‘Hard Work, Low Pay, Miserable Conditions and more!’ California’s conservation corps on the frontlines of wildfires and landslides

In the third part of our series exploring the idea of a nationwide ‘climate force’, Louise Boyle looks at America’s oldest and largest corps in California, with its Seventies’ roots as ‘a combination Jesuit seminary, Israeli kibbutz, and Marine Corps boot camp’

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California Conservation Corps work 24 hour shifts in triple digit heat to protect homes from wildfires

For a snapshot of the climate crisis unfolding, look no further than California.

The state suffered 10,000 wildfires in 2020 which left 33 people dead and blazed across more than 4 per cent of land, an unprecedented rate of burning which led to a new word - “gigafire”. California is also in the midst of a multi-year drought, facing another summer of perilously high temperatures, and ongoing threats of sea-level rise and landslides.

While there will be shortage of novel solutions to these myriad problems in tech-dominated California, one increasingly popular idea is relatively lo-fi: to expand on dozens of existing service and volunteering programs in the AmeriCorps national service network to engage in boots-on-the-ground, climate adaptation work.

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