Epic Drought Blamed for Ban on Fireworks in Bone-Dry States
Gathering in a local park with neighbors to watch city-sponsored fireworks or shooting off (sometimes illegal) fireworks in the backyard have become a time-honored way of celebrating the 4th.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
But thanks to the ongoing drought, some communities on the west coast have eliminated their city-sponsored fireworks displays while many more have clamped down on personal fireworks. And fire departments across the country are on high alert over concern that illegal fireworks could fuel brush fires that turn into major wildfires, even as more states lift bans on the sales of fireworks to private individuals, including, most recently, Georgia and Ohio.
With an earlier than usual wildfire season already giving firefighters an extra workload, communities in California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska have nixed these civil displays of patriotism.
With Alaska currently ravaged by drought-fueled wildfires, the state's largest city, Anchorage, has cancelled its fireworks even though the state fire marshall's statewide ban on fireworks sales has been lifted following cooler weather and rains.
Cupertino, California, outside San Jose in the Bay area, will also go dark this year. With many cities in that area cutting their displays following the 2008 recession, Cupertino was one of the few still hosting such a show. Its reason for cancellation was drought-related but not wildfire-related: it's trying to conserve water. The high school, where the fireworks take place, switched to artificial turf 10 years ago to save water. But 100,000 gallons of water is needed to spray on the turf to prevent falling ashes from turning the turf into a pile of burning plastic.
City spokesman Rick Kitson said if the field was still real grass, the fireworks probably would have gone on.
"Because we’ve done the right thing, the total use of water becomes more conspicuous,” said Kitson. “You’ve got to hose down the plastic before and a lot afterward.”
Elsewhere in California, Kern County has banned displays in public parks and Danville has banned all fireworks, including those childhood staples of the 4th, sparklers.
"With the drought leaving the hills and yards in Danville extremely dry, it could potentially be very dangerous to be out and using fireworks this week," said Lt. Allan Shields of the Danville Police Department. "In Contra Costa County alone, firefighters respond to several fires per year, directly attributable to fireworks."
Los Angeles and San Francisco will still host displays. Bass Lake at the entrance to Yosemite National Park will be doing a laser light show in place of its usual fireworks display.
"There is no replacement for the fireworks show," said Michelle Miller, secretary of the Bass Lake Chamber. "But we believe the laser light show will be a fun and unique alternative, and a great option considering the current fire risks."
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee said the law doesn't allow a statewide fireworks ban. Such a ban is not on the list of things the governor can prohibit after declaring a state of emergency, as Inslee did last month due to wildfire danger, although many communities have banned personal fireworks. Some cities, including Seattle, will still sponsor civic shows. But in the small rural timber community of Forks, the official display was cancelled due to unusually dry conditions.
Portland, Oregon's fire chief Erin Janssen issued a burn ban a week before the holiday that included legal fireworks due to hot, windy weather conditions, but lifted the ban the following day.
"I suggest to show our patriotism, fly U.S. flags, not fireworks," said Janssens.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown also urged caution.
"I encourage Oregonians to be aware and considerate of our state's natural beauty, neighbors and pets before deciding on when and where you choose to light fireworks," said Gov. Brown.
About 18,000 fires a year are reported to have been started by fireworks, with a majority of those occurring during the 4th of July holiday. And while most of those are small and quickly extinguished, cities and firefighters fear drought conditions could cause more of them to spread.
"Fireworks are not only dangerous, but of course due to their very nature can spark fires from dying embers reaching the dried-out vegetation," said AccuWeather Western weather expert Ken Clark. "This is heightened during periods of droughts, especially in the historic drought California is now in."
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Putin's Daughter Among Vaccinated<p>The Russian leader also said that one of his daughters has already been inoculated and is feeling well.</p><p>"One of my daughters got vaccinated, so in this sense, she took part in the testing," Putin said.</p><p>After the first vaccine shot, his daughter experienced a slight fever, 38 degrees Celsius (100.4°F). Her temperature came down to just slightly above normal the next day. </p><p>"After the second shot, she had a slight fever again, and then everything was fine. She is feeling well and has a high antibody count," Putin said. </p><p>He didn't specify which of his two daughters, Maria or Katerina, received the vaccine.</p><p>Russian health authorities have said that medical workers, teachers and other risk groups will be the first to receive shots of the vaccine.</p>
Years of Work Reduced to Weeks<p>Russia is the first country to register a COVID-19 vaccine. As <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/germany-coronavirus-vaccine-may-only-be-available-in-mid-2021/a-54362065" target="_blank">countries worldwide race to produce the first vaccine</a>, health experts warn that speed and national pride could compromise safety.</p><p>Scientists in Russia and abroad have questioned Moscow's decision to register the vaccine before Phase 3 trials that normally last for months and involve thousands of people, but Putin emphasized that the vaccine underwent the necessary trials and that vaccination will be voluntary.</p><p>Russian officials have said that large-scale production of the vaccine will begin in September, and mass vaccination may start as early as October.</p><p>Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, meanwhile, has <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/philippines-duterte-volunteers-to-be-putins-russian-coronavirus-vaccine-guinea-pig/a-54523030" target="_blank">lauded Russia's efforts in developing the vaccine</a> and said that the Philippines is ready to work with Moscow on vaccine trials, supply and production. Duterte volunteered to "be the first they can experiment on."</p><p>"I will tell President Putin that I have huge trust in your studies in combating COVID and I believe that the vaccine that you have produced is really good for humanity," Duterte said, adding that he thinks Russia's vaccine will be ready for the Philippines by December.</p>
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My name is Arkilaus Kladit. I'm from the Knasaimos-Tehit tribe in South Sorong Regency, West Papua Province, Indonesia. For decades my tribe has been fighting to protect our forests from outsiders who want to log it or clear it for palm oil. For my people, the forest is our mother and our best friend. Everything we need to survive comes from the forest: food, medicines, building materials, and there are many sacred sites in the forest.
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Overthinkers are people who are buried in their own obsessive thoughts. Imagine being in a large maze where each turn leads into an even deeper and knottier tangle of catastrophic, distressing events — that is what it feels like to them when they think about the issues that confront them.
Ruminating<p>According to the late Susan Nolen-Hoeksema, a professor of psychology at Yale University, <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796420/" target="_blank">ruminating</a> involves replaying a problem over and over in your mind. We ruminate by obsessing over our thoughts and thinking repetitively about various aspects of a past situation.</p><p>It usually involves regret, self-loathing and self-blaming. Rumination is associated with the development of depression, anxiety and eating disorders. </p><p>People prone to such patterns of thought may, for example, overanalyze every single detail of a relationship that breaks up. They often blame themselves for what has happened and are overcome with regret, with typical thoughts being: </p><p>- I should have been more patient and more supportive. </p><p>- I have lost the most perfect partner ever. </p><p>- No one will love me again.</p>
Worrying<p>Worrying is wanting to predict the future. It involves negative thoughts about things that might and might not happen.</p><p>- They'll not like me in the interview; they'll not give me the job. </p><p>- I haven't heard back from other employers. How long will I be unemployed?</p><p>These thoughts are energy-draining and distressing. They could happen to anyone under stress. But when you reach the point where your thoughts and worrying are preventing you from doing what you want to do — from living your life to the fullest — then you should take action.</p>
Catch Yourself Overthinking<p>Reuben Berger, a psychotherapist at the university hospital in the western German city of Bonn, recommends several practical steps that you could employ in your daily routine when you catch yourself worrying or ruminating.</p><p>One effective remedy, says Berger, is the <a href="https://www.uofmhealth.org/health-library/uf9938" target="_blank">thought-stopping technique.</a></p><p>"When the negative thoughts come or ruminations start, you say to yourself: 'Stop!,'" he says, adding that it is more effective when you actually say the word out loud.</p><p>He even recommends having a rubber band around your wrist to ping against yourself while saying the word. Adding a visual component by imagining a stop sign also makes the technique more powerful, he says.</p><p>The main idea here is conditioning yourself to stop the loop of worrying (making future predictions) or rumination (obsessing over past events).</p><p>Berger says the technique could take up to two weeks to take effect and that it needs to be practiced every day. "Consistency is very important," he says. </p>
Thoughts Are Just Thoughts<p>Another way of dealing with negative thoughts often used in modern therapy is realizing that thoughts aren't facts, says Berger.</p><p>He says it is important when we think something to ask: Is that real? Did that really happen? What is the worst thing that could happen?</p><p>Flight anxiety is one example where untrue thoughts are accepted as facts. Although air travel is the safest way to get around, people suffering from fear of flying accept their thoughts and fears as reality, then act upon them by refusing to fly.</p>
Mindfulness<p>Berger also recommends the use of mindfulness techniques, in which attention is paid to experiences in the moment without judging them, as a way of reducing worrying.</p><p>"Mindfulness helps you to distance yourself from your thoughts and to be more present in the moment," he says.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3432145/#R2" target="_blank">Several studies</a> have shown that mindfulness has a positive impact on reducing stress-related behaviors such as rumination and worrying, as focusing on the moment makes anxiety about other problems impossible.</p><p>Mindfulness can be practiced during routine activities by paying attention to your body and your surroundings. For instance, when you leave for work in the morning, you can focus on sensing the breeze, listen attentively to birds, feel the gravel under your feet and monitor your breath. </p>
Trick Your Brain Into Happiness<p>People plagued by obsessive thoughts do not always choose healthy ways like mindfulness to distract from them, however.</p><p> Dr. Edward Selby, a psychologist at Florida state university, has shown in a study that people try to avoid rumination by engaging in a range of uncontrolled behaviors, such as binge eating and substance abuse.</p><p>But he says that a much better way to overcome such distress is by distraction and shifting attention away from problems that are obsessing us.</p><p>There are many activities that can be used to distract from rumination, he says, and people should choose the one that works best for them. Here are some examples:</p><p>- Listen to music</p><p>- Read a book</p><p>- Take a hot shower</p><p>- Dance or exercise </p><p>- Talk to a friend (not about the problem)</p><p>- Watch a movie</p><p>- Mindfulness meditation</p>
Changing the Perception of Events<p>The way people perceive a situation largely influences their emotions and behavior. It is not the situation itself that determines how they feel, but rather the way they interpret it.</p><p>Reframing negative thoughts can lead to positive emotions and, subsequently, healthier behaviors — including a reduction in damaging overthinking and worrying.</p><p>Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) is currently a gold standard in psychotherapy. CBT aims to change the way people think and act. It largely involves challenging unhelpful beliefs or attitudes such as overgeneralization — thinking "I always fail at public speaking" when you have had one bad experience in front of an audience, for example — or "catastrophization," i.e., imagining the worst possible outcome to a situation. </p><p>A psychotherapist can teach people how to implement such thought-changing techniques into their lives. Techniques vary depending on their issues and goals.</p>
Solutions Are at Hand<p>Try to find ways of avoiding worrying, rumination and overthinking that make you feel most comfortable.</p><p>Incorporating any routine in your life when you're stressed isn't an easy task, but you can do it! If you feel overwhelmed, you can always seek professional help. </p><p><em>If you are suffering from serious emotional strain or suicidal thoughts, do not hesitate to seek professional help. You can find information on where to find such help, no matter where you live in the world, <a href="https://www.befrienders.org/" target="_blank">at this website.</a></em></p>
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