August 17, 2021
EP. 118 — Watching Paradise Burn to the Ground with Lizzie Johnson
The California Camp Fire was the deadliest and most destructive wildfire in California’s history. This week investigative reporter Lizzie Johnson is on the show to discuss her firsthand experience reporting on the fire and its destruction. You can check out her book, Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire, at factuallypod.com/books.
118 — Watching Paradise Burn to the Ground with Lizzie Johnson
Speaker 1 [00:00:22] Hello everyone, and welcome to Factually. I’m Adam Conover, thank you so much for joining me once again as I talked to an incredible expert about all the things that they know that you don’t know. I almost definitely don’t know. My mind is going to be blown. Your mind is going to be blown. We’re going to have a great time together. Can’t wait to get to this interview but before we do, I have a little bit of housekeeping I want to do. A couple of weeks back, I had an episode on ADHD where I spoke with Dr. Stephen Hinshaw. We talked about the history of the diagnosis and most importantly, we talked about my own personal history with ADHD. I was diagnosed at a very young age, and I struggled for many years with whether medication was helping me or hurting me and whether I felt the diagnosis even applied to me. I have very complex feelings about the pharmaceutical industry’s influence over the diagnosis and the explosion of it that we saw in the 90’s, and I had a lot of questions for for Dr. Stephen Hinshaw about it as a result and he answered a good deal of them. I thought we had a really interesting conversation and I’m very happy that we did the episode and I heard from a lot of folks afterwards who were appreciative that we did it: that related to my experience and that it helped them think through their own issues with their diagnosis as well. But I also heard from some folks who felt that the episode did not reflect their experience. Some folks wrote in who said, for instance, that they went undiagnosed as children and didn’t realize until they were adults that they had ADHD. Until finally their lives were massively improved by medication. And even some folks who felt that this idea of whether ADHD is real or not, whether the medication helpful or harmful those sort of issues, caused a stigma around the disorder that made their parents, their doctor, even themselves dismiss it for a long period until they finally realized as adults that it actually applied to them. I just want to say, for the record, I want to be really clear about this: that is real. That is a real experience. That is valid if that describes you. That’s a valid experience that people have that is part of the tapestry of ADHD in this country and around the world. It happens to not be my experience and I fully admit that on that episode, it was such a personal topic to me that I took a much more self-focused view than I normally do on these episodes. Whenever I’m talking to an expert, I’m always asking the question that I have the most, right? I’m asking the burning questions that I need to know, because I feel like if I need to know then the audience probably does too, that’s my style as an interviewer. In this case, I have so much complex life history with this diagnosis; that’s the perspective that all my questions came from. It was very hard for me to divorce myself from that and ask the sort of more general interest questions that I often do in other interviews. And you know, I got to say, I’m happy that I did the interview that way because I think that (especially when talking about mental health issues, medical issues) it’s critical that folks who have lived experience like me have the chance to ask the experts the questions that they have, publicly, so we can all work through these issues together. It so happened that it took us an hour to explore all my questions and all those perspectives, and we didn’t have a chance to get to the other many different experiences that other folks have with this diagnosis. Honestly, I do regret that. I regret that people left the episode feeling unseen by it and there are certainly plenty worthy aspects of ADHD that deserved more attention. For instance, we could have talked about the very real issues of medical bias. We talked about on the episode about how boys (especially boys of color) can often go over diagnosed. That behavior is labeled as acting out and people being prescribed medication were none is needed. But there’s also an issue of under diagnosis among women, where women are not particularly seen as being susceptible to ADHD and for that reason go many years without a diagnosis that could have helped them. Those are real issues, and I really want to do an episode in the future on medical bias. We’ve been looking for a guest about that topic. So I just want to end this by saying that one of the things I value most about this show, is that it is not a monologue. It is a dialog. First of all, it’s quite literally a dialog; it’s me talking to an expert but it’s also a dialog with you, the audience. I really feel that we’re on a journey, here together, of learning about and understanding these issues. So I really want to thank everyone who wrote in with their feedback on this episode. It caused a lot of discussion. I wrote back to a lot of folks on Twitter and over email and it sparked some really interesting conversations. I just want to say, if you are listening to this show and I have a perspective on a topic and you have a different perspective: you are not shut out of this show. You are a part of the show. I want you to write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I want you to tweet at me. I want you to send me an Instagram DM (I don’t check those that often as they get kind of hairy, you know), do you get in touch with me and let’s have a conversation about it, because that is what makes this journey of learning so fun and fascinating; is when it’s not just me, it’s all of us doing it together. So once again, thank you to everybody who wrote in and let’s get to this episode. So I don’t know if you saw on the news this past week, but the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the IPCC) came out with a huge, big ass report in which they reviewed thousands of papers on climate change, and they found (they only do these reports once every couple of years) that the sea levels are rising, the polar ice sheets are melting, extreme weather is increasing to the point where we can say with great certainty that yes, this or that massive flood or that murderous drought or that hurricane that’s barreling down on the Gulf Coast is, in fact, a product of climate change. The same climate change that is caused by our carbon emissions and that all of this will require massive but very obvious and doable changes. It was a really landmark study. It caused an incredible amount of conversation. But here’s the funny thing about it: we almost don’t need it at this point because the thing that is so stunning about climate change, is how quickly it has overtaken us. How much we can suddenly see the effects all around us. For most of my life, climate change was always something that we were going to see in the future. That scientists were saying is going to happen and we need to watch out for it. And now, over the past five years, it has really started feeling like it is happening. A really good example of this is a couple of years ago, we had the climate scientist, Michael Mann on Adam Ruins Everything for an episode called ‘Adam Ruins Nature.’ And in that episode, he told us about how we’re going to be facing more and bigger fires across the West as a result of climate change. That was just four years ago, or so. I remember thinking when he made that episode, ‘Oh, that sounds like that’ll be bad when that starts happening.’ And then over the last three years, it has started happening. We currently in California, today, had the largest fire in California history. The second largest was last year. And people now talk about fire season as though it’s Christmas. ‘Hey fire season is coming around. Better get ready.’ My dad lives in Oregon, where they also had very bad fires, and he literally decided this year not to go on a family trip because it was fire season and he wanted to be able to guard his house with a hose in case the fires come. This was not a reality, just five or six years ago. Now it is. Everyone is aware that fires are here and they’re getting worse and worse every single year. A lot of times when we see these fires on the news (and I’m as guilty of this as anyone) we say, ‘Oh, that’s really awful. Climate change is really bad,’ and we forget the fact that these are real people’s homes. When they say 500 structures destroyed, that means 500 homes destroyed. And today on the show, we have a really stunning interview to connect us all the way from that big IPCC report to the actual changes that are being wrought in our communities. Today on the show, we have Lizzie Johnson. She’s the author of a new book called ‘Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire,’ and in this book she writes about her experience as a reporter on the ground during the 2018 campfire in California. This fire made massive news in California. It killed 85 people and destroyed an entire town, that is simply wiped off the map now. The devastation it caused is not abstract. It’s not something you need to read about in a white paper. It’s very real. It’s real people’s lives that were destroyed in, literally, an afternoon. I just cannot say enough about how much this interview bowled me over. You’re going to be stunned by it. So without further ado, please welcome Lizzie Johnson. Lizzie, thank you so much for being here.
Speaker 2 [00:09:10] Thanks for having me.
Speaker 1 [00:09:12] So I read a lot about the campfire when it happened, it was in the news all over California. It was terrifying. You were there, in person. Tell me what that was like. And tell me more about the fire for our listeners who have a hazy memory of it or never heard about it in the first place?
Speaker 2 [00:09:29] If you think back to the fall of 2018, on November 8th (a few weeks before Thanksgiving) this massive fire breaks out in Northern California, right outside of this town called Paradise. It’s like three and a half hours northeast of San Francisco and within a matter of hours, the entire town is just gone. That’s 14,000 buildings: 500 businesses, everything that made up the lives of 26,500 people. If you can imagine that. So yeah, I was there. I was a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle at the time, and my beat was wildfires. So I got a call from my boss very early that morning and he was like, ‘Hey, there’s this fire, you should go.’ I went not expecting it to be anything like what it ended up becoming. Just driving towards paradise, the entire sky just started to disappear. It went from a clear autumn blue to this kind of pie crusted brown to just complete black. It was just all of these people’s lives burning up into nothing. Then up in town, it was just block after block of leveled homes. All that was left were these fireplaces. I think that eeriest part was that the fires don’t burn things up completely. So there were these tiny pieces of paper that were flying around everywhere. And it was just singed remains of family photos where you could only see one person’s face or a piece of a magazine where you could read maybe four sentences and that was it. Just total destruction.
Speaker 1 [00:11:07] That’s so eerie. Because you’ve centered yourself so wonderfully in this, I’m worried about you as you’re telling me this story. You’re driving towards the fire. I assume other people are driving away. When you arrived, had it already swept through? Were you ever in danger and how do you report on something that is dangerous to your own body?
Speaker 2 [00:11:28] Yeah, I think there’s a fair bit of compartmentalization that happens. Where you just try not to think about the fact that you are driving into the deadliest wildfire in California history and instead are like,’ OK, I just have to go do my job today and not think about what I’m breathing or think about that these power lines I’m driving over might actually be live or think about that maybe my car will burn up, too.’ You just go and do your job.
Speaker 1 [00:11:56] Wow. Because I would maybe be like, ‘Look, you’re writing for the San Francisco Chronicle. I don’t know what your salary is, but you’re not making Hollywood money or anything like that.’ There is no point at which you say, /You know what? Fuck this job. This is not worth it?’ Maybe not. That’s some commitment.
Speaker 2 [00:12:16] I feel like journalists are all a little crazy because we have these really bizarre things that we care about, that no one else cares about. For me, it’s wildfires. I’m that girl in the bar that’s like, ‘Hey, do you want to know the temperature that aluminum melts at?’ So, yeah, I feel a great sense of purpose, and I think that is what really drives me to the point where I can drive into something like that and not get totally freaked out. My mission is to tell this story that matters, to get people to pay attention to this fire, to actually understand what it means because it can be so abstract when you’re like, ‘Oh yeah, fourteen thousand buildings’ and it’s not until you realize that one of them is the house where a couple had just been painting the nursery for their brand new baby, that it feels real. That’s what I try and do, and that’s why I do this job. And that’s why it matters.
Speaker 1 [00:13:11] Let’s talk about this town. When I was reading about it, I sort of pictured a little tiny mountain town. You know what I mean? Like a summer camp environment kind of thing, but you give me those numbers: 26,000 people and 14,000 business is as large of the town I grew up in. That’s a regular town where people are living and they’re working and they’re raising kids. And it has, I assume, a school district and all of that
Speaker 2 [00:13:41] If you can imagine waking up at 8 a.m.. And getting a phone call from someone saying, ‘Hey, I think there’s a fire coming’ and before lunch, everything that you know is gone. The elementary school where you went to first grade, the church where you attended mass, the grocery store where you bought your frozen peas, your house, your neighbor’s house, your teacher’s house, your friend’s house, your grandparents house, all of it just gone. And that’s what made this fire so stunning and why people still remember it to this day. Because it was an entire town just wiped off the map in a matter of hours.
Speaker 1 [00:14:17] Yeah. I mean, I remember as a kid, my mom grew up in. I’m sorry, I can’t actually remember if this is Wisconsin or Michigan; she grew up in both states. There was a fire there called the Peshtigo fire that destroyed a town. I remember going to, as a child, a memorial or a monument to it. And it happened, what, 50 years prior or something like that? This is that type of event. There’s going to be a marker at the very least, a roadside marker 200 years from now saying, ‘Hey, this is where this fire happened.’ Let me ask, were people are able to get out of the fire? Were people able to escape?
Speaker 2 [00:15:05] That’s the really tragic part. There was so little warning that there were 85 people that ended up dying and thousands of people more that are just trapped in the trauma from that day: who got stuck in their cars, unable to move. There were a lot of cars where it was so hot that the tires were actually deflating, so the people had to get out and start running and hope that they could find someone else to get off the mountain with. When the power goes out, you can’t get your garage door open. So there were people that tried to go get in their car and leave, and they couldn’t and they had to back through the garage door, or they just couldn’t leave at all. It was a very frenzied, hectic evacuation, and that was something that the town faced criticism for after the fact: that they didn’t have a really robust way to get everybody out at once. They had plans that got part of town out, assuming that the fire moved more slowly than what it did, but they weren’t prepared for something of this magnitude.
Speaker 1 [00:16:06] It’s a hard thing to prepare for: to plan for an evacuation where the entire town is destroyed in a matter of hours. It’s hard to countenance. It’s not what you picture, even when you’re doing your disaster preparedness.
Speaker 2 [00:16:22] Right? And so that’s the really interesting thing because, climate change is really changing the way natural disasters are happening. It’s taking these things where the town prepared for every fire that they had seen before, but they hadn’t prepared for the worst case scenario. And we’re living in a world where the worst case scenario is increasingly just becoming the most likely scenario.
Speaker 1 [00:16:51] I’ve only lived in California since 2014 or 2015, and it’s amazing how quickly the conversation around fire has changed. Already, people are like ‘Oh, now it’s fire season so watch out, buy an air purifier.’ We’re already changing our habits. My folks live in Oregon, same thing there.
Speaker 2 [00:17:08] So you’ve seen fires, you’ve seen them too. You know what it’s like.
Speaker 1 [00:17:12] Well, I’ve seen them from far away. I’ve been in my own neighborhood and seen smoke in the air, right? I haven’t personally been threatened. My folks were miles away. They were frightened by the fires in Oregon, but they weren’t personally impacted. But they expect to be, in the future now. What is normal is changing so, so quickly. Let me ask, how did this particular fire start though?
Speaker 2 [00:17:40] So this fire started because of an electrical line that failed. There’s this company called the Pacific Gas and Electric Company. It is one of the largest power utilities in the country. It only serves California. But because the number of people it serves are so great, it actually ends up being 1 in 20 Americans. There was this high voltage transmission tower near Paradise, and that morning it was really windy and the hook that was holding up this really powerful line snapped. And when it fell, it created this huge bolt of electricity similar to a lightning bolt. And the hot metal fell onto the grass, the grass lit on fire and then within hours, it had already reached Paradise.
Speaker 1 [00:18:25] Wow. But what were the conditions that caused – I mean, that’s a spark, right? It’s a bad spark. It’s a bad beginning of a fire. But then what made it move so quickly, so much more quickly then the town had anticipated?
Speaker 2 [00:18:38] So that’s a great question. The thing with climate change and these natural disasters: climate scientists talk about it as a threat multiplier. So in previous years, if that tower had failed on November 8th, as it did, the rain probably already would have come. So the fire wouldn’t have taken off.
Speaker 1 [00:18:58] I mean, this is November. This is pretty late. It’s not quite the rainy season in California, but we’re not talking August 1st.
Speaker 2 [00:19:10] It’s a few weeks to Thanksgiving, if you think about that. For people that don’t live in California, it was for a very long time pretty uncommon to have fires in November and December. That’s not true anymore. We’re seeing them later and later into the year. But because those rains were so far behind, everything was super dry. And so when the sparks fell, it just went up like a tinderbox. It was the perfect storm of events.
Speaker 1 [00:19:36] Wow. And so how culpable is this power company? I’m like, if on a windy day your power line snaps, this is like exactly – The power companies should be prepared for that to not happen. That seems pretty straightforward, right?
Speaker 2 [00:19:55] You have to remember, though, that the power company is a big utility and for a very long time, they were super focused on putting profit over safety. This has come out time and time and again in court hearings and in other massive fatality events that PG&E has been involved with. This power line that failed; that hook, it had been installed in 1919. It cost 22 cents at the time. That hook outlived every single man who put it up. Replacing it in 2018 would have only cost nineteen dollars. Nineteen dollars probably would have averted this tragedy, which is super just so sad to think about it. But because PG&E wasn’t doing inspections the way that it should, because it was trying to save money, they never caught the fact that this hook was slowly degrading until it snapped and started the fire. Then they realized, ‘Oh, shoot that probably could have been averted.’
Speaker 1 [00:20:52] Well, because they have tens of thousands of hooks all over the state. ‘Why upgrade all of our infrastructure? Why do a whole infrastructure overhaul when we’re already making money? We don’t need to do that this year? No one’s banging down our doors, asking us to replace all the hooks and all the power lines or whatever.’ But with this, the results were disastrous.
Speaker 2 [00:21:16] That’s the thing too, about like I was saying, the threat multiplier. They didn’t have to replace the hooks because the conditions weren’t changing and then they started changing. And so things that would have been tiny fires in the past suddenly became these huge fires. And all of a sudden, PG&E is really having to rethink about how to harden its infrastructure and what comes next. This summer, they came out and said that they were going to underground ten thousand miles of power line. To give you perspective, that’s about halfway around the globe. It’s just a massive amount of infrastructure that hasn’t been hardened for climate change and these disasters.
Speaker 1 [00:21:53] It’s awful that it took the deaths of all those people and the destruction of a town to cause them to take that step, obviously power lines in California need to be underground at this point. But OK, I want to come back to the electric company later because I want to really foreground more about the experience of the people who lived there. So tell me a little bit about your driving in to the town as you said, you’re like, ‘Hey, I’m a woman on a mission. I’m an intrepid journalist.’ What were the conditions when you arrived? You said it became black. What did you see when you got there?
Speaker 2 [00:22:40] I talk about this in my book, but I had been covering fires for a few years at that point and had already seen a fair number of really bad fires. A few years before that, you had the 2017 wine country wildfires, which if you remember, just ripped through Sonoma County, decimated all of these really fabled vineyards. So when I showed up in Paradise after the Camp Fire, I think some part of me was like, ‘Oh, it can’t be worse than what I’ve already seen.’ I had spent years covering these communities that were just really struggling to get back up on their feet after devastation unlike anything we’d seen before. It’s really eerie. It looked like a war zone. It looked like those apocalypse movies that I’ve seen before. Where you see power poles that are burning from the ground up, and so they’re just swinging in the air and making this eerie noise.
Speaker 1 [00:23:35] They’re burning from the ground up. So the poles are hanging from the lines?
Speaker 3 [00:23:42] Yeah. Maybe there’s two poles that are still standing there, but all the poles and between them have burned from the ground up, but they’re still attached to the line and so they’re just swinging back and forth and again making that really eerie creak noise. And you’re like, ‘Those are going to fall at some point, and I really hope me or someone else isn’t underneath them when they fall.’ That and then the way a fire moves. I think that a lot of people assume that when fire rips through, everything gets destroyed. But you’ll be walking down a street and you walk up to a house. Everything is gone and then sitting on the front steps perfectly untouched is a jack o’ lantern. How did the Jack-O-Lantern survive and everything else didn’t or in one trailer park, all the trailers were gone but the gardens out front were still somehow untouched. There were roses growing and lemons growing on the trees. It’s just a very weird world of contrast where there are enough things that remain that it looks normal, you can recognize that it used to be a town, it used to be a neighborhood. And yet all of the basics are just missing. People’s lives are gone and you can suddenly see into their homes. Oftentimes all you can really make out are things like the washer/dryer or the oven or what kind of looks like an exercise bike, and maybe that’s a safe and the rest is just ash. Maybe you might recognize something else like a Bible, but you touch it and it just disintegrates under your fingertips like a bunch of little snowflakes and it just wafts up into the air.
Speaker 1 [00:25:33] Wow. For that to have happened to people’s lives – it’s strange, because on the one hand, it’s like, ‘Well, those are just things, those are just people’s things.’ And I’m sure everyone who was able to leave would say, ‘Well, I’m very happy I got out alive.’ But those are also the things of people’s lives that represent the lives that they had there. I know you profiled some of the residents in the book. Would you tell us some of those stories?
Speaker 2 [00:26:06] Yeah. One of the first people that I met up in paradise was this woman named Rachelle. She had had a C-section 12 hours before the fire hit town.
Speaker 1 [00:26:17] Wow.
Speaker 2 [00:26:18] And was in the hospital, had a surgical incision and couldn’t really move. Had her 12 hour old son and she got separated from her husband and shoved into some strange guy’s car. They were trying to get out of town, and it doesn’t look like they’re going to make it. It doesn’t seem like they’re going to be able to get out at all. And she just looks to him and is like, ‘I can’t move. So if it gets worse, please just take my baby and run. Just leave me here, I’d rather my son live.’ There’s another man that I wrote about in my book, who was a bus driver for the school district up in Paradise. He had worked a career for a really long time and then after his dad died of cancer, he realized he wanted to actually do something he was passionate about. So he was driving the school bus while he went back to college to get his teaching degree. And on the morning the fire hit, he got stuck with 22 little kids who came from more low income families. Their parents were bartenders or they owned tiny little businesses. They couldn’t get back to pick up their kids from school because they aren’t working the kind of jobs you can just walk away from. And so he’s trying to get these 22 kids out and there is no water on the bus. The kids start falling asleep because it’s so hot and because the carbon monoxide is so intense from the smoke. He thinks that the kids are going to start dying on him. Another set of people I write about in the book was a father and his young daughter, and they get separated and they’re running away from the car. And he just doesn’t know if he’s going to see her again. Can you imagine that being stuck in a fire and losing your seven year old?
Speaker 1 [00:27:58] Yeah, just losing track of them, like you don’t know where they went. I hate that my thought is that this is like a movie, right? Because that’s my experience of seeing scenes like this, because it’s not like a movie, it’s like real life. This really happened to people. It somehow seems to flatten an experience when you say it’s like a movie, but also these are stories that if I saw them in a movie, I’d be like, ‘This is a little too written.’ This story’s a little too good. The person who just had a baby and then is thrust into a car. My God, I don’t have words to react to this.
Speaker 2 [00:28:46] You were asking me, why know I go do this? Why I go driving in the middle of fires? You go to find stories like that, that make people understand and really feel what it means when a fire hits and you lose everything. It doesn’t feel real until you put yourself in those in those shoes where you’re like, ‘Oh, shoot, what if I was sitting in a car with my brand new baby faced with the decision of what to do if the fire comes close? Do I save my baby’s life or do I try and save my life too?’
Speaker 1 [00:29:17] Yeah.
Speaker 2 [00:29:17] What kind of decision is that?
Speaker 1 [00:29:23] Oh, man, it’s so much. Did those people that you mentioned, the stories that you told, were those people able to leave the the town?
Speaker 2 [00:29:38] You know, I could tell you or I could tell you to read my book.
Speaker 1 [00:29:43] No, no, you can’t do that. You can’t do that. You can’t do that to us.
Speaker 2 [00:29:48] I will tell you, Adam, the baby is OK. The mom is OK. They just celebrated his second birthday last year. He’s super cute. So I hope that helps you go to sleep at night.
Speaker 1 [00:30:00] It does. It does.
Speaker 2 [00:30:03] But I will tell you, not everyone obviously survives. So just emotionally prepare yourself for that.
Speaker 1 [00:30:13] Uh, I mean, tell me a little bit more about the evacuation itself. What is happening on the roads that the people are experiencing? When they hear about it, like just on a town level. How is the information distributed that, ‘Hey, we need to leave?’ And what then happens on the roads that causes all this chaos?
Speaker 2 [00:30:37] OK. So let me see if I can give you a simple answer to this question. Basically, there is a state firefighting agency named Cal Fire, and they are in charge of giving information to the town of Paradise. So Cal Fire will say, ‘Hey, there’s a fire and it’s about to hit Paradise, so you should start evacuating people.’ But because the fire was moving so fast, Cal Fire couldn’t really say where the fire was at and they didn’t realize until it was too late that the fire was basically already in town. So the town just kept sending out evacuation alerts way too late. So there’s that, along with the fact that cell towers were burning, so people just couldn’t get a hold of each other. Not to mention that everyone in this town is checking Facebook. They’re calling their parents, they’re calling their neighbors, trying to figure out what’s happening. And so the few cell towers that are still up are completely overloaded. Information just wasn’t getting through. There was one 9-1-1 call that I listened to, where there is a woman in Paradise, and she had heard that Cal Fire was issuing an evacuation alert for the town. So she calls 9-1-1 and says, ‘Hey, I hear that there is an evacuation alert for the town of Paradise. Is that true?’ The 9-1-1 dispatcher tells her, ‘Don’t worry, the fire is really far away. Don’t leave your house. It’s totally fine’ because no one had called to tell her yet that an evacuation order had been issued.
Speaker 1 [00:32:02] Oh my god. The 9-1-1 operator didn’t know. The evacuation order had been issued, and the 9-1-1 operator didn’t know?
Speaker 2 [00:32:09] She didn’t know. No one had told her yet.
Speaker 1 [00:32:13] Yeah, that’s just such a basic breakdown of communications in the agency where there should not be one. Or the group of agencies, rather.
Speaker 2 [00:32:24] Yeah, it was just chaos: a mix of people not understanding where the fire was at and not being able to get a hold of each other. People were in charge of making decisions who weren’t prepared to make those decisions. And so left on the limb were all of the people who really needed to know whether to leave or not. And so the really unfortunate thing is that a lot of the 85 people who died were older. They had disabilities, all people who really needed that extra time to figure out how to get out of town or find someone to pick them up. There was a woman – this just haunts me. There is a woman who was 99 years old. She was about to have her 100th birthday, and she got stuck on her front porch in her wheelchair and couldn’t get out. And that’s how she died.
Speaker 1 [00:33:10] Oh. My God.
Speaker 2 [00:33:15] Sorry, I feel like I’m really depressing you
Speaker 1 [00:33:17] No, no, no, no, no, this is important. It’s important work. The personalization of it is – We’re not we’re not doing this just to upset people. It’s to put a face on the this issue to help us really put ourselves there and understand what a big fucking deal this is. Because this is not something that just happened in one random town that will never happen anywhere else, this is going to be happening more and more across the country to people who we all know or to ourselves.
Speaker 2 [00:33:59] Exactly. And so I think the thing in my reporting and trying to find these people is that it can be very hard to understand what it means unless you hear someone’s story. Last week, there was a new fire in Butte County, not far from Paradise called the Dixie Fire. It’s so big that the smoke came all the way to the East Coast. I just went to Washington, D.C., and I walked out of my apartment and smelled smoke and was like, ‘How am I smelling smoke when I am now living across the entire country?’ I leashed my dog, we walked the dog park and people there were joking about the fires about how the smoke will make things cooler in D.C. and that kind of made my stomach hurt. I was like, ‘The smoke is people’s lives,’ all the ash from people’s lives. And so maybe if you hear one of these stories, you’ll understand. Even if you are living in California, even if you aren’t immediately impacted, you’ll realize that this is really important. And this is just the trajectory that we’re on as climate change worsens.
Speaker 1 [00:35:01] Yeah, OK. Well, we’re going to take a really quick break. When we come back, we’re going to try to talk about what we can do to prevent disasters like this in the future. At least that’s one of the things I want to talk to you about. I have a lot more questions about this. We’ll be right back with more Lizzie Johnson. OK. We’re back with Lizzie Johnson. It was a very stark first half of the interview, I thought.
Speaker 2 [00:35:40] Yeah, it was pretty dark
Speaker 1 [00:35:43] Stark and dark. We covered a lot of ground. What, if anything, has California or has our emergency services preparedness teams, (or whatever they might be called) what did they learn from this? Obviously, there’s so many failures here: there’s the failure of the electrical grid and the electrical companies, specifically the for profit utility. There’s the failure of Cal Fire; which is a state agency, I assume. There’s the failure of the town itself to have a preparedness strategy, there’s interlocking failures and there’s climate change more broadly. Have any of these various agencies or companies been whipped into shape by this most horrible of all disasters so that this doesn’t happen again?
Speaker 2 [00:36:34] I mean, they’re trying, right? I think we’re at the point where it’s definitely been a wakeup call, the fact that these fires are getting worse and they aren’t going to go away. So the state is trying to implement a way to make evacuations more routine, getting communities to really think about what sending alerts look like, making them practice, making sure that those alerts are more Amber Alert style; where they show up and everybody’s phones in the area. Cal Fire is trying to be better at doing more preventative work, so burning places that will probably just go up like a tinderbox before a fire season gets there. Because then if the fire starts, everything’s already burned away. It’s safe, it’s black, but we still have a really long way to go. Even the Dixie Fire burning in Butte County right now is already the 13th largest fire in state history, PG&E has admitted that it might have been the reason why that fire started. So.
Speaker 1 [00:37:35] Again?
Speaker 2 [00:37:36] Again, again. Yeah. So all of these entities are trying, but we’re still at the beginning. And so it’s going to take time to really get things to change.
Speaker 1 [00:37:51] There’s just so much work to be done. I mean, even just thinking about the way my own city – Los Angeles- handles COVID 19 alerts. The use of cell phone alerts and the way that they’re informing folks seems so spotty to me: occasionally there’ll be some cell phone alert, but it’s always way too late. And that’s like a slow moving disaster that they have been planning for and dealing with for a year and a half. I shudder to think if there was to actually be a fast moving fire going through a heavily populated part of Los Angeles County (I know it has already happened) but when natural disaster hits, I shudder to think what the response would be because it seems already so dysfunctional. And I’m shocked to hear that PG&E is again at fault for another fire like a couple of years later.
Speaker 2 [00:38:52] Possibly. They haven’t proved it yet, but it seems likely. Yeah.
Speaker 1 [00:38:58] I mean, correct me if I’m wrong because I’m still a new enough resident that I’m still a bit confused by local news. But I feel like in the wake of the Camp Fire, there was news for months about HOW because the liabilities were so immense that PG&E needed to be bailed out by the state and stuff like that. The fact that they’re responsible for so much destruction means that they owe a lot of people money. Am I right about that?
Speaker 2 [00:39:28] Yeah. They ended up filing for bankruptcy. Camp Fire ended up being the costliest natural disaster in the world that year. That was sixteen point five billion dollars in damages. So, yeah, PG&E owed a lot of people money for that one.
Speaker 1 [00:39:45] It’s kind of a bad thing if you’re electrical utility filed for bankruptcy because all the other people in California still need power. But I remember the response from the state being kind of like, – the state could just nationalize the electrical utility and say, ‘We’re going to do this now’ and put the needs of citizens above profit. But it seems that there’s a reticence to do that. And so maybe we’re stuck in the same position.
Speaker 2 [00:40:13] Yeah, it just feels like we’re going around in a circle because the state could take it over. But why would they really want to do that? Then they’ll be saddled with this electrical grid that needs to be hardened and they’ll be at fault if a wildfire happens. They also can’t just take away PG&E is operating license because people need power. They need electricity to cook their food, so there’s really only so much you can do, right? I think people are struggling to figure out what the answer to this is.
Speaker 1 [00:40:43] Yeah. ]Let’s talk about how this fire is the harbinger of things to come, in a way. Should we expect to see more events like this? Like you said, this moved faster than any fire in – I mean that town had been there for a long time. There had been other fires in the area. I assume this is a place where people were pretty fire aware, but this blew past all their expectations. Is that what we should be expecting now in places across America?
Speaker 2 [00:41:20] I wish I had a different answer for you, but yeah, that’s what we have to expect. I think for a long time, climate change has seems like this really distant thing; something that we can worry about in the future. But the fact of the matter is that it’s here now. We’re living it now with these heat waves, with flooding, with hurricanes, with these fires, and we can’t just pretend like it’s going to go away. We have to actually start thinking about how we’re living on this Earth and the ways that we can do our part to make things better. You can’t just sit around and be like, ‘Oh, I’m not going to get renter’s insurance, I’m not going to have a go bag of my important stuff by the front door. I’m going to live up a canyon on a winding road because a fire will never come.’ It’s just delusional at this point. This is what we’re stuck with. We have made our bed and this is the bed we’re stuck sleeping in.
Speaker 1 [00:42:15] Yeah. People have this fantasy often of like, ‘Oh, well, hey, when climate change gets really bad, I’ll go somewhere else.’ People literally used to say, ‘I think I’ll go to the Pacific Northwest. It’s kind of cool up there. You know what I mean? It’s like a little chilly’
Speaker 2 [00:42:32] Except that it’ll be hot there, too!
Speaker 1 [00:42:33] Yeah, the heat wave in Portland this year and Oregon had worse fires in California last year, or at least extremely, extremely, extremely destructive fires. It’s not like there’s a safe spot in America where you can go and not be affected by these things at this point.
Speaker 2 [00:42:52] Exactly.
Speaker 1 [00:42:54] Go to Florida, there’s flooding. Go to the northeast, there’s humid heat waves. I mean, it doesn’t matter where you are.
Speaker 2 [00:43:00] Yeah. These fires out west, they don’t exist in a chamber all of their own. Everything influences the others.
Speaker 1 [00:43:13] Yeah. Let’s talk about what states and towns and people can do, we’ll end with people. So we also we end on a positive note about what we can individually do, but let’s work our way there.
Speaker 2 [00:43:27] OK. OK, let’s problem solve this.
Speaker 1 [00:43:32] There’s plenty of other towns in California that are like Paradise, right? What does, I don’t know, Idlewild (another mountain community in California in a different part of the state) and places like it need to do? I mean, is it possible for people to live in places like that safely anymore? To have the little mountain town up in the woods? Is that a place that we can reasonably expect to be anymore? Or is there something that we can do to make those communities safer?
Speaker 2 [00:44:04] It’s a good question. I personally would not want to live in one of those towns, but I have also seen way too many fires to ever be comfortable living in the forest. It’s tough because you have to remember that these places are people’s homes. These are affordable places in the state of California where people can buy a house and have a backyard and raise their children. People used to joke Paradise was a town of the newlywed in the nearly dead because there were a lot of retirement age jokes and people they were starting families. So it just is very unfeeling to say, ‘No, you can’t go live in these mountain towns’
Speaker 1 [00:44:45] it’s unfair to say that to a person who is living where they need to live in order to have a life. You can’t be like, ‘Oh, anyone who lives there deserved it.’ That’s a horrible perspective to have.
Speaker 2 [00:44:58] Exactly. And so often you hear that from those of us who live in the cities and are living on earthquake fault lines and in tsunami wave zones. But there are ways, I think, to be aware of the risk. There’s a lake, for example, a town near Paradise that started showing fire preparedness trailers before movies at the local cinema and getting people to really think about what their plan would be. I think just knowing, ‘OK, what would you do if you had to leave your house right now? What would you grab? What would you take with you? Are you making sure you are making your house as fire safe as possible?’ Getting rid of dead trees and dead brush and not just leaving junk sitting around the front yard so that if the fire does come, your house won’t catch on fire. Again, just really thinking that through. I had a moment a couple of months ago where I was like, ‘I guess I’ve never actually thought that through for myself.’ But someone pulled the fire alarm in my building at 2 a.m. and I just left my apartment and didn’t take anything. And I was standing on the sidewalk and I was like, ‘Shoot. I could have grabbed my journals. I could have grabbed my laptop or something.’ But it was the middle of the night and I was like, ‘Oh, it’s probably not a real fire.’ And I was like, ‘This is exactly what everyone in Paradise went through that morning when they thought they would just be going back home again.’ Forcing yourself to think through that and be like, ‘OK, what if the worst case scenario actually does happen?’ And I think that’s something that on a state level, legislators can do in local towns. And also you, as an individual living in a fire prone place or a place that you know is susceptible to flooding or hurricanes or earthquakes. All of those things, what would you do if the worst case scenario happened? Would you be prepared? Could you take care of yourself? Because no one else is going to take care of you or make sure you’re OK.
Speaker 1 [00:46:54] It’s weirdly hard for us to prepare ourselves for that. I mean, like you say, you’re a fire reporter, Lizzie, you do this for a living and yet you found yourself on your sidewalk without a go bag. If anybody should. You’re telling me earlier in this interview, ‘Oh, you should have to go bag’ and I’m like, ‘I don’t have a go bag. I have a bunch of water for if there’s an earthquake and I’ve got a flashlight and some stuff like that. We got scared of earthquakes a couple of years ago. We had an earthquake man, come and do a whole bunch of earthquake stuff. The most important thing was he gave us a big water supply that’s in our garage. That’s great. I thought I was well prepared, but that’s a couple of years ago. I don’t really remember half the shit he taught me. You were like, ‘You should have a go bag by the door.’ I’m like, ‘I don’t have a go bag by the door. I should make a go bag.’ And then here you are telling me you don’t have to go bag.
Speaker 2 [00:47:41] I know. That what makes this so hard. It’s so uncomfortable to think about that your brain almost doesn’t let you until you’re standing on the sidewalk at 2 a.m. and you’re like, ‘Oh, shoot, I wish I had at least grabbed a coat. It’s freezing out here. It’s San Francisco.’ But that’s the best starting place that you can have: doing something constructive making that go bag so that if the worst case scenario happens, you don’t lose everything. What would you put in your go bag?
Speaker 1 [00:48:10] Well, I don’t know. What do you put in your go bag? Some shoes? Here’s the problem, half the stuff you want to put in there, is stuff that you’re using the rest of your time, like your laptop. I won’t put my laptop on my go bag because I’m using that the rest of the day.
Speaker 2 [00:48:24] Now that’s true. That’s true. But then there are other things, I saw so many people in Paradise – If you wanna talk about compounding trauma, they lost everything and then had to go spend hours at the DMV and the Social Security Administration, getting a new Social Security card and like a birth certificate to even prove that they were who they said they were so that they could get insurance payouts or book a hotel room. Even little things like that. Put some of your important documents in a bag and leave that near the front door somewhere.
Speaker 1 [00:49:00] I’m sorry, I’m off the track that I said I want to be on about what we can do. We’ll get back on to it. But a question that I want to ask is, what happened to these folks? I mean, you said over 80 people were killed, but for those who (you said about 25,000 people) were there and escaped, where did they go? That’s a huge number of fire refugees and where are they now? Is there a town being rebuilt there or is it still nothing?
Speaker 2 [00:49:31] Yes. So that’s really interesting. You think about internal displacement, all of these people that get forced out of their homes in the United States because of natural disasters. There is an effort by the local university to actually track where some of these people went. I remember looking at this interactive map and there were pins all across the country. People in Paradise ended up all over the country. Weirdly enough, a lot of them ended up in Idaho. There’s a huge expat community of Paradisians in Idaho. Some are trying to rebuild in Paradise, but the rebuilding there is just so slow that it’s only a fraction of the people that were there before. A year after the Camp Fire, it was only 3,000 people to the point where the governor reclassified Paradise not as a town but as a rural area, and that allowed them to get more funding.
Speaker 1 [00:50:24] Wow.
Speaker 2 [00:50:26] Even the people that want to come back, it’s really hard to rebuild; to have the money. And the past two years, fires have nearly clobbered Paradise again. And there’s that compounding of trauma where you want to go back to the town because it’s what you knew, but it’s not the town that you knew anymore, and it will probably burn down again at some point. That’s just the way these things go.
Speaker 1 [00:50:53] I’m sure there are people who have that feeling of like, ‘No, that’s my home and I want to go back and I love it there’ and et cetera. But that place is just not there, and it’s going to happen again.
Speaker 2 [00:51:06] Yeah, I was talking to someone yesterday on the phone who is in my book. She’s a school teacher for the local district, and she was telling me that her house survived the fire. But it’s so empty there now that a bear tried to break into her house the other day and she was like, ‘I don’t think I can live here anymore, my neighbors are gone. I feel really lonely and scared living out here.’ The fire, both literally and metaphorically, changes the landscape of a place.
Speaker 1 [00:51:39] Yeah, I feel bad for the bear. The bear must be hungry is trying to break into a house, right? That’s why the bear would be all, ‘Hey, there’s no fucking food out here. Everything is burned down. You must have some fish in there of some kind.’ My God. Were these people offered any assistance by the states or by any other agency?
Speaker 2 [00:52:03] Yeah. I mean, a lot of them are waiting for insurance payouts or money from PG&E, but it just takes so much time and bureaucracy and forms. It’s not like you snap your fingers a week after the fire are like, ‘OK, I would like money to rebuild my life again. I would like you to fix everything that has been broken.’ Just doesn’t work like that.
Speaker 1 [00:52:23] Yeah. No, that kind of restitution is like – We have there’s almost this imaginary theory that hey, if something happens to you; you got insurance. That’s the idea of insurance is that like, ‘Hey, well, then it can’t be that bad. I got insurance.’ But in reality, it’s going to take time and something is going to be destroyed that you can’t replace. Even if you receive the full monetary value of whatever it was. If your house is gone, you’ve been harmed. Irreparably, in a way.
Speaker 2 [00:52:56] Yeah. Think about how hard it is. My packages get stolen all the time, how hard it is to get a replacement from Amazon. But then imagine that but your entire life, where you’re trying to replace your entire life and it’s been stolen from you?
Speaker 1 [00:53:10] Yeah. Well, is there something that like these, just to repeat the earlier question, that like communities like Paradise can do. You said burning; people can clear brush and stuff like that. But on a city and state level, are these communities wising up and are there steps that they can be taking so that when the fire comes, there’s less of a panic. There’s an actual evacuation, what can be done?
Speaker 2 [00:53:43] Yeah. Just making sure that alert systems actually function and that people are signed up for it. Strangely enough, a lot of people just forget that you can sign up for alerts and oftentimes these smaller municipalities don’t have access to the Amber Alert. So if you aren’t signed up, you won’t get the alert. It’s a very simple thing. Make sure you have an alert system. Make sure people are signed up for it. Make sure people are aware of the evacuation effort. Practice it in your head. That makes it a lot easier if it does come down to it, because when the panic is kicking in, you at least have done it before and you’re like, ‘OK, I know that I need to go here and turn here, and that’s how I get out of town.’ Make sure you know your neighbors and help each other. I think that was one of the most beautiful things I actually saw in the Camp Fire, was how people really stepped up to help each other. Both during the fire and after the fact, there was a really strong community and that persisted and still persists today. So just take care of each other. On a state level, just making sure that people are thinking about how they’re building their houses, thinking about where we’re putting these communities and hardening electrical infrastructure. Realizing again, that climate change is here, we have to adapt to it and there are some solutions we can take. They aren’t easy, they’re hard. But it’s worth it. It saves lives and protects the way of life of the people left behind.
Speaker 1 [00:55:13] Yeah, if anyone is culpable for a disaster like this (I don’t know how old Paradise was as a community) there are still city officials, county officials and developers who are making choices about where to put new residents in communities and whether they should be way out in – Because people still have this fantasy of, ‘Oh, I’m going to live way out in the California wilderness.’ Not only are those areas more vulnerable to fires, they also contribute to climate change because those people are commuting long distances to work. Is that something that we can change and say, ‘Hey, we just can’t be building new communities out in the forested hills. It’s got to be a nice place to visit. Can’t be a place we can live.’
Speaker 2 [00:55:58] Absolutely. We’ve seen that happen to in places like San Diego County. You have to remember that more rural counties, they want the income that comes from taxes with new development and just really being on it and saying, No, it’s probably not a good idea to build those apartment complexes on top of a big hill in a fire prone area.’ I’ve seen it happen a few times where that development is actually stopped because people are paying attention to the meetings, they’re like, ‘No, that’s a really bad idea.’ Paying attention and being like, ‘No, don’t build there. That’s not a good idea.’ You can’t do much about places that already exist, but it is not wise to continue to build in really fire prone areas knowing that they will likely burn.
Speaker 1 [00:56:43] Yeah, even where I live in L.A., there’s there’s windy roads up in the hills where there is a whole lot of brush around. I am often very thankful. I’m like, ‘OK, I live in the low lying area. I kind of wish there are more trees on my street. But I’m also glad that there aren’t,’ you know what I mean. It is a choice that we can make when we’re figuring out where we’re going to live to just have in mind what’s fire prone and what is it to some extent, right?
Speaker 2 [00:57:16] Mm yeah. Just being aware, educate yourself. I think that is the best starting place, is understanding the risk and then you can start making decisions.
Speaker 1 [00:57:26] But when we think about climate change, it is really startling how fast the change has been. On my show a couple of years ago, we did a segment about climate change and we said, ‘Hey, one of the results of that is there’s going to be more wildfires.’ And at the time, I still thought of that as something in the future. And I didn’t think of it as something that would start happening. That was probably a year before the Camp Fire, that we did that episode, and now it’s like we already feel like we’re in a different reality. And the worst part about it is that climate change is a lagging indicator, right? If we stop all emissions, we cut emissions as much as we need to this year, and if everyone suddenly could ‘poof,’ and we’ve got public transit and electrified transit everywhere, and we’re not driving to work anymore. Temperatures are still going to keep going up for a little while because of all the carbon we’ve already put in the atmosphere. That means that this problem is going to continue to get worse over our lifetimes, no matter what we do. That can be a really hopeless thing, I feel bad even saying that. Some climate communicators might say,’Don’t even say that, because it’s going to worry people too much. It’s going to cause people to lose hope and they’re not going to do anything about it.’ How do you feel about that fact? How do you maintain your emotional equilibrium about it, knowing as much as you do about fires?
Speaker 2 [00:58:45] There is a climate scientist that I like to follow on Twitter, and the other week she was posting something about how she was done doing emotional labor for people who wanted reassurance that climate change was going to get better, or to give them hope. I kind of feel that, if we just allow ourselves to push it off and be like, ‘Oh, this feels bad, and I don’t want to think about it. So maybe it’ll get better.’ That’ll stop us from doing anything. All I can tell you, is that yeah it’s bad. And yeah, it’s going to get worse. It is hard even for me to have hope, sometimes, having seen all of these fires in all of these places. That have just burnt down to nothing and how hard it is for the people. My first big fire I covered was in 2017, and now it’s (what) almost five years later and those people have not gone back to normal. That’s just the reality that we’re living in and to try and avoid that is doing a disservice to ourselves and to the world. We have to realize that this is real and it’s here now. The fires are going to get worse and unless we do something, the planet’s going to get warmer and it’s just going to keep getting harder.
Speaker 1 [01:00:06] I agree with you that we can’t do the emotional labor of ‘Hey it’s all going to be fine,’ because that’s misleading. But we also can’t – I know so many people who have a honest view of climate change and are in California or Florida and are saying ‘It’s going to keep getting worse. There’s nothing we can do about it.’ We need, as communicators, I feel like we need to be like, ‘Oh yeah, things are bad but we can fucking do it. We need to fix it. We’re going to sack up and’ (sorry for the lie over the language) ‘we’re going to get in gear.’.
Speaker 2 [01:00:43] I hear you.
Speaker 1 [01:00:43] Yeah, we need to do it and we can do it. I feel like that has to be our perspective, and I think it’s true.
Speaker 2 [01:00:51] Yeah. So that’s the second part, right? You realize that we have a problem and you don’t push it away. And the second part is being like, ‘OK, what can we do about it?’ Because there are things that we can do every day instead of just pretending it’s not there. How can we help each other? How can we help ourselves? How can we advocate in our state legislatures and our local communities to make things better? Even just thinking about that and starting those conversations is something. But for a lot of people, you have to realize that it’s here to stay first and that kind of kicks you in the butt and you’re like, ‘OK, I need to do something about this.’ We all need to do something.
Speaker 1 [01:01:31] Does it ever seem to you like this story – obviously incredible devastation, people died and an entire community destroyed – but as a kick in the fucking ass, it’s pretty effective, right? As a thing to let people know, ‘Hey, this is real and it’s happening.’ There’s a little bit of a silver lining in that it’s an uninsurable event and that there are more and more un ignorable climate events happening. They’re happening sooner than I expected them to but that is perhaps spurring a bit more spring, a bit more change.
Speaker 2 [01:02:06] Yeah, that that does give me hope that people are talking about it and not just ignoring it anymore.
Speaker 1 [01:02:13] Yeah, is there anything else we can talk about regarding this story? We’ve covered so much ground. This is an incredible story, and it’s been stunning to talk to you about it and to get the communion of your firsthand experience with the fire. It’s mind blowing. I mean, it’s the kind of thing where I’m aware of the problem, theoretically. I read the paper, but to speak to you as someone who saw it makes it really direct for me in a way that that I haven’t really experienced before.
Speaker 2 [01:02:48] Thank you. A big reason why I wrote this book is I was a daily newspaper reporter covering fires for so long, and I felt like people had a very limited attention span. Where they would follow the fire for maybe a few weeks and then stop paying attention and assume that people’s lives went back to normal. One of the long term effects of things like these fires or any type of climate change fueled disasters. It really changes a community and it changes a person’s life forever, and it never totally goes back to normal. If anything, I would just urge people to pay attention and to understand that this isn’t a discrete event. It continues. You have to see it and acknowledge it and be like, ‘Oh man, this is so real’ and then start taking steps in your life and pushing others to think about it, too. And then maybe there’s something we can do to save ourselves.
Speaker 1 [01:03:43] Amen. Thank you. I hope everybody listening heard that. Tell us the name of the book and when it comes out and where people can get it.
Speaker 2 [01:03:53] So my book is called ‘Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire.’ It comes out August 17th. And you can get it at any major bookseller. Support your local independent bookshops. You can also get it on Amazon but if there’s a local business that you like to support do that first.
Speaker 1 [01:04:12] Do that as well. Or if you want to order it online and you don’t want to support Amazon. You can get it at our special bookstore at factuallypod.com/books. Factuallypod.com/books supports this show and your local bookstore, but also go to your local bookstore in person and buy it if you are able to as well. Lizzie Johnson, thank you so much for coming on the show. Can’t thank you enough.
Speaker 2 [01:04:34] Thank you so much, Adam, it was a pleasure talking with you and I hope you make your go bag.
Speaker 1 [01:04:38] I will. I will make a go bag. I’m absolutely going to leave this interview right now and go talk to Lisa and say, ‘We have to make a go bag. We’re going to do it this weekend,’ and she’s going to be on board with that because she is terrified of every disaster. We’re going to do it, thanks to you.
Speaker 2 [01:04:51] Curious to know what you put in it.
Speaker 1 [01:04:59] Well, thank you once again to Lizzie Johnson for coming on the show. If you want to pick up a copy of her book ‘Paradise: One Town’s Struggle to Survive an American Wildfire,’ you can get it at our special bookshop factuallypod.com/books that’s factuallypod.com/books. And just as a reminder that when you shop there, you’ll be supporting not just this show, but also your local bookstore. I want to thank our producers, Chelsea Jacobson and Sam Roudman. Our engineer, Ryan Connor. Andrew W.K. for our theme song. The fine folks at Falcon Northwest for building me the incredible custom gaming PC that I’m recording this very episode for you on. You can find me online at @AdamConover wherever you get your social media or AdamConover.net. You can send me an email at email@example.com. Until next week, thank you so much for listening. We’ll see you next week on Factually.
July 26, 2022
How can we best help animals, when it’s we humans who cause their suffering? Animal Crisis authors Alice Crary and Lori Gruen join Adam to explain how the same systems that hurt and kill animals also harm humans. They discuss the human rights abuses that happen in industrial slaughterhouses and how palm oil monocrops are devastating the world’s rainforests. They also share how we can have solidarity with animals in our daily lives. You can purchase their book at http://factuallypod.com/books
July 19, 2022
In times of turmoil, it can be useful to take a longer view of history. Like, a LOT longer. Paleontologist and author of “The Rise and Reign of the Mammals” Stephen Brusatte joins Adam to explain how mammals took over the Earth hundreds of millions of years ago, and why we survived and achieve sentience when dinosaurs died out. Stephen goes on to discuss why taking a deep look at our history can help prepare us for the crises of the near future. You can purchase Stephen’s book at http://factuallypod.com/books
July 13, 2022
Trans people have existed as long as, you know, people have. But the barriers to legal inclusion and equality are still higher than most people realize. “Sex is as Sex Does” author Paisley Currah joins Adam to discuss why institutions have been slow to give legal recognition to trans identities, why Republicans have shifted their attacks from bathroom policies to trans youth in sports, and why the struggle for trans equality is tied to feminism and women’s liberation. You can purchase Paisley’s book at http://factuallypod.com/books