Our Best Environmental Stories of 2017

From Fiji to our own backyard.
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From Fiji to our own backyard.
A smoke-filled sky filters orange light around a surfer as the Thomas Fire continues to grow and threaten communities from Carpinteria to Santa Barbara on December 12th, 2017, in Carpinteria, California.

A smoke-filled sky filters orange light around a surfer as the Thomas Fire continues to grow and threaten communities from Carpinteria to Santa Barbara on December 12th, 2017, in Carpinteria, California. 

Pacific Standard's environmental coverage this year took us to Fiji and Nepal and Germany and India and Mongolia—but some of our most important work happened much closer to home. Right as we started preparing our year-end lists at our offices in Santa Barbara, the Thomas Fire began its assault on the communities around us, driven by angry winds and fed by dry growth parched from 250-plus days without rain. The Los Padres National Forest, which borders Santa Barbara on the northeast, is now aflame, and those who haven't evacuated have been walking around for two weeks wearing particulate respirator masks.

Below, you'll find powerful stories about those fires. You'll also find Kate Wheeling and Max Ufberg's oral history of the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill, a remarkable account of how a community's response to disaster sparked a national movement—the sort of movement we could really use right now.

This is a scary century in which to be awake, especially if you're writing about climate, and 2017 was one of the scariest years yet. The Antarctic lost an ice shelf the size of Delaware. Weird Mediterranean hurricanes keep happening and intensifying. There was a rash of record-breaking fires, storms, and droughts across the United States. It was year of further extremes throughout the world; if an area isn't experiencing its wettest year in history, it's likely experiencing its driest. From the standpoint of domestic policy, 2017 was a travesty—not least in the case of Puerto Rico, where, rather than offering proper aid after Hurricane Maria, the GOP instead is planning to fix the problem by saddling the island with still more debt.

The best way to combat anti-climate policy is to stay informed. These pieces are a good place to start.

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