California wildfires spark the irony of human greed

Jared Wolf
3 min readAug 21, 2020

Sometimes considered a part of Mother Nature’s ‘cleansing’, what percentage of wildfires are caused by humans?

10% of wildfires… occur naturally. That’s right, 90% of wildfires are caused by humans.

Photo by Dominik Lange on Unsplash

What are some examples human-caused wildfires?

Well, something as simple as a spark from a train can cause one. Or something more blatant like a lit cigarette butt thrown into a hot, dry forest can morph into an formidable forest fire.

Cali fires also occur from a combination of frequent droughts, flammable native shrubs and trees, high winds, invasive grasses that act as kindling, more human civilization near wild areas, and homes that burn easily.

Basically, Cali is a perfect shitstorm for wildfires.

As a result, area burned by wildfire in California increased more than five-fold since 1972, from a five-year average of 236 square miles (611 square kilometers) a year to 1,394 square miles (3,610 square kilometers) a year according to a 2019 study by Williams, Balch and others.

Burning down the house

Another fire season = another tragedy = more lives lost.

You hear a lot about how modern man’s recklessness for Nature will lead to our demise.

Admittedly, it is easy to dismiss the annoying Greta-ism (come on, you know she’s a little annoying) and just hit play again on our overly-stimulated, short-fused lifestyle.

What we see this weekend, however, is another quiet example of our vulnerability as a species. No technological innovation can save a 5-foot something hiker from the ravages of a blazing, behemoth wildfire.

Still rolling your eyes?

As we learned this week about pesticides, last week about ANWR drilling, this month about Mauritius’ oil spill, earlier this summer about Flint’s water crisis, or this Spring about 5G technology, neglecting environmental hazards in the face of economic progress almost always comes back to harm us.

And too often, the victims of environmental dangers have no say in its creation or destruction.