A Longtime Californian Ponders Leaving Over Climate Change

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 (Tim Goncharoff)

Tim Goncharoff enjoys everything about his life Northern California. The people, the beach, the wildlife. So why, then, is he getting ready to pack his bags?

I love Santa Cruz. I've lived here more that 40 years. I'm one of those lucky people that lives right on the ocean, and I spend a lot of my free time sitting on the cliffs, looking out at the waves, listening to the sea lions, watching the whales and the otters go by. It's a really magical place. Honestly, it's the best place I know.

But I first began to think of leaving a few years ago. We had three big fires in the same summer. I remember during the third one, I was in the Santa Cruz Mountains with smoke all around me, and flames not far away. I wondered if we'd be able to put this fire out. I wondered how many more there would be. And I began to think, "Maybe this isn't the place that I need to be."

And that's when I realized that climate change wasn't something in the distant future or just somewhere else.

Every time there's a climate-related disaster there's a debate about whether climate change had any impact. And it's impossible to say if this fire or that flood or this mudslide is due to climate change. But, what we know is that all of those thing are going to be coming more often, they're going to be more intense, and last longer.


So I think about, where is safe from the rising seas? Where will I have a dependable water supply? So I'm concentrating my search on the Northwest.

It is tempting to get lost in despair and mourning for the future, but I'm not giving up. I think there's still hope for us. And it's going to take all of us working really hard to make sure that we have a sustainable world going forward. But I think it's something that's going to bring out the best in us.

Tim Goncharoff is an environmental planner for the county of Santa Cruz.