When Your Childhood Home Is On Fire

Violette is a freshman studying Environmental Analysis and Policy at Boston University while concurrently earning her MA in Energy and Environment. Violette’s passion for environmental advocacy stems from her experience as a lifelong resident of the Central Valley, CA, America’s agricultural capital. When she is not studying or working, Violette can be found running, cycling, skiing, hiking, or stargazing in her hammock with her black lab, Gus.

I stood there, my mouth ajar. Where was it? Where was the field I used to play in as a child? Where were the wildflowers I fashioned into crowns? Where were the trees I used to climb? It had been two weeks since the flames were smothered. Two weeks since firefighters had given my grandparents the green light to move back into their home. Two weeks since the Eden I once knew was wiped away.

My name is Violette Ballecer, and I am a student from California studying Environmental Analysis and Policy at Boston University. Growing up in California’s Central Valley, I was always taught that climate change is bipartisan issue and a man-made disease plaguing our planet. While it is natural to observe climate fluctuations over time, there is an undeniable correlation between human behavior in the last century and an increase in average global temperature and the severity of ‘natural’ disasters. Many people, such as myself, have felt the grueling symptoms of climate change firsthand. By raising awareness and fighting for equitable, environmental legislation we as climate champions can open the eyes of those currently blind to the gravity of our situation.

It is not uncommon for the area surrounding Yosemite, where I live, to experience wildfires. But in recent years, they have increased in severity and size, forcing many people, including my family, to evacuate their homes. This past summer, the fires returned worse than ever before. For weeks, my grandparents lived out of their suitcases, constantly fearful they would receive the dreaded call informing them that their home had been destroyed. Hundreds of residents were displaced for weeks as brave men and women fought to quell an angry Mother Nature.

Around this time, Northern and Southern California also experienced massive, unquenchable wildfires. In Northern California, the flames claimed 108,000 acres, killing at least 23 people. In Southern California, the fires took two lives and 83,275 acres of land. Instead of offering support to those suffering, President Trump blamed the disaster on “gross mismanagement of the forests” on twitter and threatened to cut federal aid unless something was done. Failure to understand the true cause of the increased severity demonstrates the nation’s widespread, accepted ignorance concerning climate change.

While some point fingers across the aisle, this issue is not divided into “right” and “left”. Climate change stands to hurt everybody and disproportionately affect certain groups of people. For instance, I live in California’s Central Valley, the produce capital of the world. It has been a terrifying few decades to be a California farmer. Global warming has shortened the growing season and caused drought, preventing us from irrigating the crops meant to feed millions of people. Despite my region’s primarily Republican population, the existence of climate change has never been a question. After experiencing the damage it causes firsthand, none of my neighbors deny the urgent need for action.

California needs Massachusetts leadership. MA Carbon pricing bill H.2810 is the sort of equitable, groundbreaking policy that will set a positive precedent for the nation and protect my home thousands of miles away.

I have lived in the same place for 18 years, and over the course of my life, the land around me has become unrecognizable. Growing up, I always assumed that I would let my kids loose in the same meadows in which I used to play. I imagined their toothy grins as they chased butterflies, rolled around the dewy grass, and played hide-and-seek amongst the pines. This was my dream for my children. Now, I sit anxiously in my Boston dorm room, hoping that the next time I fly back to California, my home will still be there.


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