Two weekends ago, heatwave-fueled freak lightning storms in Northern California sparked hundreds of fires, many of which merged into mega-blazes. Three of these now rank among the top four largest fires in our state’s history. Since the beginning of the crisis (no, not that crisis, the wildfire crisis), the Bay Area has experienced some of the worst air quality in the world.
This labor day weekend ushered in more misery: another heatwave with temperatures hitting a record high of 121°F down in LA, power outages to reduce the risk of power lines igniting extremely dry vegetation during high winds, smoky skies, more fires and a red flag warning of extreme fire risk in the Bay Area. The fact that fire season doesn’t begin until October or November has kept me awake at night—that and the excessive heat.
Covid has made this scenario worse. Those who must flee the fires and their homes risk exposure to the virus in evacuation centers. Covid outbreaks in prisons have sickened many of the inmates that fight California’s wildfires in exchange for a paltry $2 to $5 per day. (By the way, these same inmates may not work as firefighters after finishing their sentences.)
And although more studies are needed, the evidence to date strongly suggests that air pollution significantly increases Covid infections and deaths. Meanwhile, vulnerable, essential farmworkers still work under smoke-blanketed skies during extreme heat. Many of them lack proper face masks.
This is climate change.
How You Can Help
These are just some of the organizations helping those affected by the fires:
- GoFundMe has created a centralized California wildfire hub for the hundreds of campaigns launched for fire relief. Search for a fundraiser here. GoFundMe’s charitable arm has also created a relief fund of its own. You can donate to that here.
- The California Fire Foundation provides emotional and financial support to the families of fallen firefighters. Donate here.
- Support the essential workers who pick our food. This GoFundMe campaign is raising money for The United Farm Workers, the largest and oldest farm workers union in the US.
- The Veterinary Emergency Response Team at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine needs funds to care for animals injured by and rescued from the fires. The organization faces challenges as some of its staff have been personally affected by fires. Donate here.
2. Get active
I feel as though I say this in every other blog post but please join and support a grassroots organization such as 350.org, Sunrise Movement or Extinction Rebellion. All three groups demand that our governments take action on the climate crisis and ensure a just recovery from our simultaneous, intertwined crises: racial, pandemic, global heating, extinction, wealth inequality.
3. Sign petitions
This one tells ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and FOX to make “the connection between extreme weather, climate change, and fossil fuel pollution” in their reporting. I learned about this petition through a weekly newsletter from Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org. Sign the petition here.
This petition from 350.org demands Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and his finance minister Chrystia Freeland release the cost of the Trans Mountain pipeline, bought with public money that would be better spent on investing in a green new deal. Sign the petition here.
Are you a college or university student? If your school hasn’t divested from fossil fuels, search for a petition on the Fossil Free website and urge your institution to dump its investments in fossil fuels.
4. Get out the vote
Because seniors make up the majority of poll workers, as a high-risk Covid demographic, they cannot safely man polling centers this election year. Due to the resulting record shortage of poll workers, we’ll face fewer polling stations, longer lines and disenfranchised voters. If you’re young and healthy, you can help save democracy—and get paid! Sign up with Power the Polls to become a poll worker. You’ll receive training and PPE.
Write to underrepresented voters to encourage them to vote. The Big Send letter writing campaign aims to send 10 million letters to voters. So far, volunteers have written over five million letters. Register here to get started. You can make a party of it on Zoom.
5. Vote like our lives depend on it because they do
Find all the information you need to vote at vote.org. Vote for the environment. Vote for a just recovery. We can create a better world. I believe this even as I look out at our eerie smoke-filled orange sky this morning.
Enter a raffle to win one of two bread saws made from reclaimed wood
UPDATE 09/13/20: The raffle has now ended and I’ve removed the buy buttons for the tickets. We raised $1,912! Thank you everyone who entered!
is was open to both left- and right-handed US residents.
I’m raffling off two beautiful handmade bread saws for fire relief and will donate one hundred percent of the proceeds to the California Fire Foundation’s Disaster Relief Program. I’ll gladly eat the fees that PayPay charges me on the first $1,000 I raise (I don’t imagine I will raise more than that but please prove me wrong). Each bread saw has a retail value of about $45. If you’re left-handed, the master bread saw maker himself with gladly flip the blade for you.
If you’ve jumped on the sourdough bandwagon and don’t have a good bread knife, consider getting a bread saw. I have a very expensive bread knife but I prefer a bread saw. They make quick work of a crusty loaf. (You can find bread saws on Esty.)
My partner Chandra (a talented potter) made these bread saws from reclaimed wood. While choosing an expensive front door for a client at a store recently, he noticed a discarded oak pallet put together with untreated door remnants. So, naturally, he asked if he could have it.
Chandra pried apart the planks of wood and proceeded to cut out, shape, and sand handles before finishing each one with a coat of beeswax. He then cut blades from a new stainless steel bandsaw blade and attached them to the handles. The beautiful, one-of-a-kind bread saws are a pleasure to hold and use. Chandra will flip the blade for left-handed winners.
I’ll draw two tickets at random on Sunday, September 13th at 1pm PT and mail the winners their bread saws. I’ll also update this post with the amount of money we raised for fire relief. Thank you to everyone who enters the drawing or donates to the organizations I listed above. We Californians appreciate it more than you know!