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Southern Californians know: climate change is real, it is deadly and it is here


When people ask me where I live and I say, “Santa Barbara,” I wait for the inevitable reply, “Paradise,” and the quizzical look that says, how does one live there, rather than vacation. It’s as if I had replied, Disneyland.

People who visit from colder climates have been complaining lately. Last year, when it finally rained after six years of drought, and we were practically on our knees with gratitude, a woman from New England remarked, “I didn’t come here for the rain.” I almost said, “Well, then, why don’t you go back home?” Another pestered a friend: when was her club in Montecito going to open? My friend replied, “I think it’s under eight feet of mud.” She wanted to add, “And they’re still looking for the bodies.”

It’s always been a struggle here to have a normal life, to hold on to reality. In December, we got a mega-dose of reality when the biggest fire in California’s history burned more than 270,000 acres. Seven cities were evacuated.

When the air was labeled “hazardous” for three days running, we made plans to leave. On Sunday morning, my phone pinged a mandatory evacuation for Montecito. I called a friend who lives there. “Packing,” she said. The fire was less than a mile away. I drove through the brown air and falling ash to a gas station and when I got there, my credit card wouldn’t work; the power was out. I stood in the zombie snow as others lined up behind me. Finally, we drove north to a hotel on the coast, where, with evacuated friends, we hiked and walked together along the shore.  Read More


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