When Climate Change Becomes Personal

Just over a week ago the Woolsey Fire exploded, roaring through the mountains in which I live. My wife, two year old son and dog jumped in the car with a few family photos and joined over 200,000 others in a mass evacuation, a line of cars chased by a cloud of apocalyptic smoke.

At almost the same time a fire was raging in Northern California, creating unimaginable destruction and loss of life.

Many of my friends lost their homes, but in the end the luck of shifting winds spared ours.

While we were evacuated a group of Malibu residents came together to create the Malibu Foundation. Led by Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth, donors have quickly and generously funded the foundation which is already making grants to local organizations providing emergency relief. A lot of people are suffering and putting money in the hands of people who have demonstrated financial need can help them through the initial phase of this emergency.

The second phase of this emergency is more complicated. The frequency and ferocity of fires that California is experiencing are a direct result of the amount of carbon that we continue to pump into the air. Last year the world put over 32 gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere resulting in dramatic changes both to our global environment but also to our daily lives.

As we burn fossil fuels we are beginning to burn ourselves.

Unless we make dramatic changes every year this will only get worse.

The challenge is daunting but there are also clear solutions and those solutions need to be brought to scale.

The Malibu Foundation is committed to advocating for changes that will prevent future wildfires and help communities adapt and become more resilient to climate change. After the emergency relief phase of our work concludes the group of people who created the foundation — many of them lost their homes — will come together to create a strategy for engaging on the broader issues that led to the fires not just in Malibu and it’s neighboring communities but also in Northern California.

While the President talks about raking the forest floor we will begin working on serious solutions with other communities that have been impacted by the dramatic change in our climate.

We will also actively embrace and support new technologies and land management practices that can address both the root cause of these fires and can also help prevent them in the future.

Finally, we will begin a conversation with the industry leaders who bear primary responsibility for the carbon that is being burned.

Our dependence on the burning of fossil fuels is an antiquated approach to powering our society and is an approach that has now come at a dramatic cost. The people who are the victims of the California fires are not willing to sit back and accept that this is our future.