It seems the news media never wants to portray Americans as refugees. The press can describe folks in poorer countries as refugees when they’re fleeing a war or something, but I’ve never heard citizens of any rich country like America described as refugees. In the area near Paradise California, thousands of people have suddenly been rendered homeless after their city and homes were destroyed when the Camp Fire roared through town. While FEMA has been on the scene helping as they can, the folks are living in tents, and in their cars, and in friends homes, and in hotels, and in shelters. News articles are talking about a humanitarian crisis, but when folks are driven from their homes and living in an ad-hoc situation what can you call them but refugees?
This is not the first time Americans have been forced by environmental events into what we could call a refugee status. For example after Hurricane Katrina destroyed a large part of New Orleans, tends of thousands of people fled New Orleans and lived in similarly difficult circumstances for a while.
Going by the legal definition of “Refugee” we find on Wikipedia, a refugee will have crossed a national boundary to escape a conflict or other dangerous situation. I know from reading about the Syrian Refugee crisis, that those who stay within their national boundaries are legally called “Internally Displaced Persons”, but that phrase is too boring to use.
While these people who have fled Paradise have escaped a dangerous situation they have not crossed a national boundary. The Wikipedia page describing Environmental Migrants (a.k.a. Climate Refugees) discusses folks who have fled a region, without requiring that they have fled their country. To be a Climate Refugee, the folks must have fled because of environmental changes.
Thus one of the phrases on the Environmental Migrants page applies to the folks who’ve fled Paradise California: ecological refugee, environmental refugee, climate refugee, forced environmental migrant, environmentally motivated migrant, climate change refugee, environmentally displaced person (EDP), disaster refugee, environmental displacee, eco-refugee, ecologically displaced person, or environmental-refugee-to-be (ERTB)
So.. let’s use the phrase Climate Refugee to describe these folks. But, what were they fleeing?
In Paradise is destroyed while Pres. Trump lies about climate change and California we describe what happened. It starts several years back with many years of severe drought in California. This drought drew international attention, thanks to a 7-year period of very low rainfall in California. This left the landscape, especially in the mountains, very dry and full of dead vegetation, since it is thought millions upon millions of trees died in California during that period. In early November 2018, the weather for the northern Sierra Nevada mountains involved a strong wind (50 miles/hr) coming from the east that further dried the vegetation. Officials in California raised red flags on fire danger, and PG&E was considering a preventative power outage to mitigate the fire risk. On the morning of November 8, PG&E noted a power line issue just north of Pulga California (a tiny town in the Feather River canyon), and around that time both PG&E and CalTRANS workers on the scene witnessed a fire start. That fire was propelled by strong winds over 30 miles/hr, and spread quickly reaching the outskirts of Paradise (11 miles away) within a couple hours. The fire quickly destroyed over 10,000 buildings in Paradise, and forced tens of thousands of people to flee.
The name “Camp Fire” is because the location was Camp Creek Road, named for the Camp Creek that runs nearby. This road is a treacherous barely paved barely two-lane road carved on the side of an extremely steep slope on the north side of the Feather River Canyon.
What follows is a random selection of Twitter traffic showing conditions faced by those who have fled the Camp Fire that destroyed Paradise California on November 8.
Goodwill has rented a space for the evacuees of the #CampFire. Located at 1460 Bridge street in Yuba City, California 95993. They will be providing tents, sleeping bags, bedding, hygiene, diapers, toilet paper, bathrooms and showers are available! PLEASE RT!
— See Sunny Sierra ? (@SeeSunnySierra) November 19, 2018
— KNDesign (@KNDmex) November 18, 2018
— USA TODAY Weather (@usatodayweather) November 21, 2018
Butte Regional Transit is providing free, round-trip transportation between several shelter locations and the #CampFire Disaster Recovery Center. Please see the below schedule for pick-up and arrival times. Print the schedule at https://t.co/e0dROzIIJB pic.twitter.com/M0qUPEm9BZ
— Butte County, CA (@CountyofButte) November 19, 2018
— ABC News (@ABC) November 21, 2018
Last night, while talking to a few firefighters at dinner, they all used some version of “apocalyptic” to describe Paradise. They also said seeing photos wasn’t enough — you had to be there and feel it.
I felt some of it this morning.
— Jason Pohl (@pohl_jason) November 20, 2018
— Jef Inslee (@jef1eff) November 21, 2018
Never thought living in the Bay Area I'd end up a climate change refugee. #CampFire
— Doubledang (@shakemaster_B) November 17, 2018
“There's just so many of them,” KQED’s Raquel Dillon reports of Chico residents displaced by wildfires and scrambling for shelter https://t.co/ODOfjxXBAO
— PBS NewsHour (@NewsHour) November 22, 2018
“I don’t know what I’m gonna do. I wish I knew,” Maureen Rutty said. The Camp fire refugee has spent recent days on the phone with Fema, and nights sleeping in her car at Walmart with her four rescued pomeranians: Prince, Leo, Winnie and Allie. #CampFire https://t.co/JuzS9gu6fY
— Dani Anguiano (@Dani_Anguiano) November 19, 2018
— eline gordts (@elinegordts) November 19, 2018
— Unicorn Riot (@UR_Ninja) November 18, 2018
— Crystal Contreras (@crystalatencio) November 18, 2018
California officials prove they're stunningly incompetent, unprepared for refugee crisis following #CampFire. 50k evac'd, most homeless.
“It’s tragically clear that we’re going to have to tackle how we rebuild,” said a state lawmaker.https://t.co/DBv7zbyMoq pic.twitter.com/wC47gVpjy2
— ?????, ???, ???????? (@ReadySetAwkward) November 20, 2018
It looks like a refugee camp at the Walmart in Chico, CA. This tent city is where some evacuees from #CampFire in Paradise are staying. Until tomorrow. They tell me they’ve been told they need to vacate by 1P on Sunday. pic.twitter.com/LYzIF5pp7W
— Marlei Martinez (@MarleiMartinez) November 17, 2018
— Nuthin'butcowsouthr (@Grassfedbf) November 17, 2018
A humanitarian crisis due to the #CampFire. Please @HelpParadise. Can you donate a living space, RV, room in your home? Almost anything is better than living in a car in a Walmart parking lot or in a tent at the fairgrounds. #HelpParadise https://t.co/MER1YEfUav
— HelpParadise (@HelpParadise) November 15, 2018
New term that never existed 20 years ago- CLIMATE REFUGEES. Times like this I more so annoyed at people who think they know more than scientists & refute #ClimateChangeIsReal #CampFire https://t.co/jdFHxfLZhP
— Kris Selezinka (@krissuggs) November 20, 2018
— Michael Bilodeau (@Michlbilodeau) November 19, 2018
"Big picture, we have 6,000, possibly 7,000 households who have been displaced and who realistically don’t stand a chance of finding housing again in Butte County." #Campfire #emgtwitter #HousingCrisis https://t.co/DWGD0iwYA1 #PrepSolInc
— Marc Burdiss (@MarcBurdiss) November 18, 2018
#CampFire Walmart parking lot in Chico literally looks like a refugee camp. People have set up tents in the field next to the store, donations keep pouring in, and are piled high. Volunteers handing out soup, pet food, blankets. A Sacramento food truck has been making free food. pic.twitter.com/MwRbJSL1SD
— Cecile Juliette KHSL (@CecileJuliette) November 13, 2018
— Amanda Rae (@manndaraee) November 17, 2018
I’m standing in a long line in Chico to get my mail and I’m listening to everyone share their experiences with each other. It’s absolutely heartbreaking. Beyond tragic.#RidgeStrong #ParadiseStrong #ButteCountyStrong #CampFire
— Mickey Mighty Head (@McMyTHead) November 15, 2018
— Cassass (@MommaNerdypants) November 20, 2018
Thank you, Mr. President. Paradise was truly a reflection of it's name as I grew up here, learned to read, write, fell in love, married among tall green pines and oaks. We'll rebuild but so much is lost forever. We need help, but just as much, we need kindness. #ParadiseStrong
— Rich Campbell (@TheRichCampbell) November 12, 2018
Those of us from #Paradise (or "Pleasant" as the miscreant moron has renamed our town) usually use leaf blowers. My husband had just "raked" our property. This is what downed power lines did to our house. Our town. #CampFire #ParadiseStrong #Impeach45 pic.twitter.com/Ltzhf00fe2
— Pildora (@DBoivie) November 19, 2018
By day, the #CampFire victims are breathing in hazardous air. By night, they’re trying to figure out where they can sleep. Sometimes, it’s a shelter bed, a tent or their car. Today, I got the chance to see up close the humanitarian crisis unfolding… https://t.co/V4bUKVlDTG
— Melissa Colorado (@melissacolorado) November 16, 2018
It's so heartbreaking and dystopian seeing these images of people who have been bascially rendered climate change refugees by the #CampFire living in tents in a Walmart Parking lot in the cold and smoke. We need to get better at taking care of each other, fast
— Rebecca Pierce? (@aptly_engineerd) November 15, 2018
— Jessica Morse (@Morse4America) November 13, 2018
We’re Back!!! The Town of Paradise has launched https://t.co/8ARYJVmIzZ. For Paradise residents & businesses this is your one-stop location for updates, community meeting information & town specific disaster recovery resources. #CampFire #ParadiseStrong #ParadiseProud pic.twitter.com/ya8jCQz5FB
— Town of Paradise (@paradise_ca) November 16, 2018
Today in Paradise I saw devastation & I met people who have lost everything. But I also saw the spirit of America. I saw firefighters working 24 hours shifts & I saw volunteers serving food and helping in every way. This Thanksgiving, I thank them for showing what makes us great. pic.twitter.com/tIvaVBAGQE
— Arnold (@Schwarzenegger) November 21, 2018
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