Annual West Coast Fires; Will It Ever End?

Emissions Control and Forest Fires environment and health Environmental Conservation injury prevention The tragedy of the Commons West Coast Fires

Last November the state of California and a coalition of 22 other states and cities including Washington DC challenged the Trump administration’s move to take away their ability to set stricter emissions standards. Antecedent to that; the state challenged the administration’s threats to revoke California’s waiver. This waiver had allowed the state to set tougher vehicle emissions standards. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) granted CA this waiver in July 2009. Since California got this waiver 11 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted California’s emissions standards.

The EPA granted this waiver to CA based on its significant smog problem. As a result of this waiver air quality has dramatically improved. However California’s unique geography means air quality goals still require continued progress on vehicle emissions. There are still threats to air quality in many parts of the state.

Perimeters of all fires in California from 1878 to 2018. Source: The Capradio Project

California still faces major threats as climate change worsens. The state will likely experience more wildfires. In the Trump California fight the administration had support from major car companies like Toyota, General Motors and Fiat Chrysler. California had on its side Honda and Ford. These companies made a deal with California in 2019 to follow the stricter rules. In a way I now understand why I have been invested in various ways in these two companies.

Once again California and several other states on the west Coast are battling the annual forest fires. Hopefully as these events occur many of us are going to remember those who supported taking care of our planet and those who only cared about the dollar. The tragedy of the Commons would always be with us. Our one important protection against this societal problems has always been responsible representative government. This tragedy can be compounded when the government that is supposed to protect us; is on the side of those who will allow our forests and suburbs to burn just so they can make more money.

Trends in area affected and intensity of fires over time Source: NASA

These fires are part of the natural trend of things. The extent and damage however continues to get worse every year. We are two months from November and the decision will once again be in our hands. We again get to decide on who we want to guide us in these difficult times. PersonalIy, I know that if I need to buy a new car other than a Tesla I would not be going to a Toyota, GM or Chrysler dealership. Our decisions in November must follow these clear signs.

A word to the wise is enough.

By Leonard Sowah a physician in Baltimore, Maryland

Feature photo: By Sippakorn Yamkasikorn from Pixabay


A physician providing primary medical care to patients across the lifespan