When I hear about a wildfire, I usually think it's out west somewhere.

The West has been hit by some incredibly devastating wildfires in the last several years, such as the one that hit Fort McMurray back in May or the Long Draw fire in Oregon back in 2012.

But the latest fires aren't just out west. They're in Alabama too.

A firetruck in Kimberly, Alabama on October 10th. Photo from AP Photo/Brynn Anderson.


Northern Alabama is going through an incredible drought and that's made it really easy for fires to start and spread. As of this writing, there have been over 700 wildfires in Alabama in the last 30 days alone.

"You know it's dry when a bush hog hitting a rock will start a fire," CBS quoted forestry commission member Coleen Vansant as saying, although most of the fires are actually caused by people, through things like arson or debris fires.

Residents and workers have been able to fight them back, but the state's not out of the woods yet. Fire crews from the southern part of the state are coming up north to help.

Zooming out, wildfires are on the increase across the United States.

A firefighter in California, 2016. Photo from Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Wildfires are four times as common now as they were in the 1970s and they burn six times as much land. This year alone, nearly 5 million acres of forests have burned in the West. That's about the size of New Jersey. Last year, it was 9 million acres.

Fire can be a natural part of an ecosystem and some amount of regular small burns are expected from stuff like lightning strikes. But this expansion is something else. What the heck is going on?

Part of the answer might be how our climate's changing.

I grew up in Texas and I can't remember a single Fourth of July that was wet enough for fireworks. Anyone who lives out West knows that heat, drought, and fire go hand in hand.

A firefighter in California. Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images.

So, what's causing all that aridity? A recent report pointed at our changing climate as a major part of the problem. There were other factors, like natural changes in the weather and other human activities, but about half of the increase in fire-ready conditions came from climate change.

"A lot of people are throwing around the words climate change and fire," said lead author John Abatzoglou in a press release. "We wanted to put some numbers on it."

Experts think the upward trend is likely to increase, and some scientists are predicting that droughts out west could last a lot longer — maybe for decades.

Addressing climate change could help head off this increase in wildfires — and give us other benefits too.

Natural disasters are expensive; in 2015, the federal government spent $2 billion on firefighting. And clean energy doesn't need to cost more than current power plants. In fact, at one point, Germany was actually paying consumers to use electricity.

The simplest and most effective thing we can all do is use our political power to vote, express that we need to address these changes. In the meantime, we can keep the people who are battling these fires in our thoughts.

This article originally appeared on November 11, 2015


Remember those beloved Richard Scarry books from when you were a kid?

Like a lot of people, I grew up reading them. And now, I read them to my kids.

The best!

If that doesn't ring a bell, perhaps this character from the "Busytown" series will. Classic!

Image via

Scarry was an incredibly prolific children's author and illustrator. He created over 250 books during his career. His books were loved across the world — over 100 million were sold in many languages.

But here's something you may not have known about these classics: They've been slowly changing over the years.

Don't panic! They've been changing in a good way.

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Image from Strut Safe's Instagram.

In March 2021, a woman named Sarah Everard was kidnapped, raped and murdered in South London as she was walking home.

Simply walking home alone at night proved to be life-threatening. But this aspect of the story is no new news. Women have long shared their fears on the subject.

Constant glances over the shoulder and walking with keys between the fingers have become well-known protection rituals against potential violence. And these efforts, though necessary measures of self defense, can at times feel like small band-aids over a larger wound.

As Alice Jackson and Rachel Chung, two students in Edinburgh, attended one of Everard’s vigils, an idea struck them. And it’s helping women in the U.K. gain not only a sense of safety, but something else too. Something of equal immense value.

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"Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" (1937) and actor Peter Dinklage.

On Tuesday, Upworthy reported that actor Peter Dinklage was unhappy with Disney’s decision to move forward with a live-action version of “Snow White and the Seven Drawfs” starring Rachel Zegler.

Dinklage praised Disney’s inclusive casting of the “West Side Story” actress, whose mother is of Colombian descent, but pointed out that, at the same time, the company was making a film that promotes damaging stereotypes about people with dwarfism.

"There's a lot of hypocrisy going on, I've gotta say, from being somebody who's a little bit unique," Dinklage told Marc Maron on his “WTF” podcast.

"Well, you know, it's really progressive to cast a—literally no offense to anybody, but I was a little taken aback by, they were very proud to cast a Latino actress as Snow White," Dinklage said, "but you're still telling the story of 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.' Take a step back and look at what you're doing there.”

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