California's Wildfires Have Made Me Rethink My Relationship With The Environment, And You Should, Too
Start writing a post

California's Wildfires Have Made Me Rethink My Relationship With The Environment, And You Should, Too

Wildfires are ravaging the West Coast, but I didn't really know what that would mean for us. So, I did a little research.

California's Wildfires Have Made Me Rethink My Relationship With The Environment, And You Should, Too

Wildfires—they've been dominating the headlines lately, but what exactly are they?

Wildfires are a natural part of ecosystems, but the amount of fires and the damage they're doing isn't.

Wildfires exist, essentially, as a reset button for ecosystems in a couple different ways.

The first, and easiest to see, is that fires clear out dead organic material from the ecosystem. Without fires to clear out this decaying biomass, plants and animals would be unable to reach nutrients in the soil and certain species wouldn't be able to survive.

When this matter decays, it releases nutrients back into the ecosystem that helps future plants grow. Wildfires speed up this process. When this decaying biomass is burned, those essential nutrients are released back into the ecosystem at a much faster rate and increase soil fertility.

The most interesting element of wildfires, in my opinion, is that certain plant and animal species need them to survive. Without wildfires, they could not complete their life cycle.

I mean, isn't that wild? (pun intended)

Certain plant species, such as the pine tree, need fires in order for their seeds to germinate. And the endangered Karner blue butterfly caterpillar only eats a plant called lupine. And lupine is one of those plants that cannot survive without fire.

So without wildfire, this destructive force, some animals and plants could not survive.

And finally, wildfires can help control a population of invasive species. Native wildlife are typically adapted to the threat of wildfires with skills of burrowing or fleeing when they sense one coming. But invasive species will not have that behavioral skill and can either be controlled or completely removed from an area with the help of wildfires.

But on the flip side of wildfires, we have the parts we know all too well: disastrous health effects, destruction of infrastructure, and increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires due to climate change.

With the most recent wildfires in California, we've all seen the pictures of the horizon blanketed in smoke and heard the stories of California citizens with headaches and breathing issues. Most of us in the continental US have even experienced our own lesser version of the smoke as it moved across the country.

And even worse, these effects of eye or respiratory issues can last long past the smoke clearing if the damage is substantial enough.

And while we're talking about health, did I mention the burn and smoke inhalation risk for those nearest to the fire and first responders? The first responders face the threat of severe injury or illness or even death from these factors.

Pictures of burned towns and homes have been all over the news lately, and it is hard for any viewer to be unaffected by the stories of the people who live there. The fear and anxiety is unparalleled for those individuals. Losing everything in a pillar of smoke takes a horrific toll on mental health. Mental health issues may be the hardest thing to heal following a fire.

Now, you might be thinking: how can half of our country be engulfed in wildfires and the other half be wading through hurricanes? The answer is easier said than explained.

Climate change.

The increasing frequency and intensity of wildfires is due to climate change. Wildfires, specifically, are happening more often because of higher temperatures, stronger winds, and droughts. These variables naturally occur in California, simply because of its geographical location, but the severity is getting exacerbated due to the ever-reaching hand of climate change. And unfortunately, unless there is major systemic change, it is only going to get worse.

These two sides seem impossible to mitigate. How can fires that are so devastating to humans be so necessary for plants and animals?

Well, the reason that fires are so devastating is because of climate change. And there is a way to help lessen the dangerous impacts.

Prescribed burns have been a tradition on indigenous land for generations, and the rest of the world is finally starting to listen.

First of all, what's a prescribed burn? A prescribed burn is a fire set and watched by management to encourage those nutrient and life cycles and lessen the risk of high damage wildfires like the ones ravaging California right now.

When prescribed burns, done by experts and fire staff, are used, the ecosystem is nudged back towards equilibrium.

Because when humans throw the carbon cycle out of whack and abuse the environment, we throw every aspect of the biosphere out of balance. Using prescribed burns is a way for us to right some of our wrongs.

We can fix our colossal mistakes with colossal change. But we have to start now.

To quote Smokey Bear, "Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires."

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

Women are known to lug around heavy purses with unnecessary items inside. How many of these useful items do you keep in your own bag? We need to be prepared with a list of things to have with us whenever we leave the house again.

Keep Reading... Show less

I personally love using song lyrics as my Instagram captions, especially from songs that I love or that mean a lot to me, and I happen to love Harry Styles and all of his songs! So I made a list of lyrics from each of his songs that you could use in your next Instagram caption.

Keep Reading... Show less

Everyone's been here. And, truthfully, it sucks. But in order to move on and get past something you need to allow yourself to feel it for what it is--all of the heartbreak and pain--and then you can start to take steps move on.

Keep Reading... Show less

11 Christmas Movies You'll Remember If You Were A 2000s Kid

Because I'm still reminiscing about simpler times.


The Christmas season is coming to an end, but it's not too late to get some last-minute movies in! Unfortunately, this year didn't look like a typical Christmas. While we can't have any big Christmas parties or family gatherings, we can still celebrate at home! Christmas is the best time for nostalgia, and we could all use some warm and fuzzy feelings as we wrap up a tough year and enter a new one that hasn't been proven any calmer, either.

As a kid who grew up in the 2000s, I can think of some of my favorite staple Christmas movies. If you're looking for recommendations or just a walk down memory lane, check out the list below.

Keep Reading... Show less

9 Reasons 'The Wilds' Should Be Your Next Binge Watch

The Wilds is the Best New Show on Amazon Prime


As we enter the new year, you might be looking for a great show to kick-off 2021. Look no further, I have the perfect recommendation. "The Wilds" was released on Amazon Prime last month and has been gaining traction steadily since then. This series of 10 one-hour episodes tells the stories of eight girls who find themselves on a deserted island after their plane crashed while they are on their way to a resort. Unlike other survival shows, there's a bit more to the story than what first meets the eye. This show is unique in characters, storytelling methods, and plot.

If you aren't convinced yet, allow me to provide you with a list of further persuasion.

Keep Reading... Show less

5 Therapeutic Ways To Be Adventurous During The Pandemic

Add some music to reduce the COVID-anxiety a bit and perceive your surroundings as the elaborate setting of a land far, far away from home


Even if we are not traveling abroad at the moment, we can still travel locally while maintaining social distancing and preventative guidelines. Sometimes, the little things in life seem the most fascinating and joyous to us compared to the flamboyant luxuries that we perhaps have a wishful desire for.

So, as a potential remedy for our travel necessity, I have listed 5 alternative ways in which you can relish your traveling desires during this pandemic.

Keep Reading... Show less

10 Things TikTok Made Me Buy, And Now My Life Is So Much Better

Where would I be without my Revlon hair dryer or CeraVe skin products?! Thanks, TikTok.


TikTok is a great way to see what products are trending. People are sharing tips and tricks about items that they use to make their life happier, healthier, or just easier.

Keep Reading... Show less
Facebook Comments