Ecological Collapse of California


Photograph by Stuart Palley

Ayah Khatib, Editor

Before the 1900s, California was thriving with abundant ecosystems and habitat that Native Americans relied upon for their settlements. The ferocious and mighty California grizzly bears still roamed and colossal redwood trees were bountiful.

Today the state is heavily industrialized, over-populated, and whatever feeble ecosystems remain are surrounded by human filth.

Ecological collapse is a situation where an ecosystem greatly suffers the ability to sustain its organisms. Depending on the resilience of the original ecosystem, these circumstances can become immutable.

Very recently, California was on fire–again. The Camp Fire was one of the most destructive fires the state had in centuries, and its fires are only becoming more common and disastrous.

Wildfires are a natural and common occurrence in California, usually arriving during long and dry summers. However as reported by the Insurance Information Institute, out of every five cases, four people provide the igniting spark.

According to Time editors Laignee Barron and Mahita Gajanan, climate change has only helped make California’s wildfires more intense. The National Centers for Environmental Information reported that the state’s temperature in 2018 were some of its hottest ever.

Fires are now even more deadly because of urban expansion into high-risk fire zones. The state’s recent Camp Fire completely destroyed the city of Paradise, which is the second largest city in Butte County.

The severity of this fire is an example of ecological collapse and shows what surpassing a bio-region’s carrying capacity looks like. One would look at California and see overpopulation, over-consumption, and an ecosystem worsened by industrial emissions.

California’s drought was a state of emergency from 2011 to 2017, the worst in history. It’s speculated climate change is depriving California of precipitation, causing it to come down as rain instead of snow. This effects the Sierra Nevada Snowpack, the supplier of thirty percent of the state’s water. It is now exceptionally meager, being at its lowest level in 500 years.

Ecologists agree that climate change is linked to California’s wildfires. Human-caused warming is clearly contributing to drier conditions, which makes forests more susceptible to burning. The United States Forest Service estimates that drought has contributed to the death of 66 million trees since 2010.

The state of California has a bad habit of building homes in places that are very likely to burn, like the now destroyed Paradise. This does not allow forests to age and recover or burn naturally to renew ecosystems.

California state legislature revised the California’s Global Warming Solutions Act (Assembly Bill 32), which requires greater use of renewable resources by 2030. Unless people are going to have fewer children and live less consuming lifestyles, the goal for 2030 is not good enough.

Our last great forests that support the biosphere are crashing because of climate change. Droughts that are worsened by climate change are causing unnatural forest conditions and catastrophic forest fires.

Distant countries are plundered for their oil and as more ecosystems are on the verge of collapsing, the entire biosphere of earth is threatened by extinction.

The situation in California is not unique, and Americans don’t know what is being lost as California steadily collapses.

The destruction of natural ecosystems is a consequence of our addiction to fossil fuels and industrial expansion. We centralize our power and push nature beyond a sustainable model. We exhaust the soil, cut down our forests, and pollute the air and water.

Even the most minor change in an ecosystem can destroy our ability to function because we are dependent on a grandiose lifestyle instead of a simple relationship with nature.

Forests must be allowed to revitalize and become grand. Old-growth forest logging, the destruction of trees that are hundreds, even thousands of years old, should become a thing of the past and a logical policy ensuring global ecological sustainability needs to be put in place. Soon, it will be too late to save Earth.