California is the fifth largest economy in the world. The forest fires now threaten an area as large as Schleswig-Holstein. The population boom is over — and yet those responsible are only tinkering with the symptoms of the crisis.
San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge is shrouded in billows of smoke and the city center is in a dark haze. In other places residential areas are in ruins. Rescue teams search for missing people in destroyed houses. Destroyed towns, burned-out cars. Apocalyptic images reach the world from various U.S. states, mostly California, Oregon and Washington. The season of forest fires once again claims its victims.
But the forest fires this year are already setting a sad, frightening record. In California alone around two dozen massive fires raged in an area about the size of Schleswig-Holstein. More than 20 people died in flames and smoke and more than 3,000 houses were destroyed. California was already badly affected at the beginning of the corona epidemic. Those who could afford it left the metropolitan areas, moved into new houses outside of the population dense areas and outside of the forest fire hazard zones. The fires are like the pandemic: The most affected are low-income earners and the unemployed without health insurance.
In extremely affluent San Francisco, extreme poverty during the epidemic is more visible than ever. The office buildings are empty and the streets are dominated by the homeless. California’s economy, the fifth largest in the world, is groaning. For years, many Americans have fled from the democratically ruled state, from high taxes and high living expenses. California’s population boom has long been a thing of the past and was ultimately based solely on international immigration. These days, the California dream, sung about and recently conjured up by the governor, seems to have turned into a nightmare.
Where the U.S. already shows a shocking lack of clear planning in the COVID-19 pandemic, there is now a call for more effective protection against forest fires. Admittedly, this amounts to tinkering with symptoms, while the president denies climate change.
Donald Trump has long sung the hymn of fossil energy sources and blamed wind turbines for cancer. He’s raging and furious, seven weeks before the election, more than ever.
Trump, however, has no words about the forest fires, much less showing empathy and offering aid. Why? Primarily “only” democratically governed states are affected. California — no, the entire United States of America — is going through a dark time.
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