Honestly, California just fell behind. Once they were behind, they never did manage to catch up. The signs were there early, but instead of being taken as warnings, people took the fastest shortcut. When PG&E started cutting power to areas to avoid fires, instead of implementing a huge push of distributed power and solar facilities, it was cheaper to do nothing and let people buy generators. After paying for decades of mismanagement at PG&E, the ratepayers had no stomach for the costs of constructing a grid that could withstand a hotter climate. So we did patchwork fixes. That type of thing.
The Legislature had learned the lesson of the gas tax recall too well. Rather than go all in on a massive scale carbon tax, they tried tinkering with nudges and opportunity districts and cap-and-trade grants. They were never willing to risk their seats with massive wealth transfers from millionaires to the poor, so many climate change reforms were reasonably called elitism that would hurt a poor constituency. Without the buffer of redistributed wealth, people couldn’t do anything but they cheapest, short-term solutions. To this day, I don’t know how the Governor can live with himself; he had small children! But his administration fucked around with buzzwords instead of facing the issues. If you remember, his early themes of Multi-Benefit Magic!, Portfolio Power! and Resilience Reward! were never adequate to the threat.
It felt like we were doing the work. Each year, there were good proposals, to accelerate housing or to tackle public health problems. It wasn’t a massive carbon tax, but they were also important issues. Each year, they got pushed back, but we knew they would pass soon. Each year, the fires got worse, but people got used to that. Proposed new building codes never did quite pass and no one wanted to infringe on people’s freedom to live wherever they wanted. In every aspect of life, everything just cost more. It cost more to put in water recycling in urban areas. It cost more to meet new wastewater treatment standards. The costs of meat were going up after the Midwest crop failures. Even people who could afford it got tired of paying and paying and paying. The counties couldn’t ever really cover the costs of blue-green algae blooms and new Valley Fever outbreaks and disposing of thousands of dead cows after heat waves. Without much discussion, they quietly stopped doing much.
Still, people were trying, with their Teslas. It was just that their own neighborhood wasn’t a good fit for a big multi-family “skyscraper”. No one wanted to see homelessness get even worse, but it just wasn’t right to get rid of local authority. After all, what could a Sacramento bureaucrat know about what made a neighborhood special? So even if we wanted to take some of the climate refugees from Central America, there really wasn’t any place to put them. Climate grief spread. People wished they could do something, but it was never really clear what could help. We couldn’t get rid of cars, could we?
We were completely unprepared for The Bad Year. Having the flood knock out two major cities and interrupt water deliveries to the southland meant that there simply weren’t enough personnel to fight fires in the fall. The floods left debris, molds and polluted waters everywhere. Maybe that was where the virus came from. The kids’ lungs were already weakened from the yearly smoke. It raged through the State.
After the sickness, we never got back on track. The Governor established Freedom Zones. In a Freedom Zone, there were no annoying regulations and no hope of government help after a disaster either. If you wanted to build your home in the path of fire, no one would stop you. No one would help you when the fire came, either. The Resnicks kinda started the Wonderful! Zones by themselves. They promised water, food and housing to people who signed twenty-year indentures to process their crops. Whole towns signed on, re-named Wonderful!Towns. The California government was relieved to have those regions taken off their hands. It began negotiations with Facebook and Apple to form their own Zones. People got very upset about that on Twitter.
Even as California struggled, it was still in better shape than lots of places. In many of the Zones, life was pretty stable. Golden State Power said they’d restore five days of power to the Mountain Freedom Zone within two years. In Wonderful!Zone, nut exports were holding steady, as the Resnicks consolidated their water districts. They began selling water to Los Angeles and south, who were happy for the steady supply. Cleanup of the flooded areas wasn’t quite finished, but the people who moved back to the Flood Freedom Zone knew that there could never be a flood like that again. The Bay Area corporation zones had begun to build a water project to tap the rivers in the north state. “Unfinished business to develop security”, they called it. California and the feds sold them the northern portions of the water project
The new governor came in promising green bonds, major market reforms and tax relief. She also talked about requiring the corporate zones to take their fair share of refugees, but never quite explained how she could do that while honoring Local Authority. The fires were still bad but everyone agreed that anyone in a freedom zone shouldn’t build any housing they weren’t willing to lose every few years.
There wasn’t much talk anymore about fighting climate change. A few hippies were still talking about all the wildlife that had gone extinct. But it was all people could do to keep up with normal life. They were exhausted from grief, from the epidemics, from being helpless while things went wrong. There wasn’t anything left for making major longterm projects. We did our best, but it was setback after setback from then on out, with each new normal worse than the last.