The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Huge Western Wildfire Season Far Beyond California

So, this is the drought map for 2020:

Here’s the drought map for this year:


Expect wildfires all through this region and beyond. You should prepare NOW if you live in these areas (check for Mexican or Canadian maps if you live in those countries). Remember, you buy NOW because if you wait everything will be out of stock.

You may need (not a complete list):

  • Respirators
  • Air filters, have extras, especially for any air conditioners
  • A “go bag” in case you’re forced to evacuate.
  • Some sort of back-up electricity, even if only some batteries for your small items.
  • Tape to tape over your doors and windows. Painters tape, perhaps.
  • Internal air filtering fans. (Tutorial on how to make from box fans.)
  • Standard stuff like water and staple foods in case supply chains are disrupted.
  • Asthmatics and other people with breathing problems should make sure they have enough meds, if they can.


Larger scale preparations may include:

  • Non-flammable roofing and keep the roof clean of flammable materials like leaves and needles;
  • Change your lawn to something non-flammable; a rock garden perhaps.
  • I hate chopping down trees, but you may wish to consider any too near your house.
  • Be sure any flammable vegetation is not touching your house nor can fall on it.

I’m sure no expert on this sort of thing, so please leave suggestions for preparing in the comments and do your own research.

BUT the main thing is to do your research and preparation NOW. (Really ,it should have been sooner, and I apologize for not writing this article earlier.)

This is, yes, a result of climate change, exacerbated by bad forestry and soil management. But without climate change it wouldn’t have happened. This is how the ecology of local areas is changing to match the new climates. Unfortunately, that means the destruction of what is there now.

(In that vein, we are coming up on a period of serious food inflation. If you can store it, buy food now.)

Be well, be safe.

(The more people subscribe or donate the more I write and the happier I am. So please consider doing so if you like my writing.)


Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – June 6, 2021


Way Past Time to Leave America


  1. Astrid

    Short term, I would recommend drawing up and practicing an evacuation and meet up plan with your family. Help your family/friends living in the danger zone with their plans. Collectively figure out living arrangements if someone has to evacuate their home.

    Figured out what you’re do if power gets cut. Make sure to have batteries and phone chargers. Figure out cooling solutions for when you don’t have AC on a 100 degree day.

    Long run – honestly I’d figure out how to leave the West. Lack of water, wild fires and landslides, increasingly erratic weather, poor government management in CA, and the Cascadia fault is a loaded spring that could destroy everything north of SF.

  2. Joan

    @Astrid, I think those are good ideas in addition to Ian’s.

    I have family that were evacuated last summer, going to text them and make sure they’re already making preparations.

    A little bit OT, but one thing that’s strange about people leaving California is how many of them have gone to Colorado. CO is in for a freshwater crisis as well, so that doesn’t seem like the smartest move.

  3. Astrid


    I can understand the impulse. The access to nature and climate out west is wonderful. Hard to trade that for the muggy summers and molehills of the east. I took some summer classes at Berkeley one summer and my teammates were complaining about the cold in Berkeley.

    Plus they may be focusing on the effects of Prop 13, high RE prices and failing public schools, and less focused on the weather/water issues.

  4. Ché Pasa

    I think your maps are quite a bit misleading. The drought situation from the Rockies west has been “severe” to “exceptional” in most places for years now.It wasn’t good last year. It didn’t suddenly get bad this year. Oh far from it.

    I can hardly remember a year when we (that is, those of us who live in the more or less desert southwest) we had sufficient rain for at least a few weeks of green and the dust storms were few and far between. Yet that’s what it was like here when we moved from California.

    California goes from drought and wild fires to floods and mudslides regularly. Climate seems particularly unstable on the West Coast, but maybe that’s only because I pay more attention to what’s going on there than I do to the East Coast and Midwest.

    There’s essentially no surface water at any time where we are. Well, except for some saline ponds a fair distance east. There is still sufficient underground water (recharged from snow and rain on the mountains — that’s getting rarer and rarer) to sustain a population of a few thousand spread over a large area. Even in the best of times, there have rarely been more people living in this region than are here now. When things get bad, people leave, but there are fewer and fewer places to go.

    Despite perpetual — and worsening — drought conditions, there are farms and ranches that seem to keep going no matter what.

    Coping strategies work for a while, and then they don’t. Right now and for a while longer we can get by so long as there isn’t an influx of refugees from worse off areas. We see a few, but some don’t stay, so population is pretty stable over the medium and long term.

    Cost of groceries has increased significantly over the past year and we expect more increases for anything that comes from say Texas or California. On the other hand, there’s less panic over it because of those local farms and ranches. As long as they’re operating, there will be food here from here.

    In a way, I see our situation as a microcosm for many national and global issues. Population has to stay within very strict limits — the land can’t sustain more, never could. We must be very aware of and careful about water use. There’s only so much in the aquifer, and it recharges more and more slowly. When Nestle came in wanting to pump it dry for their bottled water business, there was righteous indignation and outrage. Haven’t heard much about it for a couple of years now. I believe they still have “rights” — but any attempt to exercise it would probably result in sabotage at the least.

    We engaged in a sustainability and food justice conference with about 200 others over the weekend. Everyone from this area acknowledged the drought and how difficult it was to maintain a garden or a small farm and how conditions weren’t getting better, not here anyway. Yet there are so many ways forward, despite the drought. So long as we can, we will. And so it goes. Tread carefully and mindfully.

  5. Astrid

    Canada and PNW actually are doing fine for rain. The rain bands moved North last winter. Last summer’s California fires were due to intense heat waves in central and northern California, which dried the underbrush out and made large trees more vulnerable to burns. Plus some unfortunate winds, dry lightning, and high temperatures and lack of train into November. Ironically, this year may be a comparatively lighter fire season because there is no lush undergrowth due to the drought.

  6. R

    Here west of the Cascades in the PNW, we get enough rain and snowpack but the problem is that the smoke from the rest of the West chokes us out in August/September.

  7. Ché Pasa

    Right now central and northern New Mexico are choking under smoke blown north from fires in southeast Arizona. This seems to be an annual — if not more frequent — phenomenon.

  8. anon

    Best of luck to anyone living in that region of the USA. I’ve only been to California once and have never been to the Southwest. All I’ve been hearing the last year is how everyone is migrating to the Southwest and Texas. I’m not a fan of snow but I never saw the appeal of living in a desert either. I’ve been to Texas once and it was too humid for me. The more people move to that part of the country the more death and destruction we will see with each wildfire season. Climate change will only worsen because none of our leaders are taking drastic enough measures to fight it.

  9. onihikage

    Living in east Texas, I can say that it feels like all the rain that was supposed to come down to the west is coming down here instead. There’s been an incredible amount of rain already this year. Coworkers are cracking jokes like “see ya later, I gotta swim home”. Nothing we can do about it, but that water is still around; the drought doesn’t mean it disappeared. Those future forest fires exist alongside flooding from unseasonable rainfall elsewhere.

  10. Len

    The Midwest is the place to be.

  11. mago

    The smoke Che Pasa mentioned is now being carried on strong winds to southern Colorado. Last summer we witnessed smoke choked skies from regional and California fires during July and August, which extended into early September when an early snowfall hit. Birds were falling dead from the sky.
    Still, as Che mentions, the ranchers and farmers keep producing, despite drastically reduced aquifer levels and water grabs from the likes of Nestle who bought out city council members in Salida Colorado to renew a another ten years of plundering water resources despite strong local opposition. That’s one small example. It’s far worse, but can’t write an essay in a comment section.
    Another thing, Texans and Californicators moving to the rural neighborhood where I and like minded others reside are not stakeholders, contribute nothing postive, and screw the economy
    and the scene in general with their toxic ideologies, attitudes and arrogance. It’s a national trend.
    As Che Pasa also noted, people come and go in these parts, but during the interim they consume resources, poop and pee and spread their shit all around.
    Water wars, class wars, world wars . . . we ain’t seen nothing yet. Yet, despite the gloomy forecast, I retain faith in the possibility of furtherance through human resilience and ingenuity. Todo es posible. . .

  12. DMC

    Thanks for the pay-wall, Sterling!

  13. different clue

    Since Australia has long had very hot intense bush fires, Australian literature about fire survival, fire preparation, house-and-building anti-fire protection might be very valuable. Since the permaculture movement was founded by Australians, a lot of counter-fire yard-scaping information and thinking found its way into the growing body of permaculture knowledge.

    Like this . . .

    and this . . .

    and for dry and dry-ish zone America ( and Canada too one suspects), this . . .

    Maybe people who are living right IN the forest or brushland or chaparral can’t do so much of this. So maybe they have to focus on physical heat-and-fire resistance of their house itself. Wooden houses are built to burn. Is there a way to coat the whole outside of such houses with fireproof non-wood material? Replace the flammable roof with non-flammable steel or tile or other non-carbon-based roofing material? Have super-infra-red-reflective exterior shutters or covers to put within seconds or minutes over every window in the house, to stop the pulse of infra-red radiation from the over-sweeping fire from shining right through the glass of the window and IR-flash-igniting things it reaches within the house itself?

    People have heard of tornado-proof storm shelters built into or next to houses in tornado country. Is it possible to build a fire-and-heat-proof flame shelter into or next to the houses built in fire country? Just in case the fire cuts off your escape routes and gives you the choice of either surviving in place or dying in place? A fire-and-heat proof safe room might help people overtaken by the onrushing flame front to survive in place rather than die in place.

  14. someofparts

    “The export of crops and the water used to grow them, known as virtual water, has been accelerating for decades … virtual water trading is expected to triple globally by 2100, with a large share moving from the U.S. to other countries.”

  15. Stirling Newberry

    8¢ Chocolate Bar

  16. different clue

    Here is a group of people who might have some high-value fire-readiness advice . . .
    the New South Wales Rural Fire Service. They have a blog called Building Community Resilience.
    Here is a sample.

    This is the sort of thing which computer-enabled people should perhaps read before the Internet is kill-switched once and for all.

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