The Fractured History of Los Angeles

The Fractured History of Los Angeles

In his seminal study of Los Angeles in the boom and bust years from 1920 to 1940, Carey McWilliams memorably called Southern California “an island on the land.” Mostly he was talking about the weather. An area of approximately 275 miles, Southern California is often described as possessing the only Mediterranean climate in the United States. McWilliams disputed this; he found the region’s extreme temperateness “a freak of nature”—like nowhere else on earth—and “climatically insulated, shut off from the rest of the continent.” Alas, this insulation no longer holds: While ever a land of “sky and air and ocean breezes,” Southern California is being changed by the climate crisis just like everywhere else. Sea level rise is eroding its beaches, and, away from the coast and sand, the weather is no longer as mild, so fire season has become a year-round prospect. (This past winter was among the three driest on record.) In a globalized world undergoing a global catastrophe, nowhere is really an island after all.

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