For a week now, a vicious new round of wildfires has been causing havoc in southern California. The largest of these is the one tearing up Ventura County, known as the Thomas Fire.
In the six day period ending with Sunday, December 10, the Thomas fire had burned 155,000 acres, displacing 88,000 people from their homes. The costs of fighting the fire had by then reached $25 million.
One of the stranger sidebars generated by this huge story has been the tale of the man and the rabbit. A man pulled over onto the side of a highway in La Conchita, a town that was under an evacuation order at the time. He exited his car just feet from the Thomas Fire and chased a rabbit, in the end catching it, putting the rabbit safely into his car and driving off. Another evacuee captured this on camera, and the resulting video went viral.
Slate criticized the spread of this video. Torie Bosch, who wrote the Slate essay, made it clear she wasn’t criticizing the rabbit’s human benefactor himself. “H may have been in shock, or he may have been traumatized,” and either way he should escape blame. But his behavior might have ended very differently. He might have perished trying to save the wild rabbit from the fire, and/or he might have drawn emergency service providers to his aid, endangering other humans, and stretching further the emergency resources of the area that were already at the breaking point.
It was, Bosch concludes, “irresponsible to spread this video widely and cast him as a hero.”
Right Wing View
On the right, some sought to use the fires to make one of the key political points of the Trump coalition: beware illegal immigrants. There is no evidence any illegal immigrant had anything to do with any fire in California, or that there was arson involved with the largest of the fires in the state now, involving an arsonist of any nationality or legal status whatsoever. Some of the smaller fires have been blamed on arson.
Regardless, on twitter denizen “Cali-Conservative” wrote, “This is the type of stuff that starts to happen in a ‘Sanctuary State’ that encourages criminal behavior.”
Others believe that the actual weather developments in California are importantly different from what Governor Brown and others have been warning about. They seek to make a point from this disparity – that no one really knows anything about climate developments.
Such, for example, are the thoughts of a twitter denizen who calls himself OvertheMoonbat. OtM quotes a New York Times story which referenced “the recent cycle of drought and deluge in California” that has “led to major fire risk.” But OtM finds this amusing, “it is barely a couple of years on from when they [The NY Times] and Jerry Brown were scaremongering about a permanent drought in California, not cycles.”
Left Wing View
Governor Brown wasn’t the only one to make the connection to climate change. Alexander Verbeek, a climate change activist living in Stockholm, tweeted, “Climate change is real” and offered as data, “13 of California’s 20 largest wildfires have burned since 2000.”
Greenbiz, an organization headquartered in Oakland, California, commented as the disaster got underway in California last week on how businesses are “underestimating how disruptive the impacts of #climatechange could be.”
That tweet came linked to an article that expanded on the theme. That article mentioned for example warnings from insurers “that recent extreme weather disasters around the world are likely to make 2017 the most expensive year on record, exposing a $1.7 trillion gap in insurance cover globally.”
Jonathan Gelbard, a conservation consultant, re-tweeted GreenBiz’s tweet on this point and added, “Whether it’s coastal city and federal governments having to pay $billions for seawalls and pumping stations, or the economic and social costs of mass relocations … Oh, and how about costs of wildfires….”