News analysis

Pandemics to wildfires: When US disasters become political

Washington DC woke up on Tuesday to a high, thin skin of smoke from wildfires raging 4,800km away on the West Coast - as if to underline what is at stake when complex issues are reduced to oversimplified, binary and politically driven narratives.

Air quality in five major cities in Oregon was rated "hazardous" - the worst-ever recorded - in some cases literally off the scale altogether, as wildfires burnt a total of some 1.8 million hectares as of Tuesday, mostly in California and Oregon as well as Washington state and Idaho.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on September 17, 2020, with the headline 'Pandemics to wildfires: When US disasters become political'. Print Edition | Subscribe