. But it always seemed like a problem for later.— Christopher Flavelle (@cflav) September 10, 2020
And then California happened.
With the great @thomasfullerNYT. https://t.co/OpnpAziS1f
In addition to the American fires, Brazil—that other country ruled over by a far-right lunatic—is currently seeing some of the worst wildfires in its history. Said far-right lunatic has of course dismissed the fires as a conspiracy and has a record of referring to conservationism as a cancer, as well as running on a campaign promising to ‘open up the Amazon’ for business. The Pantanal is a 195,000 square kilometre region in the Brazilian state Mato Grosso do Sul. It also covers parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. It is the world’s largest tropical wetland, its largest flooded grasslands, and it is now burning at a catastrophic rate.
What is happening to Pantanal, a very necessary thread:— larissa (@alIforshawn) September 4, 2020
I live in Mato Grosso, Brazil, and everything is turning into ashes here. Pantanal and Cerrado (two of the most important brazilian biomes) have been on fire for months. + pic.twitter.com/aCfbjYVDHa
Dear Journalists, Brazil's Pantanal, the world’s largest wetland and one of the most biologically diverse habitats on the planet, is burning devastatingly. Fires are the worst in 15yrs and have engulfed more than 10% of Pantanal. Thousands of animals have burned to death. 1/2 pic.twitter.com/Qm4lHC7ZEz— Camila Rossi (@camila_larossi) September 7, 2020
HELP, #AjudaPantanal! 😭— Santiago, Raull (de 🏠)🏴 (@raullsantiago) September 7, 2020
The situation of the fires that destroy the Pantanal at that moment is serious. The fire continues to cross the diversities of our Brazil. Plants, animals and diverse people ending up in the flames of neglect and shame. HELP! HELP! pic.twitter.com/vrsQGOiYaq
And while parts of the world burn, others drown. Sudan is currently in the midst of a three month state of emergency, after the Nile burst its banks and rose to the highest level since records began. The deadly floods have already killed 100 people, and forced 500,000 from their homes. In the state of Khartoum alone, over 100,000 are in desperate need of shelter. Sudan is used to a degree of seasonal flooding, but the scale of what capitalist climate change is establishing as the new normal is unprecedented, and will only get worse. Sudan is also a striking case study of the political dynamics of climate change: Regions of the world that have contributed the least to the historical emissions record will bear the brunt of the worst of the crises.
Dear friends..— Alaa Musa (@generalblacko) September 9, 2020
A lot is going on in my country, Sudan. We're facing a crisis!!
The country has been drowning by floods and heavy rains, with more than 100 casualties and hundreds of thousands of people losing their homes. Here's how you can help 👇🏽 pic.twitter.com/JDWFHrGkNy
The climate emergency has contributed to the worst flooding on record in Sudan.— AJ+ (@ajplus) September 11, 2020
The River Nile burst its banks, killing at least 99 people and collapsing more than 100,000 houses. pic.twitter.com/ybDWmVMUjP
The Nile River in Khartoum, Sudan is now at an all-time high level. The government has declared a three-month state of emergency, and half a million people have been forced out of their homes.— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) September 10, 2020
We are in a climate emergency.https://t.co/KjfaAayD3V
Prayers for the people of Sudan 🇸🇩— Khaled Beydoun (@KhaledBeydoun) September 5, 2020
Vicious floods have:
— Killed more than 100 people
— Destroyed 100,000 homes
— As many as 1/2 million people can be homeless
Why hasn’t this received more coverage? The victims are Black, Muslim and African. pic.twitter.com/rG4QFJCVp2
This is the new normal. If you’re gonna say, ‘2020 is the worst year in the last hundred years,’ you might as well also add, ‘and it will be the best year in next hundred years’.
Reporting is not enough.— Greta Thunberg (@GretaThunberg) September 10, 2020
Connecting the dots is not enough.
Mentioning the link to the climate crisis is not enough
(even though it would kind of help…).
If we are to have a small chance, this needs to be our main focus.
It needs to dominate the news.
All the time. pic.twitter.com/I1dHGY2qp8
Header Image Source: Getty Images