Khue’s Climate Story
San Jose, CA (95116)
How are you sensing climate change?
November 15, 2018. My junior year of high school. My friends and I are at our fall sports banquet, celebrating a great end to the volleyball season. All of a sudden, everyone’s on their phones and the whispering rises to an excited chatter. “No school tomorrow!” What? We couldn’t believe it and raced to check for announcements. Sure enough, our high school had announced that we would not be in session the next day, due to poor air quality. Unsurprisingly, everyone was very excited to be getting a day off. Other schools in the district had already been announcing days off and it was only a matter of time before ours did too.
However, that excitement didn’t last long. In 2018, the Camp Fire was one of the largest and most destructive wildfires in United States history. It started in Butte County in Northern California on November 8, 2018 and wasn’t fully contained until November 25, burning for over two weeks. For what seemed like forever, the skies became orange and hazy and it became normal to see smoke somewhere. The smell of burning wood and building materials permeated the air. Every breath I took felt somewhat contaminated, almost as if I could taste the smoke. Every day I would check the air quality index on our weather apps and every day, I would see that bright orange or bright red color, indicating that it was unsafe to be outside for long periods of time.
When I did venture outside, usually just to quickly stock up on groceries or to go to school once it was finally safe, I would hear fire trucks in the distance, racing off to contain a small fire or respond to a distress call. I felt the dry, hot air on my skin, as if I was in the deserts of Palm Springs or Las Vegas.
After a while, people adjusted to the new normal. We adapted our lives to the Camp Fire and after it was contained, we were left with the aftermath. We learned new emergency and evacuation procedures, leaving us better prepared for (unfortunately) the next one. Friends and families that lived up in the hills became more aware of their increased susceptibility to the flames. After the news reported that the fire had started from a faulty power line, PG&E was held responsible, having to offer billions of dollars in settlement money to the victims and improve their maintenance of the power lines. Although many lives and homes were lost in the fire, California residents rallied together and supported each other, showing our resilience to the realities of climate change.
How do these changes make you feel?
These changes gave me a persistent feeling of worry because although my family and friends weren’t in immediate danger, that safety felt precarious. It felt like any of our situations could worsen at any time, so I felt very uneasy when talking about the climate and the wildfires.
San Jose, CA 95116
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