by Cara Lopez Lee

In recent days, my chest tightened as our Ventura skies turned dystopian yellow when the apocalyptic orange skies to our north — and south — sent smoke drifting our way from yet more of the “largest wildfires in California history.” My chest tightened because it hurt to breathe, despite the fact that we bought an air purifier after what **was** the “largest wildfire in California history” just three years ago, the Thomas Fire. My chest tightened because I feared we might survive a pandemic only to die early deaths from complications of climate change. 

I’m originally from Southern California and returned five years ago after 30 years away, excited to share my dream of beach town life with my husband. Early on, our next-door neighbor smiled at us one sunny day and said, “Just another day in paradise,” and we sighed with the certainty we had come to the right place. Today, five years later, too many sunny days in a row turn our thoughts to fear of fire. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom’s effort to gather signatures acknowledging human-caused climate change seems well intentioned, but we no longer have time to wrangle opinions on accepted science. Californians now live in an extended, ongoing crisis that kills people, injures health and destroys homes and businesses on a regular basis. Like arguing with flat-earthers, debating the existence of climate change is a waste of energy. Yes, forest fires have many causes, but scientists know climate change makes every climate-affected event on this planet exponentially worse. 

Many of us have decreased our consumption of fossil fuel products because we understand if we’re not part of the solution, then we’re part of the problem. That said, the wholesale change required to redirect the course of the climate-change juggernaut calls on leaders to leverage policies to reduce production of greenhouse gases, especially carbon dioxide, on a larger scale: from citywide to statewide, statewide to nationwide, nationwide to worldwide. 

Hundreds of CO2 reduction strategies are already underway — such as converting to clean energy, changing agricultural practices, and capturing and sequestering carbon — but these strategies must become universal. Economists already predict new energy strategies will create opportunities to grow our economy. American innovation has always led the way to economic expansion. Humanity **is** capable of vast technological change in a short period. The proliferation of mobile phones in a few years is just one case in point. 

We live in a representative democracy. We select leaders to act in our best interests, in the hope and expectation that they will. It’s time for our leaders to cease delay and take action on climate change. If they won’t, it’s time to vote for leaders who will. 

With that in mind, please join me in doing your utmost to ensure your vote counts this year, by:

  1. Making sure you’re registered to vote in the Nov. 3 election.
  2. Completing your ballot as early as possible.
  3. Turning in your ballot the most secure way you can, dropping it off in person at an official drop box if possible.

To learn how to register to vote, how to confirm whether you’re already registered, how to obtain a ballot, or where to find official drop boxes, please visit:

Let us not allow those who fail to recognize the problem, or who wish to bully us for their own agendas, mislead us to think our votes won’t count. If enough of us engage in this time-honored democratic tradition, then they will indeed count. More than ever, we must vote as if our lives depend on it, because they do.    

Cara Lopez Lee is an author, a former journalist, and a member of the Ventura chapter of Citizens’ Climate Lobby. She can be contacted via email at