Things That Matter

Eco-Anxiety Is Real And Compounded Each Year I Live In Fire Evacuation Zones

California is on fire. As I write this, nearly 100,000 acres have burned, or are currently burning in the last couple weeks alone. Within a 25 mile radius of my home in Los Angeles, three major fires are burning. My Nuyorican mom is frantic. The devastation caused to families who lost their homes is undeniably tragic. After California lost a historic 19,000 homes to wildfires last year, Gov. Newsom signed a $21 billion fund into law to help address the rising costs of wildfires on Californias.

Let me tell you that the mental health costs are immeasurable. I was evacuated from my home for 11 days last year. Though I was fortunate enough to return home to a house still standing, my mental health deteriorated from there. As I write this, a year later, I am four days into a voluntary evacuation order due to the Getty fire, and there’s a new word floating around: eco-anxiety.

Experts now believe that eco-anxiety may affect Americans more than the actual wildfires and hurricanes that break records year after year.

Credit: @Ted_Howze / Twitter

In 2017, a report on climate change issued by the American Psychological Association focused on the trauma caused by acute extreme weather events. It explicitly determined that people living in risk-prone areas, indigenous communities, communities of color, and other populations would be especially vulnerable to the mental health effects of climate change. “Communities are also less resilient when they are weakened by social stressors, such as racism, economic inequality, and environmental injustices,” the report concludes. Documentary After Maria illustrates how climate change has permanently altered the lives of Puerto Ricans whose homes were destroyed. Those that remained on the island have endured PTSD triggers in the following hurricane seasons that have otherwise just been part of normal life.

I am a woman with trauma. I am a lesbian with trauma. I am a race dysphoric Arab-Latina with trauma. It’s taken all the courage I have to admit that, last fire season, I was less resilient to the drama of a fire evacuation.

The power went out, and we had no cell signal to alert us to our mandatory evacuation orders.

Courtesy of Danielli Marzouca

When my girlfriend and I woke up that morning, it smelled like smoke, and the power was out. I decided to hike the dogs up to a higher point where we typically have cell service. It was there I saw the fire and learned that our electricity company had shut off power to prevent a fire like the one that sparked the Getty fire, which was as simple an event as a tree limb falling on a power line. We went home and took a *bath.* Eventually, a neighbor alerted us to the evacuation orders. I packed clothes for a couple of days, medication, passports, and the yucca. 

This is all new to me because I grew up in Florida. 

Credit: @PFA809 / Twitter

I didn’t know “fire season” was a thing until I moved to Topanga, nestled in the Santa Monica mountains. I come from Miami, Florida so I am familiar with hurricanes and grew up loving the then-moderate hurricane seasons. The weatherman would tell us which days we’d have off school, and as a kid with no responsibilities, it was all a little bit thrilling to hear the lightning crack above us, and be huddled as a family in a closet having playing school or misa.

As we sped down the canyon highway, we soberly slowed down to pass a car that had flipped over onto its hood, blocking the lane.

Credit: @_Mauriaaa / Twitter

Everything after the evacuation was objectively delightful. I was privileged enough to stay with my girlfriend’s family, who lived nearby, and they even had cable. We watched the news 24/7 looking for updates on our home. The Paradise fire became the deadliest and most destructive fire in California history. It killed 85 people who couldn’t escape in time. It was traveling at the rate of an entire football field per second. Soon, the thought that we were taking a bath, and eating mierda for hours before a frantic neighbor told us we were put on mandatory evacuation orders three hours prior, felt terrifying.

A week later, we returned to our home. The worst thing that happened was our food spoiled. We were incredibly lucky. However, that’s when my anxiety and stress levels skyrocketed. For a week straight, I would panic when my girlfriend came home late, even if it was just by ten minutes. I thought she got into a terrible car wreck. I didn’t want to leave the dogs at home for fear that an unstoppable fire would overtake them. Meanwhile, my girlfriend was emotionally unaffected. I felt incredibly alone and fell into a severe depression.

In just a couple of hours, our evacuation orders are expected to lift.

Credit: @kgcurtis / Twitter

I eventually obtained health insurance and got therapy for my anxiety, which has significantly dissipated. The truth is, when I first learned about climate change in my high school’s Environmental Science magnet program, I experienced severe anxiety. I learned I would live to see my south Florida childhood home become part of the ocean floor. I begged my parents to move us more inland, to Okeechobee at least. “Popps, that’s going to be ocean-front property some day. Please.”

I’ve learned that doing the step work to fight climate change and be fire prepared eases my eco-anxiety.

Credit: @Mark_DMcKinney / Twitter

I later learned that animal agriculture is the single greatest contributor to climate change, and went vegan. I vote for policies that protect our earth, and my life on it. This year, I know where to look for emergency alerts. Since we were put on evacuation orders, my car has been packed, facing out the driveway. We take turns staying home with the dog to prevent the worst from happening. I’m learning to accept the things I cannot change, and pray for courage to change the things I can. Once every emergency preparedness task is crossed off my list, there’s nothing I can do. The fires are closer to my girlfriend’s family’s house, and at this point in my financial life, we can’t afford to evacuate and stay in a hotel for peace of mind. This is it. This is how I’m learning to cope with eco-anxiety while surrounded by fire.

Most of the year, it feels like a privilege to look out my window and see lush, green trees, home to red-headed woodpeckers, glowing, yellow-eyed owls, and the neighborhood hawk. The few times over the years that we’ve seen bobcats and mountain lions, these mountains feel so wild, I remember just how wild and dangerous it is for all of us to live here.

READ: Taco Tuesday: LeBron James Dropped Three Thousand Dollars On Tacos To Feed California Fires First Responders

Police Are Looking For Two People Who Attacked An Elotero In Long Beach

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Police Are Looking For Two People Who Attacked An Elotero In Long Beach

GoFundMe

Another street vendor has been attacked while working. This time, an elotero in Long Beach was viciously attacked by two people in broad daylight. Police and the community are looking for the two and people in Long Beach want to see justice brought against the attackers.

A vicious attack on an elotero was caught on a Ring camera.

According to KTLA, police are searching for two Black men in their 20s who were caught on camera attacking Bililfo Fernandez. The elotero was pistol-whipped and beaten as the two men stole his property and cash during the senseless and unprovoked attack.

In true American fashion, a GoFundMe was set up to cover the old man’s medical bills.

It is common in the U.S. for GoFundMe pages to be set up to cover medical costs for people who are victims of crime or face unexpected health failures. People can be heard screaming to deter the violent attack but no one intervened to help Fernandez while being attacked.

A GoFundMe set up for the elotero has raised more than $80,000 to help the family.

Credit: GoFundMe

“He is an elotero and goes on his usual routes everyday,” writes his daughter, Erika, who organized the GoFundMe. “He is a very hard working man and known by many.  We had to take him to the Emergency Room so that they could help him and treat him because his injuries were pretty severe. His nose and head were busted open with a gun. My dad does not have insurance.Anything will be very much appreciated to help pay for his medical expenses. During these hard times I am currently not working because of covid, so anything will be a blessing for us.”

People on social media are angered by the two men attacking someone taking care of their family during COVID-19.

Latino families are experiencing the devastating financial impacts of COVID-19. Unemployment was highest among the Latino community than any other group of people in the U.S. during the crisis. This elotero was doing what he could to keep his family afloat during the pandemic and faced violence.

People cant wait for just to be served and Latinos are reminding people that this is not a time to let anti-Blackness fester in the Latino community.

Racism is a real issue in the Latino community. While people are angered at this attack, this is not to be used to generalize against the Black community. These are two bad people who attacked a man for his money and property. If you have any information about the two men in the video attacking Fernandez, call the Long Beack Police Department at (562) 435-6711.

READ: Family Sets Up GoFundMe To Help Paletero In Chicago Retire

Man Posts Plea For People To Social Distance After Falling Ill Of COVID-19 And Died The Next Day

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Man Posts Plea For People To Social Distance After Falling Ill Of COVID-19 And Died The Next Day

Tommy Macias / Facebook

The world is still in the midst of a deadly viral pandemic. COVID-19 is not going away on its own and there are things that people can do to slow the spread. One of the most effective tools is wearing a mask followed up by social distancing. One man thought he could ease up and contracted the virus. Here is his warning.

A man known as Tommy Macias died one day after warning people about the dangers of COVID-19.

Credit: Tommy Macias / Facebook

Macias died the next day after posting this message on Facebook warning his friends and family about the dangers of COVID-19. According to the man’s post, he attended a party and contracted the virus there. Health experts have warned against gathering with friends and family right now. Parties have become some of the most infectious sites leading to the current outbreaks across the country.

Macias’s Facebook post touches on a point that drives home the importance of wearing face masks. After being exposed, he then exposed his entire family because he ignored health regulations.

The man’s death from COVID-19 has created a fear among his friends.

“Don’t take advantage of the unknown, don’t expect things to be fine. Take this shit seriously,” @flawlessbikerzcordova wrote on Instagram. “I had been diligent about wearing my mask but from time to time loosen up around the crew and friends. Not anymore!”

The U.S. is seeing a spike in cases across several states and cases are increasing in 35 states. The U.S. has seen record infection numbers in recent days and that trend is mirrored in Calfornia where the sudden reopening of the economy led to a runaway outbreak in the state.

Macias is now one of the more than 127,000 Americans who have died from COVID-19.

According to NBC News, the Riverside County Office of Vital Records confirmed that Macias did die from COVID-19. According to Macias’s brother-in-law, Macias was diligent about wearing his mask and following health regulations. However, when California Governor Gavin Newsom signaled rapid reopening within weeks in June, Macias felt safe letting down his guard.

“He was quarantining because he was overweight and had diabetes,” Lopez told NBC News in explaining how careful Macias has been.

Macias’s death is a warning to Americans.

As the quarantining drags on due to reopening reversals, fatigue is setting in with Americans about self-isolation. With a holiday weekend underway, Macias’s message is a warning call to Americans as social distancing is forgotten and people argue over masks.

Health experts continue to stress the importance of wearing face masks when out in public and to stay away from indoor gatherings with friends, like parties. It might be uncomfortable and you might not like it but it is what we need to do to get back this virus.

Please stay safe, smart, and follow health guidelines this 4th of July weekend.

READ: #TheWorldReopenedAnd Is Highlighting All The Ways We Are Failing In Our Response To COVID-19