The news about wildfires and smoke can make you feel that we are in the dark, lost. I thought it would be helpful to write about the other causes of wildfires, besides heat, besides the careless camper scolded by Smokey the Bear. There’s deforestation, bad land management, and utility line sparking.[i] Hawaiian Electric, the Times reports this morning, is being sued for contributing to the fire that destroyed Lahaina by not acting to protect its lines in high winds. As we grieve and gape at the vision of wildfires all across the world it helps to know that there are things to do. Stopping greenhouse gas emissions, tempering resource extraction, and restoring forests, are all good things to do for many reasons, but getting consensus on movement is taking time. Meanwhile there are more immediate steps available, and the best are those consistent with a good long-range vision, such as building spark prevention into general reform of electrical utilities to bring about a faster transition to the cleaner systems required by the public interest under which they are intended to be regulated.
While we do the work of strategizing how to solve this grim problem cheering news has arrived from the front, Judge Kathy Seely’s words in the case of Held v. Montana:
Plaintiffs have a fundamental constitutional right to a clean and healthful environment, which includes climate as part of the environmental life-support system.[ii]
It is the second great victory of Our Children’s Trust.[iii]