SYLMAR & "TEA" WILDFIRES: WHY CALIFORNIA KEEPS GETTING BURNED
OVERDEVELOPMENT IN ARID AREAS EQUALS FIRE & DESTRUCTION, DUH
FOLK OF THE GRANOLA LIVING IN DENIAL: WATER-POOR STATE CANNOT SUPPORT 40 MILLION+
Does this look like a forest to you? It's the "Angeles National Forest" in the high desert above LA. And it's a tinderbox.
NOTE: This post is not meant to criticize in any way the victims of these tragedies. They are twice victims: Once by the developers and their pet politicians who built where they knew building should not have been allowed. And again by those same louts who took their money and ran, leaving them without protection from these fires, which have now consumed their lives. We hope they can survive this, and our hearts go out to them, especially the poor and elderly who have lost their humble trailers, which they must have been promised the sky for to get their last dimes. The builders and politicians are the ones who should burn in Hell.Desert Southwest "Sunbelt" Reaches Out For Water, Finds Only Fire
If you build it, they will come. And come. And come. As in one of those San Fernando Valley-made videos, they just keep coming. Although California's golden days are far behind it, new huddled masses yearning to breathe smog keep arriving every year. Immigrants continue to stream in from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. Weather-refugees from the Snow Belt, job-seekers from across the nation and around the world arrive every day in the Bay Area, Los Angeles metro, greater San Diego, and all the dry and formerly desolate areas in between. They love the idea that "It never rains in Southern California." It just doesn't occur to them what that means.
Since the beginnings of civilization, way before cable TV and the Internets, certain basic physical limits have been placed upon human development. Food, air, security, transportation, lebensraum between other hostile and violent gangs of humans, building materials, sunlight and water were all necessary to growing the ancient economy. Somehow, today we think we've gotten beyond all that.
Maybe we have. Food is available almost anywhere from almost everywhere, at a price. Air, well, there are oxygen bars, right, and something like them on the Moon someday? Security, from animals, at least, not so much a problem if you stay out of their rapidly diminishing territory, where things are getting a bit tense. Transportation no longer relies upon smooth terrain and gently flowing waters. We can pretty much reshape and navigate any land or waters, and even the sky and space. Lebensraum we obviously haven't finished working out, and probably never will. Building materials are running out. But maybe we can use human bones, skin, sinew and fat for that, after the wars for lebensraum. No shortage there. That just leaves sunlight and water.
Everybody wants to live someplace warm & sunny these days. With the looming environmental cataclysm, that may not be so much of a problem any more. Given the rising sea levels that result from global warming, you would think that water would not be a problem, either. But most of the Earth's water is too salty for human consumption, without treatment. In fact rising seas may lead to more salt water, and less fresh water. A lot of the existing fresh water is becoming too salty now, or too polluted to drink, due to over-development. Infrastructure to desalinate, purify and transport water on the scale required simply does not exist. And there are no plans and no funds to build such massive infrastructure.
In the Third World, where most of the Earth's people live, shortages of fresh clean water have led to famine, pestilence, war, chaos. In the developing world, pollution and forced relocation for major water projects, rapid industrialization and urbanization are ravaging whole populations, who cannot always get a drink of truly clean water even in the most modern cities. In our overdeveloped Western world, we are using up the very last of our most fortunate formerly abundant free fresh clean water supplies. From New York to Los Angeles, the old water systems are strained to their limits. Surrounding suburban & exurban over-development and the resulting pollution are sapping and fouling the supply of water in every major city. In sum, there are simply too many people, everywhere, and not enough water, anywhere.
In the State of California, there are now almost forty million people, more than in most entire countries. Everyone wants to live within fifty to one hundred miles of the ocean. Most of the rest of the State is far less populous, if populated at all (outside of the Bay Area - Salinas/ Santa Rosa/ Sacramento; the Grapevine - Stockton/ Fresno/ Bakersfield; Greater Los Angeles - Santa Barbara/ Orange County/ Palm Springs; and San Diego Metro - Oceanside/ Ensenada/ El Centro). But that's because most of it is desert, or high mountains. A lot of it is government land, and military reservations, where our troops learn to blow up rocks & sand, like my old home of Twentynine Palms (count 'em).
As you drive the fabled freeways toward the sea, you hit a wall of humanity, thickening all the way to the shoreline. But it's all still mostly desert. There are some local sources of water, like the dwindling snow-pack in the high mountains. A lot of L.A.'s water comes from the Colorado River in Arizona, through hundreds of miles of pipe, and it tastes like it. Most Southern Californians prefer bottled water, which many homes get delivered weekly. Nobody asks where it comes from. They use the tap-water, and some non-potable water to make their lawns and gardens, parks and farms green. It would take an ocean of fresh water to keep all of California green. And that unsalted ocean does not exist.
Still, development continues at a furious pace, into the yet-undeveloped desert areas between the already-developed desert areas. No new water is provided. Humans bring their cigarettes and their campfires, their backyard barbeques and holiday fireworks, their factories and farms with their own flammables and fires. And guess what happens, year after year? Still, they keep on building. SoCal is now officially off granola: They're totally coo-coo for cocopuffs.
So, these big fires are not news. They are not weather. They are not sports, unless we are reviving Roman spectacles involving human tragedies. These fires happened last year. These fires will happen next year. The cause will always be the same: Human error, as they say in the airline business. No, the error is not just the stupidity of the guy who flips his still-burning cigarette butt out the window on a drive through the dry brush. Him we can correct by a simple, slow, painful execution, on educational TV.
The real error is the repeated insanity of the "leaders" of business and government, who follow the money like hungry sheep, and forever push development. They can't seem to figure out a way to accumulate more money and power by rationally rebuilding more efficient living spaces right where we are now living like pigs, instead of forever expanding the piggery. Real leaders! Hey, that's our system: Anything for money and power for the few, no matter how it hurts the rest of us. Even if we are roasted alive by it.
To end the cycle of fires in California, development must stop, and even be reversed. No more homes should be built in areas ravaged by fire and the subsequent floods and mudslides. Existing homes and businesses should be modified to co-exist with the desert. Supplies of fresh water everywhere must be preserved by our governments, and conserved by homes & businesses. A new way of living is required, and an end to the waste and abuse of our dwindling resources is imperative.
When will the California "wildfires" stop? When we correct our own mistakes; and not until then. Without an enforceable comprehensive truly "green" State-wide master plan that limits or bans "growth" in new areas, and rolls it back in "developed" areas, California is simply not sustainable. Maybe if enough celebrities lose their big bright green multi-million dollar mansions in the desert enough times over, something will change. Until then, Southern Californians will go on doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result every time. Crazy, hunh?
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"Tea Fire rages from Montecito to Santa Barbara"
The problem solves itself: Cook the rich, then eat them.
' Fire crews attacked a huge wildfire in and around this seaside city with everything from air tankers to hand tools Friday in a desperate attempt to gain control of flames that destroyed more than 100 houses and forced 5,400 to flee. The fire spent most of the day rampaging through the tiny town of Montecito, but by afternoon had burned its way to Santa Barbara, forcing evacuations in the eastern edge of the upscale community. Stiff winds that had whipped the fire into a furious pace when it began Thursday had abated by Friday, but officials said it was imperative that they gain the upper hand fast in case the breezes kick up again. The biggest concerns as the night settled in were the tony Mission Canyon and Riviera areas of Santa Barbara, said city Fire Capt. Mike dePonce. '
"Southern California fires burn hundreds of homes; thousands threatened"
The Governator has lost his brain-chip. Every year he repeats the same thing, then deactivates until the next fire. He has no answers: He's a Republican.
' Wildfires raged across Southern California today, destroying hundreds of homes and threatening thousands more as officials began a door-to-door search for victims who might not have made it out of a devastated mobile home park near Sylmar. Structures or hillsides in the northern San Fernando Valley, Yorba Linda and Brea were burning out of control this afternoon and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger declared a state of emergency in Los Angeles County. The newest of the blazes were spreading rapidly through canyons and neighborhoods of Orange County. At least 20 homes burned in Yorba Linda and fire was surrounding Brea Olinda High School, which was barely visible through dense smoke. Parts of the 91 and 57 freeways were shut down. And flames had jumped south across the 91 into the Anaheim Hills. '
SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE
"Winds accompany record-setting heat"
The Big Sandy Eggo aflame next?
' The autumn heat just keeps on coming, and this time, winds are driving up the fire danger, too. Santa Ana winds, stronger than initially expected, prompted the National Weather Service to post a red-flag warning for extreme fire danger for all of San Diego County except the coastal areas. The warning will be in effect until 4 p.m. today. Today's Santa Ana winds could be the strongest of the year in the county, forecaster Mark Moede said, but the gusts are not expected to be as powerful or as widespread as the winds that fanned wildfires in October 2007. Moede said the winds should peak in the backcountry this morning. The Julian-Banner Grade area, and the stretch along Interstate 8 from Alpine to the Imperial County line, could get sustained winds from 25 to 45 mph. Gusts could approach 65 mph. The weather service issues red-flag warnings when sustained winds are expected to be between 25 and 35 mph and the relative humidity is forecast to fall to 15 percent or lower for six straight hours or more, or if the humidity is below 10 percent for 10 straight hours. Initially, forecasters believed the worst of the winds would be confined to the Santa Ana Mountains of Orange County and parts of Riverside and San Bernardino counties. Wind gusts topping 60 mph were recorded near Modjeska Canyon in Orange County yesterday morning. Gusts of 42 mph were recorded in Descanso yesterday afternoon. Moede said the winds should die down quickly this afternoon. Several hot spells made last month the warmest October in San Diego in 21 years. November has continued the trend. Although the average temperature this late in the year is only 70, three days this month have hit 80 or higher. '
"California's Water Supply Dwindling"
Global warming is related to over-development on a planetary scale. But it means floods & fires, locally.
' Writing in Science Express, researchers from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) and the Scripps Institution of Oceanography predict a bleak future for California's water supply because of the dwindling amount of snow in the Sierras. They say the snowpack in the Sierras has shrunk by 20 percent and average temperatures there have increased by nearly 2 degrees Fahrenheit. A similar temperature rise has also been documented in The Rocky Mountains. "We looked at whether there is a human-caused climate change where we live, and in aspects of our climate that we really care about," said Benjamin Santer of LLNL. "No matter what we did, we couldn't shake this robust conclusion that human-caused warming is affecting water resources here in the Western United States." By looking at air temperatures, river flow and snowpack over the last 50 years, the team determined that the human-induced increase in greenhouse gases has seriously affected the water supply in the West. And the future brings more of the same. "It's pretty much the same throughout all of the Western United States [South Cascade Glacier, Washington, pictured]," said co-researcher Tim Barnett of Scripps. "The results are being driven by temperature change. And that temperature change is caused by us." '
"Colorado River water deal is reached "
California may continue to pig out: They have enough water for maybe twelve million of their forty million people!
' The federal government Thursday ushered in a new era of shortage on the Colorado River, adopting a blueprint for how it will tighten the spigot on the West’s most important water source. “We have had good news and bad news,” Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne said in a speech before signing the document at the Colorado River Water Users Assn. meeting at Caesars Palace. The bad news, he said, is that the drought shows “no sign of ending.” Scientists also predict that climate change will worsen Western drought patterns and reduce Colorado River flows by increasing evaporation and decreasing snowfall. One study released this year warned that global warming could thrust the Southwest into a state of permanent drought by 2050. “California is secure. Its entitlement is not impacted,” said Bill Swan, a water rights lawyer for the Imperial Irrigation District, which gets three-fourths of the state’s Colorado River allotment. The Metropolitan Water District of Southern California will be able to store as much as 1.5 million acre-feet in Lake Mead, nearly double the capacity of its Diamond Valley Lake Reservoir in Riverside County. That is enough water to meet annual needs for about 3 million average households. Michael Cohen, a senior research associate at the Pacific Institute, called the agreement a massive step forward. But he wasn’t prepared to say the states that relied on the Colorado River have fully acknowledged a drier future. “None of the municipal agencies are saying, ‘We need to reevaluate our urban plans, our growth plans, because there’s only so much water,’ ” he said. “It’s not clear that the states are saying, ‘OK, we’re going to now live in this era of limits.’ ” '
"Gennaro Warns Of Threats To NYC Water Supply"
Eaux gazeuses, quelqu'un?
' Citing the potential for widespread gas drilling in other parts of New York state that could endanger New York City's drinking water supply and possibly cost the city millions of dollars to remediate the situation, City Councilmember James Gennaro has called for a moratorium on gas exploration and drilling near the city watershed. "It's important to look for new and alternative sources of energy, but not at the expense of drinking water quality, not at the expense of New York City's watershed areas, and not at the expense of city taxpayers to the tune of billions of dollars," Gennaro declared at a recent press conference outside his Queens office. In calling upon Governor David Paterson to declare the moratorium on drilling, Gennaro also noted that concerns about "horizontal drilling" near the city watershed area had been so strong that the governor had already signed an executive order calling for updating the environmental review process currently mandated for gas drilling to accommodate the new drilling technology. The drilling and exploration for new sources of gas would include use of the controversial process called hydraulic fracturing, or horizontal drilling, which, Gennaro said, has been proven to contaminate water supplies in other states. The controversial drilling procedure, he explained, forces millions of gallons of water and chemicals horizontally through earth as deep as 9,000 feet underground. The practice has been opposed by numerous environmental groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New York-based Riverkeepers, the Catskill Mountainkeeper, the Sierra Club and the Earthwatch Oil and Gas Accountability Project. Typical of the responses to the new threats to the city's water supply facilities was the comment from Eric A. Goldstein, an official in the Natural Resources Defense Council: "The prospect of widespread gas drilling in the Catskill/Delaware watershed represents the No. 1 pollution threat to the downstate water supply." '
"NYC WATER SUPPLY A DRUG SOUP"
Hey! We're already recycling our water! Eeecch!
' Research studies have turned up minute amounts of more than 15 drugs or their byproducts in several pristine-looking rivers, a reservoir, and aqueducts feeding New York City's vast water system. Though barely measurable, these pharmaceuticals are varied: drugs for aches, infections, seizures and high blood pressure; hormones for menopause; the active ingredient in a popular sedative; and caffeine. The city's vast watershed, while mainly rural, stretches almost from Pennsylvania to Connecticut and encompasses lots of human activity. Human and veterinary medicines are excreted or discarded, and eventually enter source waters mostly through residential sewage or farm runoff. '
ARIZONA DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
"Global Water Shortage Looms In New Century"
It's the planet, man. The whole freakin' planet!
' But shift from a local to a global water perspective, and the terms dramatically change. The World Bank reports that 80 countries now have water shortages that threaten health and economies while 40 percent of the world — more than 2 billion people — have no access to clean water or sanitation. In this context, we cannot expect water conflicts to always be amenably resolved. More frequently water is being likened to another resource that quickened global tensions when its supplies were threatened. A story in The Financial Times of London began: "Water, like energy in the late 1970s, will probably become the most critical natural resource issue facing most parts of the world by the start of the next century." This analogy is also reflected in the oft-repeated observation that water will likely replace oil as a future cause of war between nations. A prime cause of the global water concern is the ever-increasing world population. As populations grow, industrial, agricultural and individual water demands escalate. According to the World Bank, world-wide demand for water is doubling every 21 years, more in some regions. Water supply cannot remotely keep pace with demand, as populations soar and cities explode. Population growth alone does not account for increased water demand. Since 1900, there has been a six-fold increase in water use for only a two-fold increase in population size. This reflects greater water usage associated with rising standards of living (e.g., diets containing less grain and more meat). It also reflects potentially unsustainable levels of irrigated agriculture. (See sidebar.) World population has recently reached six billion and United Nation's projections indicate nine billion by 2050. What water supplies will be available for this expanding population? Meanwhile many countries suffer accelerating desertification. Water quality is deteriorating in many areas of the developing world as population increases and salinity caused by industrial farming and over-extraction rises. About 95 percent of the world's cities still dump raw sewage into their waters. Climate change represents a wild card in this developing scenario. If, in fact, climate change is occurring — and most experts now concur that it is — what effect will it have on water resources? Some experts claim climate change has the potential to worsen an already gloomy situation. With higher temperatures and more rapid melting of winter snowpacks, less water supplies will be available to farms and cities during summer months when demand is high. A technological solution that some believe would provide ample supplies of additional water resources is desalination. Some researchers fault the United States for not providing more support for desalination research. Once the world leader in such research, this country has abdicated its role, to Saudi Arabia, Israel and Japan. There are approximately 11,000 desalination plants in 120 nations in the world, 60 percent of them in the Middle East. Others argue that a market approach to water management would help resolve the situation by putting matters on a businesslike footing. They say such an approach would help mitigate the political and security tensions that exacerbate international affairs. For example, the Harvard Middle East Water Project wants to assign a value to water, rather than treat rivers and streams as some kind of free natural commodity, like air. Other strategies to confront the growing global water problem include slowing population growth, reducing pollution, better management of present supply and demand and, of course, not to be overlooked, water conservation. As Sandra Postel writes in her book, Last Oasis, "Doing more with less is the first and easiest step along the path toward water security." '
[Cross-posted at democracy for california.]
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