Posts Tagged ‘wildfires’

With the Southern California wildfires, there has been a lot of talk about people building houses where they shouldn’t. Carl Pope, from the Sierra Club has a great post on the subject in the Huffington post. There is also a very well researched article in today’s San Francisco Chronicle, which I will quote from: ‘There are homes and structures in virtually every county along the urban-wildland boundary in California, much of which has an eco-systems of dry grass, thick brush and dense trees that Mother Nature destined to be periodically burned.’

This reminds me of the mountain lion incident that took place a few years ago in my town. A young lion had gotten lost and made its way to a yard near the public library. The city quickly divided in two camps. On one side, Mother Nature’s advocates who defended the lion’s rights. We had been encroaching on the animal’s natural habitat, after all. On the other side, the civilized citizens who were up in arms that the lives of their little ones was being threatened. The lion had to be shot at once. It was. I happened to be there when the police woman aimed her riffle at the oblivious creature. I still remember the fall, and the big thump when it touched the ground. I was relieved, I could now walk safely in the neighborhood. And I felt something bigger than just the lion incident had just happened. A case of Man and Mother Nature gone very wrong.


I wonder what happened to our survival instinct, the primal part within ourselves that should tell us where we belong within the ecosystems? It is as if our ego has taken over, and we refuse any limits set on our rights as humans. Over and over again, I am struck by our arrogance and our lack of respect for the laws of nature. And I am thinking about the post I wrote recently, about ‘Nature, What’s That?‘, regarding children’s increasing alienation from nature. Things are only going to get worse. The less we know nature, and about nature, the more likely we are to act stupidly, and do things like build houses right in the middle of mountain lion or bear territory, or fire cleansing prone areas.

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Heard on NPR yesterday, from a woman in Southern California, who had lost her house in wildfires four years ago, something to the effect of, ‘I tell the victims, you’ ll see, as bad as you feel right now, the minute you step into your new home, it will be all forgotten.’ She meant it as reassuring words. I took it as yet another manifestation of our inborn capacity to shut off the bad news. Just like with the Katrina survivors, I wonder how many of the wildfire victims will make the connection between what happened to them, and the larger problem of global warming.

The San Francisco Chronicle ran a piece yesterday on, ‘Climate Change: Hotter World May Fan Flames’. According to forestry experts, ‘The risk of catastrophic wildfires like those sweeping through Southern California will increase all over the state as the world heats up, forests dry out and weather patterns shift . . . It is so dry that state forestry officials said a newly shod horse started a fire earlier in the year from the sparks it created running on the pavement.’ This is in accordance with predictions from the U.N.s’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (the group that shared this year’s Nobel Peace Prize with Al Gore). The IPCC report states that, ‘Extended warm periods and increased drought will increase water stress in forests and grasslands and increase the frequency and intensity of wildfires especially in forests.’

I suspect some of the victims will make the connection on an intellectual level. Will that translate into lasting behavioral changes? Will they start driving less, eating less red meat, flying less, and consuming less? I have my doubts. The problem lies in the dilution of responsibilities that takes place, when the results of our actions all go into that big pot, called global warming. The pot then spews back nasty things onto the environment, in seemingly random places, and there is no one person to blame. The transaction from humans to environment, back to humans, takes place on a collective level. The individual gets lost in the process. To retrieve that individual connection will take some work.

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