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Reporter shares foreboding sights witnessed along popular scenic routes: 'A haunting reminder'

"We know how to fix it."

"We know how to fix it."

Photo Credit: iStock

California has long been a popular destination for road-tripping tourists, with its diverse natural beauty among its magnetic qualities. One reporter recently set out to document how some of the Golden State's favorite routes were holding up and discovered foreboding signs. 

What's happening?

In December, the Guardian's Gabrielle Canon detailed her observations after traveling along three iconic routes: the Volcanic Legacy Scenic Byway, U.S. Highway 395 and the Sonora Pass, and the Pacific Coast Highway.

While Canon encountered signs of hope along the way, including at the Tule Lake National Wildlife Refuge, where the sounds of bird calls permeated the air, she was also struck by how extreme weather events had ravaged the state.

"Evidence of the wildfires that had torn through in recent years lingered in the brown patches of trees that dotted the vast greenery, serving as a haunting reminder that, despite the mist swirling around them, flames could ignite them again one day," Canon wrote

She also described how a hard winter had led to campsite closures along the Whitney Portal, while landslides and coastal erosion had impacted the ability to drive along parts of the PCH, with winter storm damage making certain areas risky to enter. The impacts of drought were also evident. 

Why is this concerning?

The overheating of our planet has been linked to an uptick in dangerous weather events worldwide that have led to displacement and disrupted livelihoods and caused billions of dollars worth of damage. 

The California Department of Water Resources described 2023 as the year of "weather whiplash" and pointed to how changing global temperatures are "expected to amplify" the natural cycles of the environment, with a shorter wet season bringing "more extreme atmospheric river storms and hence potentially greater flood-damage risk."

Meanwhile, longer and hotter dry seasons have led to more wildfires

So far, 2024 hasn't shown any signs of easing up. Two atmospheric rivers have already pummeled the state along with other areas of the West Coast. 

What is being done to help?

Human activities are the primary cause of the planet's distress, but the combined efforts of governments, companies, organizations, and individuals can turn things around. 

In the United States, the federal government has begun investing in less polluting modes of transportation, such as high-speed rail, and passed programs that incentivize a transition to clean energy, such as solar.

In California and Oregon, a dam removal project along the Klamath River is expected to bring renewed life to a dried-out region that was once known as the Everglades of the West. 

"We know how to fix it," Jeff Mitchell, the former chair of the Klamath Tribes, told the Guardian.

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