Burn, Baby, Burn…

https://twitter.com/realDonaldTrump/status/1061168803218948096

57% of California forest is under the “control” of the federal government: the rest is in the control of corporations and Native American tribes. So, the question is, is Trump copping to the reality that budget cuts, a reduction in EPA funding and regulation, a reduction in federal woodland employees and the persistent denial of the realities of climate change by the Republican Party have all contributed to California wildfires?

NO.
He tried passing the buck, only to learn that the buck stopped with him.

I lived in California for thirty+ years. The number and size of wildfires grew each decade I lived there. Between 2003 and 2014, when I moved back to Colorado, I lived in Descanso, a small town at the edge of North America’s southernmost rain forest. This forest covers the Cuyamaca Mountains in San Diego County and has America’s southernmost indigenous redwood trees.

In 2003, the largest wildfire in California history (until last year), the Cedar Fire, swept through those mountains burning hundreds of thousands of acres, destroying an entire town, and killing people. It is the third deadliest fire in California history. (The two most deadly happened in 2017 and 2018. Think about that.)

The Cedar Fire began as a signal fire set by an ignorant dumbass hunter who was lost in tinder-dry chaparral, and wanted his friend to find him. If you look at the featured image, behind the biggest mountain in the photo (Mt. San Miguel which isn’t actually very high) is the forest near where I lived. The forest where I lived is about 50,000 wilderness acres, all of which burned. The Cedar Fire also burned through parts of San Diego all the way to the ocean, a total of 273,246 acres burned. I was evacuated from home for more than a week.

California fires for the past two years have been worse but bad is bad, right?

“I think people have to see this really to understand it,” Trump said in his visit to the site of the recent Camp Fire.

I got news for you, sweet cheeks. MILLIONS of people in California HAVE seen it, and they understand it fine. Those of us who lived in fire-vulnerable towns on the edges of the forests (some towns were — as mine — more than a hundred years old and hadn’t burned) were scrupulous about controlling fuels on our property. Not just that, when a “normal” fire started (as happened twice while I lived in Descanso, California) people in the town and volunteer firefighters were able to extinguish the fires before they could become dangerous. These fires were a water heater explosion, random cigarette butt thrown by a tourist into a dry field. We were not stupid nor were we unprepared or inexperienced. Besides THAT the volunteer fire departments of these towns issues warnings and tickets for people who do NOT clear their property. 

Still, the clearest property in the world
will NOT stop a fire going 80 mph.

He went on to compare California to Nordic nations (hang on while my head explodes):

“Other countries do it differently, it’s a whole different story,” Trump said, citing purported comments from the president of Finland on how the Nordic nation deals with its forests.

He said they engage in “raking and cleaning things and they don’t have any problem.”

California has 33 million acres of forest, according to a University of California web page. Federal agencies overseen by the Trump administration own and manage about 19 million acres of that total.

“I perhaps wouldn’t compare Finland and California climate-wise…” tweeted Veli-Pekka Kivimäki, a Finnish defense researcher. “And besides, 80% of the country [Finland] is classified as forest land. We don’t exactly manicure all of it.”

https://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/ny-pol-trump-visits-california-wildfires-shooting-victims-20181117-story.html


Beyond that, Mr. “President,” fire JUMPS from tree-top to tree-top. Fire jumps freeways and lakes. A fire in motion does whatever it damned well pleases. 

Moving back to Colorado, I was shocked to see people actually stacking firewood BESIDE their houses! How much more reckless could they be, right?

“…when he was asked by Fox News in an interview set to air Sunday whether climate change played a role in the number of serious fires, he said: ‘Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.’ He added that he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire. “This should have been all raked out.”

https://www.apnews.com/8f52ea34a9f3477e9dc76bd57ab30cad

By whom, dickwad?

How many BLM guys does it take to rake out 250,000 acres of forest — roughly the number of acres burned in two of California’s recent fires. Add to that the man power needed to clear out beetle kill oak and pine? What IF there had not been, essentially, decades of increasing drought?

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Droughts_in_California#/media/File:Drought_area_in_California.svg

“We’ve never seen anything like this in California,” Trump said.

Yes, actually, California has. Year after year, worse every year. And not just California. Washington State, Oregon, Alaska, Montana, Colorado, the entire WEST is burning along with Greece, Spain, Italy, IRELAND (for Chrissakes), Australia, parts of Africa — it’s a pretty long list of tragedies just like this. 

In August 2017, the northern hemisphere firemaps looked like this:

https://www.popsci.com/global-wildfire-maps

I am sure that these fires have something to do with careless people, flying cigarette butts, a spark from an electric wire or a car passing by, they have more to do with climate change. Wet fuel isn’t fuel.

The data tell the story: Six of California’s ten most destructive wildfires on record have now struck in just the past three years

…scientific evidence clearly shows that climate change is exacerbating California’s wildfires in different ways:

1) Higher temperatures dry out vegetation and soil, creating more wildfire fuel.

2) Climate change is shortening the California rainy season, thus extending the fire season.

3) Climate change is also shifting the Santa Ana winds that fan particularly dangerous wildfires in Southern California.

4) The warming atmosphere is slowing the jet stream, leading to more California heat waves and high-pressure ridges in the Pacific. Those ridges deflect from the state some storms that would otherwise bring much-needed moisture to slow the spread of fires.

https://www.yaleclimateconnections.org/2018/11/the-many-ways-climate-change-worsens-california-wildfires/



I am not a climate scientist, but I read. And I know how our lives are different now from fifty or sixty years ago, not just my life, but the lives of people all over the world. Economic development isn’t free and the costs are not just financial. China in its rush to become a developed nation (and it was /is/has been a rush) said straight up that it would be interested in environmentalism when all its people had the necessities for a comfortable and prosperous life. It has reached this goal and has taken steps to ameliorate some of the damage its development has caused, but it could be too little too late. But, in my personal opinion anything at any time practiced consistently can help. 

What doesn’t help is having a president of one of the largest, most influential nations and economies in the world deny the need for human beings to step up — or keep stepping up — to diminish the contribution of human beings to the destruction of our world through climate change.

2015 special report in the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society found that “An increase in fire risk in California is attributable to human-induced climate change.” And a 2016 study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences found that human-caused global warming doubled the area burned by wildfires in the western U.S. over just the past 30 years.

Ibid


I love this planet. It made me, it feeds me, it helps me continue living, my friends are all here, I find it beautiful.

I loved California. Part of my heart will always be there.

I’m grateful that where I live now, in the San Luis Valley of Colorado, alternative energy sources are not only available, but help the economy in one of the most economically depressed areas of the United States. I was recently given the choice by my electric company to choose where my electricity comes from and it is now all solar generated. 

San Luis Valley Solar Farm, Mosca CO

Opportunities like this are happening all over the world. I don’t think our government should drag its heels denying a reality that’s all too real to millions of people. 

Manzanita and Rocks

The manzanita in this photo was a destination for Molly and me — a minor destination. The kind where you stop, look in awe at a hundreds of year old immense beautiful plant, sit down, give your dog some water, get up and keep going to a real destination. In this case, our destination was a small spring fed pool in a narrow fissure between some of the earth’s oldest rocks up in the Laguna Mountains.

I’ve known some rocks that are more than 1000 million years old — very common rocks, the bedrock of the Earth, pre-cambrian gneiss. They offered a lot of good lessons in patience through change.

Truffle Swimming

Truffle “fishing” in a seasonal pool in the “Indian kitchen”

These particular rocks had been used by Indian tribes for hundreds (thousands?) of years for all the things Indians can use rocks for — weapons, tools, cisterns, grinding holes, laundry. A person who was paying attention could imagine a small band of Indians doing their chores with the help of those ancient rocks, grinding acorns or maybe releasing the fibers of yucca to make sandals and ropes.

In October 2003 an immense fire — 273,246 acres — swept through parts of Southern California — both of these places, in fact. The ancient manzanita was burned to the ground. The oak trees north of this seasonal pond where my dog is swimming were burned to the ground, too. But the rocks — except for some staining from orange fire retardant — were still there, still the same. And the manzanita? The roots hold a manzanita’s life. By spring, shoots of the future had already emerged. I wonder what she looks like now, 15 years later.

https://ragtagcommunity.wordpress.com/2018/06/17/antediluvian/

Arid Valleys = Heaven

“You call this desert? Plants grow.”

My Saudi students had a point. In their desert, that wasn’t the case. On a school field trip, we hiked up to a seasonal waterfall and oasis, a small spring in the cleft of a fault line, the kind of spring that was everywhere in this desert and everywhere in the Laguna Mountains to the west. The Anza Borrego desert east of San Diego the result a “rain shadow” created by that small range of mountains. Because of their altitude, they keep most of the years moisture for themselves. I’ve stood on mountain trails that rim the desert and have had one hand in rain and the other in sunshine. It’s a very clear line.

My student was right, really. The place is arid, but not barren. It was hard for me to call it a desert, too. In spring the bottom — the desert floor — was covered in flowers. Every living thing in that place was an opportunist, though most of the flowers had a predictable season. Not really “spring.” It was more, “after a few weeks of rain.” Some plants — the Ocotillo for one — would bloom if any water hit their roots. Their blossoms are bright red “flames” at the end of green candles.

du_oco3

Flash flooding is common. The thunderstorms that hit the Laguna Mountains in winter often made it over the top. One year a localized rain was so heavy that hundreds of palm trees in this very oasis — Palm Canyon — where I’d hiked with my students years before were washed down to the bottom of the valley, onto the flat. Hiking with a friend after the flood, I was stunned to see them, huge trunks wedged between boulders.

I camped in various spots in that desert many times, usually in a VW camper van my ex and I had for a while. It was fun to look at the stars — we bought a telescope — and hike through the washes and the rocky canyons.

I live in a similar place now, though several thousand feet higher in altitude. The San Luis Valley is in the rain shadow of two mountain ranges. Storms from the west get tangled in the San Juan Mountains and storms from the east get caught in the Sangre de Cristos. This valley is “littered” with springs where the two ranges pull apart. It is also arid but not barren.

Both places have been home to humans for thousands of years. Both have rocky outcroppings where ancient people left “messages.” Both are home to “borregos” — mountain sheep. In both places, a “river runs through it” — narrow feeder streams of the Colorado River thread their way along the eastern edge of the Anza Borrego, while the Rio Grande meanders through the San Luis Valley. To the far east of the Anza Borrego is a dune field where Hollywood directors have often filmed desert scenes. To the far east of the San Luis Valley there is also a dune field — Great Sand Dunes National Park

IMG_4222

Great Sand Dunes National Park

I used to escape San Diego whenever I could to go to the desert in the winter. I like the wide vistas, the sunshine, the emptiness. And now? I live in the largest alpine valley in the world.

P.S. I also just realized that I have written a compare/contrast essay, so if you’re an English teacher and want to use it for a class, be my guest. :p

https://dailypost.wordpress.com/prompts/arid/