In a chilling new video released by Fridays for Future, the youth-led climate movement inspired by Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg, filmmakers capture how escalating wildfires have devastated California’s picturesque landscapes in the hopes of igniting an urgent call to action.
The short video, titled “I love you, California,” sees the camera pan slowly over the aftermath of megafires: apocalyptic scenes of smoldering canyons, communities reduced to rubble and once lush hillsides turned to blackened moonscapes. The film is soundtracked by a haunting rendition of California’s state song, accompanied only by the sounds of quiet, rustling wind.
“The regional anthem of California, adopted in 1951, celebrates the beauty of California’s rich, diverse natural landscape, from the redwood forests, to the natural exports of honey, fruit and wine,” filmmakers said in a statement. “Today, these lyrics ring more painful than joyous to residents who are forced to watch these same forests and fields of grains burn down year after year.”
Fires have always been part of the landscapes across the US west, and are an essential part of many ecosystems that evolved alongside them. But the climate crisis has turned up the dial, fueling a brutal new kind of wildfire more likely to leave devastation in its wake.
In the last six years, the state has seen its eight largest fires on record, 13 of the top 20 most destructive blazes, and three of the top five deadliest fires.
The release of the film is timed with the global climate strike, a set of international demonstrations culminating around youth-led demands for policymakers to act, launching on Friday. Centered on the theme of #PeopleNotProfit, this year’s actions include calls for transformative justice reparations to address systemic inequities exacerbated by the climate crisis.
While the video is just one part of the actions organized in the US, it highlights how life in the most populous US state has already been scarred by dangerous environmental shifts that are expected to intensify in the coming years.
“The climate crisis is no longer an abstract future or a news article about a far-off country. It’s here – it’s now,” said Katharina Maier, national coordinator of Fridays for Future US, in a written statement, urging others to join the movement.
Rising temperatures have escalated drought conditions across the American west, leaving parched plants primed to burn. Drying and dying vegetation has turned to tinder that spurs flames faster and higher, creating conflagrations that can’t be controlled.
These types of fires are increasingly harmful to the environments they once helped, and far more dangerous to communities that lay in their paths. As conditions shift, fire season has also lengthened straining resources and fatiguing first responders. The problem is expected to worsen as the world continues to warm.
“Growing up in California, it’s impossible not to see the devastating effects of the fires on everything around you,” said Kiyomi Morrison, a second-generation California native and junior art director for Fred & Farid, the LA-based agency that produced the video in collaboration with Fridays for Future. Hers is the voice heard echoing over the images, and she hopes it will inspire action toward a a different future.
“As just one of the terrible realities of climate change,” she said, “I hope this can bring more awareness to the current path we’re heading down.”