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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

California is on fire once again

[11/19 update] The first, hellacious photo above is from the Paradise CA "Camp Fire" east of Chico, a good 150 miles from San Francisco proper. This post has accrued across a week as the fires developed and worsened. We expect rain beginning perhaps by the 21st and lasting several days, which will clean the air and douse the fires, but will likely also precipitate mudslides and complicate the ID and recovery of more human remains.

It's just like last year, but horrifically worse.

From The Atlantic:
Smoke From California’s Fires Is Harming the State’s Most Vulnerable
As wildfires burn out of control, they are impacting the state’s other crisis—the growing number of people living on the streets.

The deadliest fire in California’s history continues to burn, and San Francisco is filled with smoke and ash. On Tuesday, for the fifth day in a row, air throughout Northern California contained high amounts of fine-particulate-matter pollution, and the Bay Area Air Quality Management District warned that the air was unhealthy for everyone. “The public should limit outdoor activity as much as possible,” the agency said Monday, urging residents to stay inside with their windows and doors closed.

But for San Francisco’s thousands of homeless people, this warning is impossible to follow. San Francisco, like many California cities, has seen homelessness rise in recent years, as the cost of housing has gone up and zoning laws have limited the construction of new housing units. Despite an initiative passed on November 6 to tax large businesses to fund homeless services and news that the CEO of Twilio had donated $1 million to fund homeless services until the tax kicks in, thousands of people still have nowhere to go in San Francisco on any given night. As the number and deadliness of fires grows in California, the population of people negatively impacted by the air quality is growing, too…
In addition to our long-time chronic homeless population issue, we now have thousands of people newly made homeless by our fires. Same thing last year with the wine country fires. I can't imagine. 

My eyes have been burning since last Friday, and I've had a heavy feeling in my chest, notwithstanding being 140 miles to the southwest of the closest fire near Chico. Our area in Antioch smells like BBQ, the sky a chalky grey-yellow, with the sun a dull orange-reddish orb. We were all advised to close windows, bring the dogs in, and stay inside. On Sunday the manager of my Muir cardiac rehab PT clinic called to say that PT was cancelled for Monday and perhaps today as well. As I post this the death toll has risen to at least 44, with hundreds of people yet missing.

Numerous vehicles have literally melted along the roads. Thousands of structures have been reduced to ashes (some with human remains cremated inside).


Before-and-after pics from one street corner.


BTW: look under your sinks, and out on your garage shelves. Ponder all of those toxic household cleaning products, paints, solvents, landscaping, herbicides, pesticides, and automotive chemicals, etc. The smoke cloud now enveloping us is full of them in addition to burned wood and grass particulates (along with what used to be plastics).

I first came to the Bay Area in 1967 (subsequently lived in Seattle, Birmingham and Tuscaloosa AL, Knoxville TN, and Las Vegas, prior to returning here in 2013). The California population has since more than doubled, from ~19 million to more  than 39 million people. Along with population pressure, persistent drought, exacerbated by climate change has contributed significantly to the frequency and severity of western wildfires.

Tangentially, time for deployment of "exposomics" monitoring tech in fire-affected areas?
No rain in sight for us yet.


Cardiac rehab was open today, btw. Good workout.

The Atlantic has another good one up on widfires:

The Simple Reason That Humans Can’t Control Wildfires



High Stakes, Entrenched Interests And The Trump Rollback Of Environmental Regs

Since his days on the campaign trail, President Donald Trump has promised to roll back environmental regulations, boost the use of coal and pull out of the Paris climate agreement — and he’s moving toward doing all those things.

He has pushed ahead with such action even as a report by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change released in October concluded that without much stronger measures to reduce the use of fossil fuels, a warming planet will witness the spread of tropical diseases, water shortages and crop die-offs affecting millions of people.

Supporters of the administration’s changes — some of whom are skeptical of accepted science — say the administration’s moves will save money, produce jobs and give more power to states.

But critics say new strictures on scientific research and efforts to overturn standards for protecting air, water and worker safety could have long-term, widespread effects that would upend hard-won gains in environmental and public health.

The Trump administration’s many environmental proposals vary widely in target and reach.
For example, the administration has delayed the implementation and enforcement of many Obama-era rules, saying they need time to draw up new rules or study some that are already on the books. Industry generally agrees, arguing these rules are an overreach with negative financial consequences. 

Critics fear that the delays will undermine hard-fought public health protections.

Among such efforts:
The Environmental Protection Agency recently argued it needs until 2020 to decide on a controversial Obama-era directive expanding to smaller streams and waterways the types of wetlands protected by the federal Clean Water Act. That directive might mean fewer pollutants released into tributaries of larger waterways, from which millions of people get their drinking water. But the controversial rule has been fought by farming, mining and other industry groups that say it is too restrictive.
The EPA also sought to delay by nearly two years standards to protect workers and emergency responders at chemical plants, part of an Obama-era rule in response to a 2013 fire at a Texas fertilizer plant that killed 15 people. Industry says that the rule is costly and that providing information about chemical storage at plants could raise security concerns.
In March 2017, then-EPA chief Scott Pruitt rejected a petition filed in 2007 by environmental groups seeking to ban a commonly used pesticide, chlorpyrifos, which the groups say harms health, particularly citing developmental damage to children and fetuses. The agency said it needed more time to study the chemical. 
All three of those delays were blocked by federal court judges, although the administration may decide to appeal, so final outcomes are unclear.

But one thing is clear: Everyone is likely to spend a lot of time in court.

“Folks are already lining up to challenge the Affordable Clean Energy rule, and that’s probably true for just about anything this administration does when it comes to environmental reform,” said Nicolas Loris, a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank.

The clean energy rule, introduced in August, would replace a more stringent Obama-era rule for coal-burning power plants.

An EPA analysis said the proposed rule would reduce industry costs and create jobs.

The same analysis concluded, though, that the looser standards, which would supersede the never-implemented Obama-era regulation, would cause as many as 1,400 premature deaths and 15,000 new cases of upper respiratory problems annually by 2030.

On another front, scientists are protesting new Trump administration policies they say would effectively curtail their ability to study the health effects of environmental exposures.

This spring, the EPA proposed a rule dubbed Strengthening Transparency in Regulatory Science, which would restrict the use of studies as the basis for advancing environmental regulations if researchers have not released all their raw data, potentially including medical records.

The Trump administration said this step would ensure that data and methods can be checked for accuracy, echoing a long-running argument from industry and some in Congress.

From scientists, though, reaction was immediate, widespread and negative. Hundreds of researchers and dozens of public health organizations said the proposal would quash important research into the effects of pollution and chemicals on health.

No longer would they be able to promise confidentiality of medical records to people who take part in research studies, which would have a chilling effect on their willingness to participate.

Many of the submitted comments noted that such a rule would undermine key studies that led to pollution laws and prevailing attitudes about the interaction of environmental and human health.
Case in point: the seminal 1993 “Six Cities” research by Harvard scientists linking air pollution to premature death.

That study did not disclose the identities of its 22,000 participants or their medical information.
Its findings led in 1997 to new restrictions under the Clean Air Act for fine particles, tiny pieces of soot, dust, carbon and other pollutants that get inhaled deep into the lungs, potentially causing asthma, lung cancer and other health conditions. By 2020, those rules are expected to have prevented more than 230,000 early deaths.

Scientists say the administration is handicapping their ability to do important research. The plan comes amid other efforts critics see as attacking science, such as removing information from government websites about climate change, restrictions on who can sit on EPA advisory boards and a proposal to more narrowly target safety reviews of chemicals.

“By attacking the science that talks about adverse effects on health,” the administration hopes to allow deregulation yet claim “they are not harming people,” said Francesca Dominici, a professor of biostatistics at the Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The range and scope of the proposed changes has brought praise from some in industry and agriculture for loosening restrictions and giving states more flexibility. But the changes frustrate public health and environmental health advocates.

“We would like to be moving forward rather than fighting these kind of rollbacks,” said Janice Nolen, assistant vice president for national policy at the American Lung Association.

Kaiser Health News (KHN) is a national health policy news service. It is an editorially independent program of the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation which is not affiliated with Kaiser Permanente.
Is it too early to start drinking?


The air here remains "unhealthy." It was chokingly smoky today, with a sharp burnt odor. The wildfires body count continues to rise (63 as I write, hundreds still missing). More than 10,000 structures destroyed or damaged (mostly destroyed). Thousand are now homeless, many near Paradise sleeping in cars or tents in a Walmart parking lot.

I had cardiac rehab PT today. Pushed it hard. Felt good, but now I can feel it in my chest. Staying in the house.


More than 630 people reported as missing in the #CampFire area. More than 15,000 structures destroyed. The Bay Area air is so bad that UC Berkeley has closed for the day (as well as Contra Costa County schools). And, coming soon:

No, again, I don't like him.

From Vox:


In The New Yorker

Spot-on CNN OpEd by Tess Taylor. "In California, the apocalypse keeps getting worse."


Finished two books.

Both excellent, both broadly germane to KHIT topics.

Starting two more (notwithstanding that I still have a number of others in progress. Amazon "Buy with 1-click" is gonna BK me).

So much to learn. Love it. Given that we pretty much still have to stay inside, I'm grinding away with my studies,

Topically apropos, I read a Naked Capitalism post, which led me to this (and subsequent interesting stuff):

Startup Boom a “Dangerous, High-Stakes Ponzi Scheme”: Silicon Valley Investor

And, oh, yeah, I finished this one:

The less said about it, the better. I can't recall ever before having a book make me angry.
_____________ AnthropoceneDenial

More to come...

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