What Is Wrong with Us?

california fires
Paso Robles, CA. Escaping the smoke but still seeing the haze.

California is on fire, again.

Over 600 people are still missing. Homes are gone, lives are over, and our resident billionaire is singing karaoke at the bar.

What is wrong with us?

This is the worst fire in California history, says the news. But what do we know and what do we have to compare it to?

There is no precedent for this, no measure.

Once upon a time, for all of time, fires burned the earth and the things that grew from it. Today, God only knows what’s burning. Cars, appliances, computers, handheld devices, plastics, fuel, chemicals, medications, toxic waste, every Amazon box that was too big to ship something we didn’t need.  

We are the land of too much, and now it is coming back to us, with every breath.

Once the tiny colored “air quality now” box we are all frantically refreshing goes from purple to green, what do we think happens when we run outside and “safely” hit the parks so little feet can kick up what’s now settled on the ground?

Who knows when we are safe.  

Who knows what the long-term effects will be…

But we all have a say in this.

We all contribute to the fires being worse, to the environment suffering.

And we can all change.

Maybe it’s the only thing that’s keeping me sane, feeling as helpless as I do, but I think it is crazy the difference we can make if you just take a second to think about it.

Don’t use a plastic bag, ever again.

Say no to straws, forever.

Stop ordering crap you don’t need.

Say no to Hatchimals.

Take a hiatus from Amazon.

Bring your own coffee mug, everywhere.

Cherish the things you own and the history they have and ignore the impulse to replace old with new.

While you’re stuck inside, learn how recycling works. Like, did you know “compostable” to-go cups and containers we feel so proud of don’t actually break down any more than plastic unless you actually compost them? They need air and sunlight and soil to break down. So you have to make sure they make it into the green bin, or they are just the same plastic inside the hole.

Do a little less laundry.

Take a few minutes off every shower.

Don’t buy just one more thing for Christmas.

Donate the money you would have spent to the survivors.

Don’t wrap all the gifts.

Tell your kids what’s happening. They have bigger hearts than all of us. They have a long life to live and an impact to make.

Be a Californian. Care.

We can honor every person lost this week in small changes to the life we still get to live.

If we all have less, there is less to burn.  

Will it stop fires? No.

But maybe this time we will actually hold the people responsible for starting them.

PG&E stockholders, let’s not forget so fast this time.


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Amy is a technologist by trade and a writer by nature. Wife to a dashing web designer, mother to a beautiful, thoughtful daughter, adorable, slightly less civilized son, and a Yorkshire Terrier who came first and is still waiting for the non- furry babies to leave. As a work-from-home mom, she believes work/life balance is not a concept but a daily (sometimes exhausting) goal. She is always in search of a community that fosters her belief that sameness is boring, money is only a means to see the world and there are no rules we should impose on one another in this life other than Be Kind. She loves her family, lives to travel, and firmly believes that a homemade meal, a handmade cocktail and an episode of the Bachelor (a day late because she doesn’t own a tv) can cure almost anything.


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