Rigged for Natural Disaster

By Sara Grimes

We’re going to die. I don’t want my babies to die like this,” she thought. “This can’t be happening.

Lojowsky roused her youngest — 2-year-old Lourdes — from bed. She piled the girls into her Kia Sedona. They were met with a cloud of white smoke when she opened her garage door. Ash and fire rained down on the vehicle as she drove down the driveway and into the main road. Her husband followed in a truck behind them. About a mile down the road, a wall of flames blocked their path.

It was the main way out. She’d never gone the back way — a windy, dirt and gravel mountain road through a canyon. – LA Times

100,000 people and counting have been forced to evacuate from 8 counties in Northern California due to 22 fires.  Yet that is nothing compared to the 6.3 million people forced to evacuate Florida due to Hurricane Irma.  Displacement due to natural disaster takes a physical, emotional, and financial toll.  Imagine- having to confront the ash heap ruins of a home that was once yours.  Yet the toll of displacement on those with less physical, emotional, and financial resources is truly disturbing- as we saw in the fallout of Hurricane Katrina.  Displacement for society’s underprivileged may last years rather than months.  

It’s daunting to think that the accumulation of disasters that have occurred this year is only the tip of the iceberg.  

Climate change means that natural disaster isn’t the “new normal” this is just a preview of the devastation that our attack on the environment will manifest.

The link between climate change and natural disaster is clear.  The LA times reports:

(1) A 2013 study in PNAS found that the risk of a Hurricane Katrina-level storm surge rose two to seven times for every 1.8-degree Fahrenheit increase in temperature.

(2)   On top of that, climate change might mean that subtropical high pressure systems are likely to get stronger and larger. Those systems keep moist air from traveling upward in the atmosphere, where it can condense and eventually fall to the earth as rain or snow. By gaining in size and strength, those systems may become even more effective at blocking precipitation.

(3) Where there’s drought, there’s often fire, and for similar reasons — global warming means less soil moisture on average, which means that stuff burns more easily. (Particularly if you’re in a drought-stricken area with a lot of dead, dry trees, for example.)

In the face of these mounting environmental tragedies, it’s crucial we act to address both the immediate need and the underlying issue.  GoFundMe has a list of verified accounts for Napa fire victims.  The Sierra Club offers a way to give back to your community and the environment while also getting active with like-minded environmentalists.  In the words of Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”




Sara recently received her Master’s degree in Public Affairs at University of San Francisco.  She completed this while working full time as social media associate and program manager for  environmental education non-profits NatureBridge and Action for Nature. Sara has been a committed social justice advocate since her days writing cultural content pieces for the University of Washington’s student newspaper through her days serving in Americorps. She enjoys working in social entrepreneurship, since it allows her to invest in the cross section of innovation and active citizenship.