The ground is constantly shaking in southern California right now, and this has many concerned that another large earthquake may be coming. I have been keeping my eye on Cal Tech’s recent earthquake map, and as I write this article it says that there have been 10,053 earthquakes in California and Nevada over the past 7 days. I have never seen that number so high, and southern California is being hit by yet another new earthquake every few moments. Most of the earthquakes are happening out in the Ridgecrest area where we witnessed the magnitude 6.4 earthquake that hit on July 4th and the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that hit on July 5th. But as you can see from Cal Tech’s map, there has been a tremendous amount of seismic activity along the San Andreas fault as well. As I discussed the other day, the San Andreas fault is “locked and loaded” and it is way overdue for “the Big One”. Could it be possible that all of this earthquake activity is leading up to something really big?
And it isn’t just earthquakes that we need to be concerned about. According to Fox News, “geologists are nervously eyeing eight nearby volcanoes”…
California’s uncanny “earthquake pause” is over. It should have already had several “big ones” by now. All that pressure has to go somewhere. Now geologists are nervously eyeing eight nearby volcanoes. And why has Yellowstone supervolcano been acting so weird?
The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has warned Southern California to expect more big earthquakes to come. Some, they say, may even be more powerful than those experienced in the past few days.
“(These quakes do) not make (the Big One) less likely,” local seismologist Lucy Jones told The Los Angeles Times. “There is about a one in 20 chance that this location will be having an even bigger earthquake in the next few days, that we have not yet seen the biggest earthquake of the sequence.”
Could you imagine the chaos that would ensue if a volcano suddenly erupted in California?
For the record, I am personally far more concerned about Mt. Rainier and the other volcanoes in the Northwest. But that is a topic for another article.
One angle that hasn’t really been talked about much is what would happen to California’s nuclear reactors if “the Big One” suddenly hit the San Andreas fault.
According to Natural News, there are currently five nuclear reactors right along the San Andreas fault and another one that is located directly along the coast…
A Natural News investigation into the geolocation of nuclear power facilities in California reveals that five nuclear facilities were built in close proximity to the San Andreas fault line, with some constructed right in the middle of earthquake zones that have up to a 50% chance of a severe earthquake every 30 years.
One nuclear power plant – the Diablo Canyon Nuclear Power Plant which produces 2,160 megawatts — was constructed on the coast, making it extremely vulnerable to the very same kind of ocean water surge that destroyed the Fukushima-Daiichi facility which suffered a 2011 meltdown in Japan.
Who was the genius that decided to build those reactors near the San Andreas fault?
The potential for an unprecedented nightmare is definitely there. If a magnitude 9.0 earthquake were to hit the San Andreas fault, it would be 707 times more powerful than the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that we just witnessed.
And we live at a time when our planet just continues to become even more unstable. According to NBC News, the number of “great” earthquakes between 2004 and 2014 was 265 percent higher than during the preceding ten year period…
The annual number of “great” earthquakes nearly tripled over the last decade, providing a reminder to Americans that unruptured faults like those in the northwest United States might be due for a Big One.
Between 2004 and 2014, 18 earthquakes with magnitudes of 8.0 or more rattled subduction zones around the globe. That’s an increase of 265 percent over the average rate of the previous century, which saw 71 great quakes, according to a report to the annual meeting of the Geological Society of America this week in Vancouver, British Columbia.
But despite all of the unusual shaking that we have witnessed so far this century, the state of California hasn’t seen anything remotely close to the shaking that we have witnessed over the last 7 days.
Of course seismic activity is just one element of “the perfect storm” that is starting to unfold. According to the NOAA, the 12 month period ending in June was the wettest 12 month period in all of U.S. history. In fact, for three months in a row “the past 12-month precipitation record has hit an all-time high”. We just keep setting record after record, and the flooding in the middle of the country seems like it will never end. Millions of acres of prime farmland will not be used at all this year, and tens of millions of acres of crops are in extremely poor condition right now.
Meanwhile, a monster storm is heading directly for New Orleans, and on Wednesday it dumped “7 inches of rain within a three-hour period” on the city…
Lines of thunderstorms associated with a weather system that is predicted to develop into a hurricane by Friday struck New Orleans with as much as 7 inches of rain within a three-hour period Wednesday morning, forecasters said.
The city was engulfed with water, leaving residents to contend with swampy streets, overturned garbage cans and flooded vehicles. Some even paddled their way down the street in kayaks.
But the worst is still yet to come. The storm may become a hurricane before it makes landfall, and it is going to push the Mississippi River to one of the highest levels ever…
The deluge may have just been a preview of more serious flooding situation from Tropical Storm or Hurricane Barry, which could affect the area into the weekend.
On Saturday, the Mississippi River is projected to see one of its highest crests on record in New Orleans, or the highest in seven decades.
A state of emergency has already been declared in Louisiana, and this could turn out to be the biggest disaster for the state since Hurricane Katrina.
Why is disaster after disaster suddenly pummeling the United States?
And could it be possible that this is just the beginning of our problems?
A time of great change is now upon us, and I have a feeling that what we have experienced so far is just the tip of the iceberg.
About the author: Michael Snyder is a nationally-syndicated writer, media personality and political activist. He is the author of four books including Get Prepared Now, The Beginning Of The Endand Living A Life That Really Matters. His articles are originally published on The Economic Collapse Blog, End Of The American Dream and The Most Important News. From there, his articles are republished on dozens of other prominent websites. If you would like to republish his articles, please feel free to do so. The more people that see this information the better, and we need to wake more people up while there is still time.
I have been to Fukushima and spoken to people there and the parents are desperate to hear the truth even if it’s not good truth. And they thanked me for telling them the truth. So it’s an absolute medical catastrophe I would say, and a total cover up to protect the nuclear industry and all its ramifications.
The eight year anniversary of the triple meltdowns at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear facility passed mostly without comment in mainstream media circles. In spite of ongoing radiological contamination that will continue to spread and threaten human health for lifetimes to come, other stories dominate the international news cycle. The climate change conundrum, serious though it may be, seemingly crowds out all other clear and present environmental hazards.
As part of efforts to normalize this historic event and cover it up in its magnitude, the Japanese government has invested considerable financial, public relations and other resources into what they are billing the ‘Recovery Olympics‘ set to take place in a year’s time in Tokyo.
But Helen Caldicott warns that the dangers associated with Fukushima have not gone away and remain a cause for concern.
Dr. Helen Caldicott has been an author, physician and one of the world’s leading anti-nuclear campaigners. She helped to reinvigorate the group of Physicians for Social Responsibility, acting as president from 1978 to 1983. Since its founding in 2001 she served as president of the US based Nuclear Policy Research Institute later called Beyond Nuclear which initiates symposia and educational projects aimed at informing the public about the dangers of nuclear power, nuclear weapons, and nuclear war. And she is the editor of the 2014 book, Crisis Without End: The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe.
On the week marking the eighth anniversary of the Fukushima meltdowns, the Global Research News Hour radio program, hosted by Michael Welch, reached out to Dr. Caldicott to get her expert opinion on the health dangers posed by the most serious nuclear disaster since, at least, the 1986 Chernobyl event.
Global Research: Now the Japanese government is preparing to welcome visitors to Japan for the 2020 Olympic Games, and coverage of the 8th anniversary of the Fukushima disaster is hardly, it seems to me, registered given the significant radiological and other dangers that you cited and your authors cited in your 2014 book, Crisis Without End. Now it’s been more than four years since that book came out. I was hoping you could update our listenership on what is currently being recognized as the main health threats in 2019, perhaps not registered in the book, that you’re currently looking at in relation to the Fukushima meltdown.
Helen Caldicott: Well it’s difficult because the Japanese government has authorized really only examination of thyroid cancer. Now thyroid cancer is caused by radioactive iodine and there were many, many cases of that after Chernobyl. And already, they’ve looked at children under the age of 18 in the Fukushima prefecture at the time of the accident, and … how many children… 100…no 201 by June 18 last year… 201 had developed thyroid cancer. Some cancers had metastasized. The incidence of thyroid cancer in that population normally is 1 per million. So obviously it’s an epidemic of thyroid cancer and it’s just starting now.
What people need to understand is the latent period of carcinogenesis, ie the time after exposure to radiation when cancers develop is any time from 3 years to 80 years. And so it’s a very, very long period. Thyroid cancers appear early. Leukemia appears about 5 to 10 years later. They’re not looking for leukemia. Solid cancers of every organ, or any organ as such appear about 15 years later and continue and in fact the Hibakusha from the Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are still alive are still developing cancers in higher than normal numbers.
The Japanese government has told doctors that they are not to talk to their patients about radiation and illnesses derived thereof, and in fact if the doctors do do that, they might lose their funding from the government. The IAEA, the International Atomic Energy Agency interestingly set up a hospital – a cancer hospital – in Fukushima along with the Fukushima University for people with cancer, which tells you everything.
So there’s a huge, huge cover up. I have been to Japan twice and particularly to Fukushima and spoken to people there and the parents are desperate to hear the truth even if it’s not good truth. And they thanked me for telling them the truth. So it’s an absolute medical catastrophe I would say, and a total cover up to protect the nuclear industry and all its ramifications.
GR: Now, are we talking about some of the, the contamination that happened 8 years ago or are we talking about ongoing emissions from, for example–
HC: Well there are ongoing emissions into the air consistently, number one. Number two, a huge amount of water is being stored –over a million gallons in tanks at the site. That water is being siphoned off from the reactor cores, the damaged melted cores. Water is pumped consistently every day, every hour, to keep the cores cool in case they have another melt. And that water, of course, is extremely contaminated.
Now they say they’ve filtered out the contaminants except for the tritium which is part of the water molecule, but they haven’t. There’s strontium, cesium, and many other elements in that water – it’s highly radioactive – and because there isn’t enough room to build more tanks, they’re talking about emptying all that water into the Pacific Ocean and the fishermen are very, very upset. The fish already being caught off Fukushima, some are obviously contaminated. But this will be a disaster.
Water comes down from the mountains behind the reactors, flows underneath the reactors into the sea and always has. And when the reactors were in good shape, the water was fine, didn’t get contaminated. But now the three molten cores in contact with that water flowing under the reactors and so the water flowing into the Pacific is very radioactive and that’s a separate thing from the million gallons or more in those tanks.
They put up a refrigerated wall of frozen dirt around the reactors to prevent that water from the mountains flowing underneath the reactors, which has cut down the amount of water flowing per day from 500 tons to about a hundred and fifty. But of course, if they lose electricity, that refrigeration system is going to fail, and it’s a transient thing anyway so it’s ridiculous. In terms… So over time the Pacific is going to become more and more radioactive.
They talk about decommissioning and removing those molten cores. When robots go in and try and have a look at them, their wiring just melts and disappears. They’re extraordinarily radioactive. No human can go near them because they would die within 48 hours from the radiation exposure. They will never, and I quote never, decommission those reactors. They will never be able to stop the water coming down from the mountains. And so, the truth be known, it’s an ongoing global radiological catastrophe which no one really is addressing in full.
GR: Do we have a better reading on, for example the thyroids, but also leukemia incubation—
HC: No they’re not looking–well, leukemia they’re not looking for leukemia…
GR: Just thyroid
HC: They’re not charting it. So the only cancer they’re looking at is thyroid cancer and that’s really high, and you know it’s at 201 have already been diagnosed and some have metastasized. And a very tight lid is being kept on any other sort of radiation related illnesses and leukemia and the like. All the other cancers and the like, and leukemia is so… It’s not just a catastrophe it’s a…
GR: …a cover up
HC: Yeah. I can’t really explain how I feel medically about it. It’s just hideous.
GR: Well I have a brother who’s a physician, who was pointing to well we should maybe, the World Health Organization is a fairly authoritative body of research for all of the indicators and epidemiological aspects of this, but you seem to suggest the World Health Organization may not be that reliable in light of the fact that they are partnered with the IAEA. Is that my understanding…?
HC: Correct. They signed a document, I think in ‘59, with the IAEA that they would not report any medical effects of radiological disasters and they’ve stuck to that. So they are in effect in this area part of the International Atomic Energy Agency whose mission is to promote nuclear power. So don’t even think about the WHO. it’s really obscene.
GR: So what would… the incentive would be simply that they got funding?
HC: I don’t know. I really don’t know but they sold themselves to the devil.
GR: That’s pretty incredible. So there’s also the issue of biomagnification in the oceans, where you have radioactive debris, hundreds of tons of this radioactive water getting into the oceans and biomagnifying up through the food chain, so these radioactive particles can get inside our bodies. Could you speak to what you anticipate to see, what you would anticipate, whether it’s recorded by World Health authorities or not, what we could expect to see in the years ahead in terms of the illnesses that manifest themselves?HC: Well number one, Fukushima is a very agricultural prefecture. Beautiful, beautiful peaches, beautiful food, and lots of rice. And the radiation spread far and wide through the Fukushima prefecture, and indeed they have been plowing up millions and millions of tons of radioactive dirt and storing it in plastic bags all over the prefecture. The mountains are highly radioactive and every time it rains, down comes radiation with the water. So the radiation – the elements. And there are over 200 radioactive elements made in a nuclear reactor. Some have lives of seconds and some have lives of millions of years or lasts for millions of years will I say. So there are many many isotopes, long-lasting isotopes – cesium, strontium, tritium is another one – but many, many on the soil in Fukushima.
And what happens is – you talked about biomagnification – when the plants take up the water from the soil, they take up the cesium which is a potassium analog – it resembles potassium. Strontium 90 resembles calcium and the like. And these elements get magnified by orders of magnitude in the rice and in the plants. And so when you eat food that is grown in Fukushima, the chances are it’s going to be relatively radioactive.
They’ve been diluting radioactive rice with non-radioactive rice to make it seem a bit better. Now, into the ocean go these isotopes as well, and the algae bio-magnify them by – you know -ten to a hundred times or more. And then the crustaceans eat the algae, bio-magnify it more. The little fish eat the crustaceans, the big fish eat the little fish and the like. And tuna found in – off the coast of California some years ago contained isotopes from Fukushima. Also fish, being caught on the west coast of California contained some of these isotopes. So, it’s an ongoing bio-magnification catastrophe.
And the thing is that you can’t even taste, smell or see radioactive elements in your food. They’re invisible. And it takes a long time for cancers to occur. And you can’t identify a particular cancer caused by a particular substance or isotope. You can only identify that problem by doing epidemiological studies comparing irradiated people with non-irradiated people to see what the cancer levels are and that data comes from Hiroshima and Nagasaki and many, many, many other studies.
GR: Chernobyl as well, no?
HC: Oh, Chernobyl! Well, a wonderful book was produced by the, uh, Russians, and published by the New York Academy of Sciences, called Chernobyl with over 5000 on the ground studies of children and diseases in Belarus and the Ukraine, and all over Europe. And by now over a million people have already died from the Chernobyl disaster. And many diseases have been caused by that, including premature aging in children, microcephaly in babies, very small heads, diabetes, leukemia, I mean, I could go on and on.
Um, and those diseases which have been very well described in that wonderful book, um, which everyone should read, are not being addressed or identified or looked for in the Fukushima or Japanese population.
May I say that parts of Tokyo are extremely radioactive. People have been measuring the dirt from rooves of apartments, from the roadway, from vacuum cleaner dust. And some of these samples, they’re so radioactive that they would classify to be buried in radioactive waste facilities in America. So, that’s number one.
Number two, to have the Olympics in Fukushima just defies imagination. And uh, some of the areas where the athletes are going to be running, the dust and dirt there has been measured, and it’s highly radioactive. So, this is Abe, the Prime Minister of Japan, who set this up to – as a sort of way to obscure what Fukushima really means. And those young athletes, you know, who are – and young people are much more sensitive to radiation, developing cancers later than older people – it’s just a catastrophe waiting to happen.
GR: Dr. Caldicott…
HC:They’re calling it the radioactive Olympics!
GR: (Chuckle). Is there anything that people can do, you know, whether they live in Japan or, say, the west coast of North America to mitigate the effects that this disaster has had, and may still be having eight years later?
HC: Yes. Do not eat any Japanese food because you don’t know where it’s sourced. Do not eat fish from Japan, miso, rice, you name it. Do not eat Japanese food. Period. Um, fish caught off the west coast of Canada and America, well, they’re not testing the fish so I don’t know what you’d do. Um, I mean, most of it’s probably not radioactive but you don’t know because you can’t taste it.
Um they’ve closed down the air-borne radioactive measuring instruments off the west coast of America, uh, but that’s pretty bad, because there still could be another huge accident at those reactors.
For instance, if there’s another large earthquake, number one, all those tanks would be destroyed and the water would pour into the Pacific. Number two, there could be another meltdown, a release – huge release of radiation, um, from the damaged reactors. So, things are very tenuous, but they’re not just tenuous now. They’re going to be tenuous forever.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster marks a critical turning point in human history. As of November 2018, 18,434 people are known to have died. Radioactive water has for years now been draining into the Pacific Ocean. Toxic debris spewed into the Earth’s atmosphere.
“The unleashed power of the atom has changed everything save our modes of thinking and we thus drift toward unparalleled catastrophe.”
– Albert Einstein
The eight year old Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster marks a critical turning point in human history.
As of November 2018, 18,434 people are known to have died from the March 11, 2011 earthquake and the follow-up tsunami which struck the nuclear facility leading to the inundation of electric generators powering the circulation of coolant in the reactors. When the generators failed, three units experienced catastrophic meltdowns. 
Radioactive water has for years now been draining into the Pacific Ocean. Toxic debris spewed into the Earth’s atmosphere. More than 73,000 people remain evacuated, and fully 3,600 dies of illness from causes like illness and suicide linked to the aftermath of the event. 
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The group Simplyinfo.org has been undertaking extensive ongoing research and analysis of the Fukushima disaster and its aftereffects. In its recently released annual report, Simplyinfo presented a number of astonishing and grim revelations.
The report estimated the threat of radioactive microparticles created by the meltdowns as possibly “the single largest ongoing risk to public health from the Fukushima disaster.” According to the research, these pieces of material from the nuclear fuel meltdowns are small enough to be inhaled or ingested and lodge in major organs of the human body where they continually irradiate cancer-causing levels of radiation, making them much more hazardous than the external sources of radiation being monitored by health authorities. 
The report also highlighted startling instances of negligence and cover-up. One notable example was the case of Dr. Shunichi Yamashita. He had downplayed the health risks in public meetings, but was discovered through an internal memo retrieved from an ‘off-site center’ set up as a central commend for the disaster to have warned of ‘a serious possibility of thyroid damage to children in the region.’ 
As the radioactive contamination continues to be a concern the Japanese government of Shinzō Abe is inviting the world to visit Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics. The authorities are maintaining that the situation has been contained. Officials have decided to have the city of Fukushima host baseball and softball games, and are even having the iconic torch run start in Fukushima. 
Efforts to normalize life in Fukushima 8 years after the meltdowns appear to be successful if trends in media consumption are any indication. Articles marking the anniversary were eclipsed by other breaking stories.
This week’s instalment of the Global Research News Hour strives to impress on our listenership that the Fukushima event, if it does not constitute an extinction level event, it is certainly an ongoing health and environmental hazard deserving of at least a portion of the public attention currently directed to climate change.
Dr. Helen Caldicott appears in the first half hour of our program. She collaborated with other experts to provide a one of a kind volume detailing the medical and ecological costs of the Fukushima catastrophe. She returns to the program to update listeners on what is known about the ongoing health dangers, the lack of transparency around the casualties, and the extent of the suppression and misrepresentation of the truth by the Japanese government, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the World Health Organization and the media.
We next hear from Arnie Gundersen of Fairewinds Energy Education. The nuclear industry watchdog shares his understanding of the spread of nuclear contamination at Fukushima, the Japanese government’s bid to distract the public with heavy investment in and promotion of the 2020 Olympics, and the general tendency of governments and regulators to put the health of the industry above the safety of the public. He also addresses some of the background of the Three Mile Island incident which took place 40 years ago this month in Pennsylvania, near Harrisburg.
Dr. Helen Caldicott is a physician and co-founder of Physicians for Social Responsibility. She is a nominee for the Nobel Peace Prize, the recipient of the 2003 Lannan Prize for Cultural Freedom, and author or editor of several books including Nuclear Madness: What You Can Do (1979), If You Love This Planet: A Plan to Heal The Earth (1992), The New Nuclear Danger: George W. Bush’s Military-Industrial Complex(2001), and Crisis Without End -The Medical and Ecological Consequences of the Fukushima Nuclear Catastrophe (2014).
Arnie Gundersen is one of the directors of Fairewinds Energy Education, an information hub showcasing over 200 videos, numerous podcasts and newsletters detailing relating to nuclear energy and the entire power production paradigm. Gundersen is a nuclear engineer with over 45 years of experience in the industry. He holds a nuclear safety patent, was a licensed reactor operator, and has coordinated projects at 70 nuclear power plants in the US. He co-authored with Maggie Gundersen and barrister Reiko Okazaki the 2012 book Fukushima Daiichi: Truth And The Way Forward, which became a Japanese best-seller. His organization’s website is fairewinds.org.
(Global Research News Hour Episode 252)
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Naturalist tells leaders at UN climate summit that fate of world is in their hands
The collapse of civilisation and the natural world is on the horizon, Sir David Attenborough has told the UN climate change summit in Poland.
The naturalist was chosen to represent the world’s people in addressing delegates of almost 200 nations who are in Katowice to negotiate how to turn pledges made in the 2015 Paris climate deal into reality.
As part of the UN’s people’s seat initiative, messages were gathered from all over the world to inform Attenborough’s address on Monday. “Right now we are facing a manmade disaster of global scale, our greatest threat in thousands of years: climate change,” he said. “If we don’t take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of the natural world is on the horizon.”
“Do you not see what is going on around you?” asks one young man in a video message played as part of a montage to the delegates. “We are already seeing increased impacts of climate change in China,” says a young woman. Another woman, standing outside a building burned down by a wildfire, says: “This used to be my home.”
Attenborough said: “The world’s people have spoken. Time is running out. They want you, the decision-makers, to act now. Leaders of the world, you must lead. The continuation of civilisations and the natural world upon which we depend is in your hands.”
Attenborough urged everyone to use the UN’s new ActNow chatbot, designed to give people the power and knowledge to take personal action against climate change.
Recent studies show the 20 warmest years on record have been in the past 22 years, and the top four in the past four years. Climate action must be increased fivefold to limit warming to the 1.5C scientists advise, according to the UN.
The COP24 summit was also addressed by António Guterres, the UN secretary general. “Climate change is running faster than we are and we must catch up sooner rather than later before it is too late,” he said. “For many, people, regions and even countries this is already a matter of life or death.”
Guterres said the two-week summit was the most important since Paris and that it must deliver firm funding commitments. “We have a collective responsibility to invest in averting global climate chaos,” he said.
He highlighted the opportunities of the green economy: “Climate action offers a compelling path to transform our world for the better. Governments and investors need to bet on the green economy, not the grey.”
Left Image: Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. (Photo by Chesnot/WireImage) Right Image: Megan and Matthew Saxton (photo courtesy the Saxton family)
Around 2 AM last Friday, a neighbor knocked on Megan and Matthew Saxton’s door. It was time to go.
The previous day, the Woolsey fire had begun charting a path of destruction along the Pacific coast of southern California. In Malibu and nearby affluent enclaves, the fire has so far devoured more than 98,000 acres and over 600 structures, killing at least three. Some residents, most infamously Kanye West and Kim Kardashian, were able to call in a private army of firefighters to save their properties. Many others were lucky to escape the state’s latest bout of flames with their lives—the Camp fire, simultaneously raging in northern California’s Butte County, is the deadliest in state history with over 60 fatalities to date and well over 10,000 structures eviscerated.
The Saxtons, both 31, lived with their three sons at the Seminole Springs mobile home park in an unincorporated piece of LA county land off Mulholland Highway. They recalled buying their mobile home and a lot in the park for a combined $420,000 in 2016—not the cheapest spot in town, but a far cry from the neighboring Malibu mansions that go for millions.
There were no official evacuation orders when they were woken in the middle of the night, but the air was getting smoky and they decided better safe than sorry. After grabbing some photo albums and the kids, the Saxtons drove north to stay with Megan’s brother in Thousand Oaks, figuring they’d be home soon to inspect the damage.
They soon found out through the NextDoor app that more than half of the mobile home park had burned. A few days later, Matthew went to the park to see the damage for himself and their worst fears were confirmed: Their home was gone.
The Saxtons were lucky enough to have an insurance policy—it was required as part of their mortgage, they explained. But the policy won’t cover the full cost of rebuilding, they noted, and the soonest they expected to rebuild was a year from now. “We were a middle-class neighborhood in the middle of the canyon, an affordable gem in the middle of all these really expensive homes,” Matthew said.
Natural disasters typically have the most devastating effects on those with the fewest resources. A 2016 UN report on the nexus of wealth inequality and climate change found that the two were locked in a vicious and increasingly terrifying cycle: “…the disadvantaged groups suffer disproportionate loss of income and assets (physical, financial, human and social) when these hazards actually hit them. Consequently, inequality worsens, and the cycle perpetuates with greater force.”
“No matter what the kind of natural disaster, whether it’s flooding or wind damage or fire, the biggest burden of the longest duration falls on the already-poor,” David Lodge, director of Cornell University’s Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future, told me.
In addition to the immediate threats to life and limb that come with any severe natural disaster, there may be a temporary period of homelessness or unemployment that can send someone on the brink of poverty over the edge. Without adequate insurance, savings to rebuild, or a reliable social safety net in place, what Lodge has called “the human face of policy-induced suffering” is revealed.
And with the current trajectory of increasing weather disasters, that suffering is likely to grow. In addition to the spectacular events of the last few years—the current spate of fires in California, January’s wildfire-related mudslides in Montecito, the 2017 hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria—at least 99.7 percent of all US counties have incurred significant property damage from natural hazards since 2000. Between the 1960s and the 2000s, the yearly average of financial loss attributable to disasters (per capita) in the US soared from about $25 to about $80, adjusting for inflation.
Junia Howell and James R. Elliott, sociologists who study social inequality, try to look away from the spectacle and find out what happens after the reporters leave Malibu, or Houston, or New Orleans. Their longitudinal study of how natural hazards impact wealth inequality in the US was motivated by the reality that “these events keep happening,” as Elliott explained to me. “This is not a California problem, this is not a Texas problem, this is not a Florida problem. It’s an American problem.”
It’s obviously also a global problem. Still, understanding the specifics even within American states can help show the bigger picture. So how might this worsening of economic inequality play out in the Los Angeles and Ventura county regions where the Woolsey fire continued to rage Friday?
Lodge suggested thinking of the archetypal Malibu mansion as a small business that employed a staff of service workers.
“While their homes are perhaps not harmed by the fire, their place of employment is destroyed,” he pointed out. “The consequences for them may be almost as severe as if their own homes were destroyed if they’re living on the edge, as many service workers are already, even without a disaster.”
Elliott offered a broader view, pointing to the ways disaster damage to property can affect inequality over time. “If you’re a low-income resident in Los Angeles, even if your property wasn’t directly affected, there can be these indirect knock-on effects for lower-income and middle-income people either because of supply potential going down in housing, or disruptions in work just giving you general precarity,” he said. For California residents, one of these indirect effects might prove to be astronomical utility bills, as Pacific Gas and Electric Company has struggled to stay afloat in the wake of unprecedented wildfire damage.
Of course, like the Saxtons, not everyone directly affected or displaced by the Woolsey fire is a Malibu millionaire. For those in the humbler neighborhoods affected, or for those who bought decades ago before the local real estate market became too hot for most to handle, rebuilding may not be an option. One measure of the fallout will be gauged by following how many of these residents end up having to put more geographical and social distance between themselves and their elite former neighbors.
Elliott predicted that number would be high. “The more costly the event, the more inequality in wealth is going to emerge over time,” he told me. “Given the amount of property damage there, that would be our expectation for Southern California.”
To some extent, good policies can mitigate effects of the disaster-inequality crises. Local government can carefully consider where people are allowed to build or rebuild, for example, keeping in mind whether it’s fair for taxpayers to subsidize homes and businesses in areas that are frequently flooded or burned, as Lodge suggested. Or they could earmark funds for affordable housing or rental assistance for those whose homes weren’t directly impacted by a disaster, but who have suffered economically from the fallout, as Elliott offered.
Or we could yield to the increasingly popular oligarch model of billionaire-owned newsrooms and individuals with more wealth than the bottom half of the US, and directly ask some of the better-off Malibu residents to spread some wealth to less-visible casualties of the Woolsey fire.
For the Saxtons, the future seemed shaky. Their property now “looks like the landscape of the moon,” Matthew said, and they expected its value to plummet. They figured they’d need to rebuild and stay there for four or five years just to break even on their original investment, and that they’d have to find a way to cover the difference between the cost of their new mobile home and what their insurance would pay them. Matthew worked at an office in Malibu, and when we spoke earlier this week, he was waiting to find out once the evacuation orders were lifted whether the building* remained.
Against a broader backdrop of accelerating political chaos and routine mass shootings—including one that left 13 dead in Thousand Oaks, where the Saxtons took refuge, just hours before the Woolsey fire forced residents to evacuate—an increasingly dystopian reality loomed. Though the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department said there has been no looting in Malibu, singer Pink’s husband Carey Hart posted a photo to Instagram on Tuesday of a group of gun-toting, masked men bearing a sign that read “LOOTERS WILL BE SHOT ON SITE!” Another Instagram feed with the handle @prayformalibu posted a photo of a similar sign: “Welcome 2 Point Dume Looters get bullets Fireman get hugs.”
At a moment when asking what really stands between Americans and civil war is not entirely unreasonable, addressing “wealth inequality is an issue not only of fairness,” as Lodge noted, but also critical to maintaining social stability.
*Correction 11/16/2018: A previous version of this story suggested Matthew Saxton was concerned about his job, when in fact he was worried solely about the office building in which he worked. We regret the error.
The consequences of global climate change will be less severe for our planet if countries across the world managed to curb the rising of temperatures to 1.5 º C above pre-industrial levels, instead of the 2º C benchmark targeted today, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) said on Monday. Reaching this objective is possible, the study noted, but will require revolutionary changes to power generation methods and the phasing out of fossil fuels, coal in particular. A major transformation will also be required to the transportation network, as well as to human lifestyles, especially when it comes to growing food.
The half-degree difference could stop the almost complete eradication of corals and would ease pressure on the Arctic, which is seeing a steady meltdown. Sea level rises would be 10 cm lower with a 1.5º C rise compared to 2º C by 2100. “Every extra bit of warming matters, especially since warming of 1.5ºC or higher increases the risk associated with long-lasting or irreversible changes, such as the loss of some ecosystems,” said Hans-Otto Pörtner, Co-Chair of IPCC Working Group II.
To achieve the desired goal, carbon dioxide emissions across the planet would need to fall by 45 percent from 2010 levels by 2030 and to reach “net zero” around 2050 to avoid catastrophic impacts, the scientists said.
The report, based on more than 6,000 scientific works, noted that consequences such as water scarcity, extreme weather, the spread of diseases and food shortages will be less severe at 1.5 º C rather than 2 ºC. If humanity passes the 1.5º C threshold, humans will need to rely on technologies to remove carbon from the atmosphere. However, “the effectiveness of such techniques is unproven at large scale and some may carry significant risks for sustainable development,” the report notes.
Monday’s report is a follow-up to the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement, under which 195 nations pledged to hold global temperatures “well below” 2º C above pre-industrial levels. Whether or not the goal is still attainable remains questionable after President Donald Trump pulled out of the agreement, claiming it was unfair to his country. So far the planet has witnessed a 1º C rise in temperature compared to pre-industrial levels. National commitments to cut emissions will not limit global warming to 1.5 º C, the report warns, stressing that 1.5 º C warming will be witnessed sometimes between 2030 and 2052 if the current trends continue.