We Fiddle While California Burns

By | November 13, 2018 | 0 Comments

The Armageddon-like photo is of Pacific Coast Highway, just north of Los Angeles, choked with evacuees fleeing the fires threatening Malibu. Malibu is a city of over 12,000 people, including many show-business personalities. The entire city, like some other California cities and towns, was under a mandatory evacuation order. The problem was that the only way out was the Pacific Coast Highway, which was quickly overwhelmed.

Still, the people of Malibu were facing an Armageddon-like situation, while the people of other California towns were facing Armageddon itself. Paradise is ‒ was ‒ a town of over 26,000 inhabitants, all of whom were forced to flee when much of the town was destroyed, including over 6,000 homes. At least 31 are known dead, though the toll is sure to rise as burned-out buildings and vehicles are searched. Identifying the victims may take weeks, adding to the anguish of survivors.

Meanwhile, President Trump tweeted:

There is no reason for these massive, deadly and costly forest fires in California except that forest management is so poor. Billions of dollars are given each year, with so many lives lost, all because of gross mismanagement of the forests. Remedy now, or no more Fed payments!

And again:

With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get smart!”

As expected, Trump’s remarks drew strong criticism from Democrats, as well as from the Firefighters Union. But the real question is not whether the remarks were well-timed, or carefully worded, or likely to cause distress. The real question is: Were the remarks correct?

One gets the impression that the fundamental difference between Obama and Trump is that Obama acts as a caring mother, soothing hurts with comforting words and promising that all will be well. Trump, on the other hand, acts as a gruff father, speaking bluntly and telling us what we have done wrong and what needs to be done ‒ as fast as possible.

But who are we? Are we small children, who need soothing words and reassurance that we are wonderful and doing just fine? Or are we adults, who need to hear plainly what we are doing wrong, and how to correct it? Whether we survive as a nation and as a civilization depends on the answer to this question.

California suffered through years of drought, which ended with ample rainfall last year. Yet the state did little to build catch basins and reservoirs to store rainwater for the inevitable droughts to come. On the contrary, it allowed millions of gallons of water to flow into the ocean, rather than use it to irrigate the incredibly rich farmland of the Central Valley ‒ and all for the supposed benefit of the delta smelt, a three-inch fish that is not even a species, but a subspecies that was hybridized with Japanese smelt.

Meanwhile, California Democrats (almost a redundant statement) pressed for unlimited immigration. Despite choked freeways, dwindling water supplies, and overburdened electrical grids, officials approved almost limitless building of high-rises, as well as homes including mega-mansions.

And why not? More and larger buildings mean larger tax rolls, giving politicians still more money to spend. Of course, there is graft as well. But don’t talk about that ‒ graft is a problem for the grubby politicians of those old eastern states, not for the morally elevated officials of the Golden State.

Inevitably, much of the new construction extends into brush and woodland areas. Fire codes require clearing brush for a minimal defensible space. These codes are enforced with variable strictness. But unlike brush, which must fend for itself, trees enjoy an avid fan-base. “Tree-hugger” is not merely a pejorative term; it is often all too realistic. Attempts to clear trees, if they are made at all, are often met with strong environmentalist objections, sometimes taken to court. Even dying trees that lean threateningly over homes and streets are often left alone, for fear of exciting pseudo-religious protests.

But actually doing something useful?

Limit building new subdivisions in heavily forested areas.

Require clearing trees for a safe distance from structures.

Cut fire breaks at regular intervals where forests approach dwellings.

Require fire-resistant roofs and siding.

Allow loggers to enter state and national forests to clear underbrush, cut dead trees, cut fire breaks, and ‒ shock! ‒ make money for their efforts.

Take billions from Jerry Brown’s “bullet train” to nowhere, and use the money to buy large water-dropping airplanes, so California doesn’t have to lease them from Canada every year.

Hire at least 1000 more state forest service firefighters, with all the equipment they need to do their lifesaving jobs effectively.

Investigate fires meticulously to rule out terrorism. Arson resulting in fatalities is a death-penalty crime. California no longer has a death penalty, but the Feds do.

California could do all that. But no, just criticize President Trump for his “tone,” while ignoring his advice entirely. Just ask taxpayers for more money for the “bullet train,” while roads are crumbling with pot-holes and bridges are deteriorating with rust. And above all, invite more immigrants to cross the border ‒ 39 million Californians just isn’t enough to satisfy the politicians’ boundless egos. Why not 45 million? Why not 50 million?

But whatever happens, it’s Trump’s fault. lt’s the Republicans’ fault. It’s the far-right’s fault. It’s the global-warming deniers’ fault. But it’s never our fault. Oh no, we just need more of our “progressive” policies to be enacted. More taxes. More growth. More construction. More taxes. More subdivisions encroaching on forests. More immigration. More taxes. More money for the “bullet train.” More transgender education in kindergarten. More taxes. More noncitizens voting. More judges throwing out the voters’ decisions. More taxes. Always more. Never less.

And more wildfires. Do you suppose, just possibly, there is a lesson here? Do you think, just possibly, that the photo should give us pause? Do you imagine, just possibly, that California is showing us the way not to go?

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.


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