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The fire this time: The West faces apocalypse, and we need a national solution

5 32 24

The clash between Donald Trump and Jo Biden over the roots of the West's apocalyptic fire season has missed the crucial point – perhaps because neither candidate is targeting the solidly Democratic Pacific Coast.

Biden justly called Trump a "climate arsonist," after four years of desperate efforts to accelerate climate change and convince the American people to ignore its threats. Trump is wrong to blame state forest management policies for the fires. But a major source of the conflagration was a misguided national century of treating fire, not fuel, as the enemy in the arid West, so arguably the president is stumbling around an important reality.

But while climate change is igniting the great burn, and fire suppression is fueling it, communities faced with flames need investments that protect and counteract short-term threats, even while long-term climate and fuels management solutions can be implemented.

Neither candidate has offered such a package of meaningful short term solutions — but they exist. Nor has either offered equivalent investments to protect flood-prone communities in the heartland, or hurricane-threatened coastal residents. All three, which taken together loom over 25% of the U.S. population, desperately need federal leadership.)

Smoke and fire have driven me from a family retreat north of San Francisco four times in the last three years. I've experienced the searing expansion of the fire season. Overstocked, understory-clogged woodlands stretch as far as my eyes can see. We must face these problems. But by the time we do, even if we are diligent, the cost in communities burned, economies shattered and lives lost is simply too high.

While confronting the root causes, we must also minimize the price that blameless communities pay for all our past errors. That means making community........

© Salon

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