Every California surfer lives for October. The bigger swells start to roll in, the weather is beautiful, offshore winds arrive holding up each peak perfectly and summer crowds go home. But for the past few years October has become a fiery hellscape for all Californians as every year we wake up one morning smelling smoke and we know the wildfires have started up again.
Even the ocean is no escape from the heavy and claustrophobic air that comes with the blanket of smoke that sits over us until the firefighting heroes finally extinguish the flames. With each fire the sky turns apocalyptic, hazy and pink no matter what time of day it is as smoke filters out the sun. People go about their days wearing dust masks.
It feels overwhelming and disheartening to think of this happening year after year. We know that if it’s not our town or neighborhood this year it could be ours next year. So what can be done to empower us to feel a little hope? Here are four things that all of us could do during the year to help reduce our wildfire season.
- Get rid of your lawn California has been in a drought for years so one of our greatest tools to reduce fires is to conserve water. According to the Water Utility of Sonoma County, a family of three uses about 150,000 gallons of water per year, half of which goes to watering the lawn. Just switching to drought tolerant grass can reduce your household’s water usage by 25% but if you landscape with just drought tolerant native plants you can reduce your water usage by 60%!
- Support Beavers! Beavers are keystone species which means they create totally new ecosystems when they make a home somewhere. They can turn the smallest trickle of water in an arid environment into a lush wetland with deep ponds and rivers. Their ponds are so deep that they cool the surrounding land temperature and also create invaluable watersheds that California needs since our snowpack levels are reducing due to global warming. Also, when beavers cut down trees they create sunny meadows where the trees once were which become natural fire breaks during forest fires. Here is an amazing article detailing everything you’ll ever need to know about beavers in California. https://oaec.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Beaver-in-California-2.0.pdf Please donate to California wildlife rehabilitation centers that care for beavers.
- Vote! Vote for representatives that believe in climate change and are working towards ending our climate crisis. Especially vote in off year elections because there can be important local environmental measures and pro environment politicians on the ballot that can get overlooked without the publicity of a presidential voting year. Or why not consider running for local office yourself? Be the change!
- Go SolarI know not everyone can afford this but if it’s possible for you, convert to solar. It reduces the strain on PG&E’s power grid which, in turn, makes their transmission lines less likely to spark and cause wildfires. A perk of going solar is if you’ve invested in solar batteries you won’t have to go without power during any wildfire induced blackouts.
So there you go. Four things that, if we all do, can make a big difference. Surf on brothers and sisters of California!