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How the Rich will Survive Climate Change Disasters (While We May Not!)

Two major fires raged through California on November 8, 2018, and continued to burn for a fortnight. The Butte County Camp Fire in North California became the most lethal and destructive fire in California’s history and hit mainly mid-income neighborhoods, whereas the Woolsey Fire severely impacted wealthy residents many of whom were celebrities and of Ventura County and the wealthy suburbs of Los Angeles County.

This fire caused only three deaths in parts of LA County such as in Ventura County (average annual household income – $100,000) and in Malibu (average annual household income – $128,712) and as in these wealthy areas celebrities are able to hire private armed forces for their massive and insured mansions. But in Butte County and nearby areas (average annual household income is $43,000 far below the national annual average income of $53,482), the death total had risen to 63 with over 600 missing. Further, in Butte County 200 prisoners were press-ganged to fight fires at $1/hour. Sadly, while the rich took advantage of privatized security systems and protected expensive mansions, the not-so-rich were dying in large numbers.

After the impact of these devastating fires are being dispassionately studied, the privileged class of people responsible for climate change and environmental disasters that are caused by it, are able to use their wealth to avoid devastating consequences while poor colored people dealt with the harmful effects.  The biased media mainly covered stories about fire-impacted celebrities.

Protection Bias

To protect their $60 million mansion, Kanye West and his wife Kim Kardashian hired private firefighters, who are reliably used by the insurance companies and those who are ultra-wealthy. Posting an endless stream of messages via social media, and also a speech, Kardashian and her sisters gained significant public sympathy but failed to mention hiring private firefighters. Actress Shannen Doherty did apologize for threatening harm to looters and posting a photo of a gun but former professional racer Carey Hart, and singer Pink’s husband, made headlines for posting a photo on Instagram with a bunch of white men wearing masks and bandanas, carrying a sign which declared ‘Looters will be shot”.

Different Strokes for Different People

Actor James Woods, model Bella Hadid, and actress Alyssa Milano gained people’s sympathy for using wealth to protect their horses, a problem which only afflicts the rich. Ireland Baldwin received public support after tweeting about police officers who failed to recognize her and asked her for her ID while she was removing things from her residence.

To protect the wealthy residents’, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department and Ventura County Sheriff’s Department announced posting 200 officers to ‘guard’ the area, while also arresting looters. Insurance companies also deployed private firefighter teams, comprising former firefighters and specialists to protect very expensive properties insured. Rich homeowners also hired private bodyguards to protect their multiple properties from looters without comprehending that looting is actually a result of extreme class disbalance in society. Rich residents condemn looting as proven lack of morality among the poor.

Environmental Racialism

The stark contrast of the twin fire impacts demonstrates bias, class inequality and environmental racism. It is said that the ability to recover and minimize from destruction caused by fire, falls firmly along race lines and class and only white, educated, class-privileged people can afford home insurance with fire protection, or afford to take their days off from workafter accessing information on evacuations, locate temporary housing, and then deal and navigate the insurance claim systems. Multiple reports confirm that the globe’s wealthiest 10% and only as few as 100 companies are truly responsible for 71% of global emissions; several major climate assessments say that climate change is why there are more environmental disasters including wildfires all over the planet. Pollution and the associated risk of disasters are mainly assigned to brown and black communities because of years of political neglect and discrimination.

A Skewed Future for the Rich

We are now entering a dystopian and uncertain future where the white, class-privileged people use costly privatized systems and obscene amounts of wealth to avoid catastrophic environmental effects which the racist and capitalist systems has enforced upon the world’s societies. While funding these resource systems with the empires they created off the marginalized people, wealthy people tend to also vociferously support Trump who had the gall to blame forest management and it’s shoddy work for these fires and also dismissed a recently released United Nations Report finding that 12 year is all we have to avoid a global environmental catastrophe. The California forest fires and their distinct impacts, clearly show the necessity to tackle climate change and help garner support for the most vulnerable, the very poor and colored people.

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