If you're not from California, here are some important things you need to know about our fires:
Most of our fires are grass fires, not forest fires. In the summer, our grass turns a beautiful golden color all over the state. Rolling, golden hills have been "home" to me almost my entire life. Even if California's forests were "raked" daily, the fires would still be happening. See More
The state of California manages just 3% of our forest land. The federal government manages most of it. So when a government official says that California's forest land is mismanaged, think: "Congratulations, you just played yourself."
If you lived in California in the 80s, you might remember people saying that California would basically burn down every year if we did not do something about "global warming," as we called it at the time. And here we are.
California is huge. We have the world's fifth largest economy, surpassed only by the US as a whole, China, Japan, and Germany. California's economy is larger than every other nation on earth. When you hear that we're "failing" and a "shithole," that's political propaganda. Economically, geographically, and demographically, we are one of the most diverse political entities on the planet.
This means that very little you can say about California applies to the state as a whole. Life in San Francisco resembles life in London more than it resembles life in Bakersfield. Part of the beauty and allure of California is that, no matter what you want, we have it. Metropolitan cities are an hour away from rolling farmland, which is an hour away from the desert, which is a few hours away from snow-capped mountains. Get in your car and drive in any direction for a few hours and you'll see six different Californias.
People come here from all over the world, and that's our strength. We are your future-- no one race or ethnicity has a majority here, although Latinx people have the plurality, which will soon be true for America as a whole. But even "Latinx" is a category so broad as to be almost meaningless. California was once Mexico, so people of Mexican descent have always had the demographic upper hand, but you can't pick up a square mile of California anywhere without getting Salvadorans and Guatemalans in that mix, along with Native Americans, Syrians, Lebanese, Persians, Ethiopians, people from the Caribbean, Chinese, Filipinx, and so much more. That diversity has always been one of our greatest strengths. You've heard of Sutter's Mill, where gold was first discovered? It's in the town of Coloma, which was almost entirely owned by a family of formerly enslaved Black people. You can still see the son's smithy and several other historic family buildings if you go there, which I recommend that you do! The whole town is basically a California history field trip.
California has always opened her arms to the world, and it's made us stronger, better, wealthier, and more beautiful.
We have nothing but love to give the rest of the United States. Well, that and our significant tax contributions (we pay more to the federal government than we get back), ports, industry, films, and music. Oh, and we produce the most food of any state. But mostly love.
So the next time someone tries to blame grass fires caused by lightning on "bad forest management," stand up for the Golden State, OK?