De New York Times schets een zeer sterk beeld van een sterk verstoorde relatie tussen mens en natuur.
President Biden visited California this week to showcase his efforts to better protect the state against the raging wildfires that have burned more than two million acres, displaced thousands and pushed responders to the brink of exhaustion.
But Mr. Biden’s record on wildfires, which includes more pay for firefighters and more money to harden communities against blazes, demonstrates a worrying truth, experts say: There are limits to what the federal government can do to reduce the scale and destructive power of the fires, at least in the short term.
“Climate change impacts can’t be absolved in a single year,” said Roy Wright, who was in charge of risk mitigation at the Federal Emergency Management Agency until 2018. The goal, he said, should be “investments that will pay back over the coming three to five years.”
Federal action largely depends on Congress approving new funding — but even if approved, that money might not make much of a difference anytime soon, as Zolan Kanno-Youngs and I wrote this week. And even then, curbing the damage relies largely on state and local governments, which experts say should scale back development in fire-prone areas.
Mr. Biden could use the megaphone of the presidency to encourage such restrictions, according to Michele Steinberg, wildfire division director for the National Fire Protection Association. But it would mean competing against a deeply held American view that land is something to profit from, rather than conserve or protect.
“It’s more like, let’s get the value out of this land that we can right now,” Ms. Steinberg told me, “and let the next generation worry about it.”
The growing scale of fires: Until 2018, the largest wildfires in the state seldom burned more than 300,000 acres, according to state data. In 2018, the Ranch fire consumed more than 400,000 acres, and last year, the August Complex fire topped 1 million acres, making it the largest blaze in the state’s history. Just north of the Caldor fire is the Dixie fire, which has already burned more than 960,000 acres and is not yet contained. That fire could break last year’s record.