There were not many places in San Diego where a person could count on seeing seals, but one of them was (is) La Jolla Cove. Unfortunately on the day pictured in the featured photo there were no seals in sight. It was a fun drawing, anyway.
One afternoon soon after my mom died and her stuff came to my house in San Diego, I was cleaning out her old photos, and I found a photo of my dad. It took me a moment to register that my dad was sitting on a railing at La Jolla Cove. My dad does NOT look happy in the photo, and I would love to know the story behind his expression — other than the sun being in his eyes. Since he is facing south, I am pretty sure it was taken in the winter. He was probably 18 or 19. The historical moment would have been WW II — obviously.
I felt a little strange when I realized where he was. I was sure he’d told me he’d been stationed in San Diego — somewhere. Then I put the pieces together. I remembered him telling me about getting drunk in Tijuana, being busted down to buck private, and put in the brig while his “outfit” shipped out. I remembered he’d told me stories about being out at the Salton Sea about 100 miles east of San Diego and where, during the war, there were radio towers (all I knew). The pieces begin to click into place.
Then, I found this:
The drawing cracked me up. I’m sorry for the guy who died of thirst, though. I like the word valley in quotation marks, too.
I spent a lot of time out in that desert when I lived in California. I never saw it like THAT but I could still recognize it. Based on the little compass at the bottom I could see my dad was looking north and in that direction are the San Bernardino Mountains, Mt. San Jacinto the most visible from there when atmospheric conditions are right (winter). He’s drawn a low range in front of the San Bernardino and those are the mountains that ring the desert. His drawing is a little like these photos put together. He’s drawn the ocotillo and cholla cactus.
Only a couple hundred years ago, we couldn’t take photographs and people had to draw the scenery they encountered on their travels. I guess my dad and his fountain pen entered that tradition.
A year or so after the Good-X and I moved to San Diego (1984) we bought a 1972 VW camper van with a pop top. It was an awesome vehicle (until the block cracked) and we had a lot of fun with it. We also had moved our skis with us from Colorado. We had heard — though we wondered how it could be true — that the mountains east of San Diego sometimes got enough snow to X-country ski.
The first time we went up there was with a couple with whom we were friends and from whom we rented an apartment. We went to the Laguna Mountains. Of course I had no idea at that time that the valley in which we skied that day (on 8 measly inches of snow!) would someday become as familiar to me as my hand, or that I would learn to regard those 6000 foot “hills” as mountains. I was, I admit it, a Colorado snob. Now I know.
From my high valley even the highest 14er rises only 7000 feet from the valley floor, no greater gain in elevation than the top of Cuyamaca Peak from San Diego. In fact, it’s just the same. I learned that a mountain is a mountain in relation to the land from which it rises, regardless of how a mountain is defined by geologists or geological surveys or Alpinists. I’m not a mountain snob any more. The Colorado fetish with 14ers now seems a little silly. If you want oxygen deprivation hold your breath. 😉 I’m joking. I know there’s a lot more to it than that.
Today when I look at Windy Mountain or Pintada from the Monte Vista Wildlife Refuge I see snowcapped hills that rise 5000 feet from where I stand. Mountains, but…
There are two ranges outside San Diego, separated by one of the innumerable fault lines that criss-cross California. Between the two is a narrow valley with a fissure and a spring that, in time, I got to know well. The ranges are the Cuyamacas — in which I lived for eleven years, and, just 10 miles further east, the Lagunas, in which I hiked and skied. The Cuyamacas have a leash law. The Lagunas do not.
Sometimes you see photos of San Diego looking east from Coronado Island. You see ocean, town, bay, city and, behind everything, a snowy mountain. That mountain is Cuyamaca Peak.
The second time the Good X and I skied in San Diego County we headed to a trail head at Green Valley Falls (fantastic falls in spring and in a wet summer, idyllic with pools and slides to play in, drop down, swim in, wade). We parked, paid our $5 day use fee, strapped on our skis, and headed up a trail we knew nothing about. It wound around the north side of the mountain to the west where it looked down on San Diego and the Pacific Ocean. We climbed, and climbed and climbed until we got to where we could see San Diego, but that wasn’t all we saw. We also saw fresh cougar tracks.
I didn’t know anything about mountain lions then except that they are dangerous. I had no knowledge of that world yet and little curiosity. We high-tailed it down and headed home, stopping on the way to watch a movie and have dinner.
Twenty years later, I would live at the base of that mountain and see it on fire. Later, I would see that far western slope with fire weed blooming. I would hike the trails in the Laguna Mountains in all weather, and ski to the top of Garnet Peak against all sanity and all odds. I would see a mountain lion.
The skis in the featured photo are just like the skis I took with me in 1984 from Denver to San Diego. They are — were — wonderful back country skis. They needed to be waxed which I liked because I could control the “slide” depending on my adventure. I found these old skis three years ago in a thrift store here in Monte Vista. They aren’t my very skis, but when I saw them they seemed to call out, “Get us OUT of here!” I had not had my hip replacement (second one, different hip) yet and I wasn’t moving very well. I was with my friends. We’d gone for lunch but weren’t ready to go home, so we visited a new thrift store in town. Without thinking, I reached for those old skis and cradled them in my arms. Elizabeth said in a soft voice “Are you going to ski, Martha?” There was so much pity in her eyes that I set the skis back where they were and went back to shopping. I returned to the store alone a few days later, forked over $30, and brought them home. They stand in my studio along with many other very personal treasures from my life. In a way, that room is my “medicine bundle,” my little trove of talismans.
Looking back on my first forays into the San Diego mountains, it’s funny to realize all the things I didn’t know yet. Makes me wonder what else I don’t know yet.
P.S. I’m writing my ski stories because writing the stories is how I figure things out. Now that it seems I’ve reached the end of this moment in my life, I want to see it more clearly and understand it better. I hope it’s not too tedious. ❤
I used to hike at night in the winter in California. Not (normally) LATE at night but after dark. It was a wondrous world of sounds and the smell of black sage in the Southern California Chaparral. Most of those hikes were with my wolf-dog, Ariel, and with Molly or Lupo. Molly, Lupo and Ariel were pretty large dogs, so I had companionship, a warning system and protection.
The night sky above a big city does not reveal a lot of stars, but there I could see stars unless there was heavy ocean fog. The river valley that made the canyon went straight to the Pacific, so little cat feet of fog often made their way up the valley.
Many animals are more active at night, including mountain lions. It strikes me odd today that I never thought of that when I was wandering up a finger canyon with my dogs. I relied on my dogs a lot on those hikes, their noses, their senses, their instincts.
One of the sweetest of the shadowy experiences was toward the end of a canyon beside some oak trees (coastal live oak) where a pair of Western Screech Owls would often just make a racket. I thought they might have been talking to each other. Whatever they were doing, that was THEIR tree. One night, they were completely silent. I sensed they were there, that their silence was strategic, and that there was a predator near. I was a little bewildered because my dogs didn’t react at all, so if there WAS a predator, it wasn’t upsetting Molly and Ariel.
I developed a theory. My dogs had been around coyotes so much by that point that I think, on some level, they just regarded them as “the dogs we meet up with when we go for a hike with Martha.” I thought there might have been a coyote under that tree. To test my theory, I yipped.
He answered. We chatted. Molly and Ariel lay down, and waited patiently as we conducted our conversation, but after a while they got restless. They were hungry, and it was dinner time. I said my good-byes to the coyote, admonishing him to leave the owls alone and headed home.
One of the loveliest aromas I know is black sage after a rain, but how can you describe a fragrance? With similes, but black sage after a rain really ONLY smells like black sage after a rain.
It doesn’t grow here in Colorado. Its range is limited to Baja California and Southern California.
In 1984, I moved from Colorado to California. I didn’t want to move to California, and didn’t like it all that much most of the time, but here’s the thing. Even here, living in Heaven, I sometimes dream of those sere Southern California hills and their magic, and, sometimes (shhhh don’t tell anyone) I want to go back. I know that going back isn’t just a matter of getting on a jet and renting a car at a distant airport. There’s a bit of time travel involved.
Well, here goes, the fragrance of black sage.
It’s January. Still a month before the rattlesnakes and their babies come out in force to hunt around Valentine’s Day. It rained through the night, a real thunderstorm, and the world is wet, a magic thing in that desert place. You drive down Fairmount, under the freeway and connect to Mission Gorge Road where you turn right. You go west on Mission Gorge to Fr. Junipero Sera Trail where you turn left. This road is fun, windy and fast until the place becomes a park, but since we’re on an imaginary journey, lets say it’s not a park yet. You get to the Old Mission Dam Parking lot and park. You let Truffle and Molly out of the back seat of your Peugeot 505 sti (you don’t have your truck yet) and keep them leashed until you cross the bridge away from the dam area where people are often found. Then you let the dogs run free.
They charge off in a rush of dog joy ahead of you on the trail. You wrap their leashes over your shoulder and adjust your pack that contains only water, an orange, a granola bar and a yogurt container for the dogs to drink from.
You walk through the small ravine cut by the seasonal stream that empties into the San Diego River. In January it has water in it, and Truffle — a mix of a couple of water dogs, Labrador and Springer spaniel — is “fishing,” the white tip of her tail waving in joy.
Molly stays with you most of the time, occasionally catching a scent and chasing it. Molly — Malamute and Australian shepherd — is a master hunter who has come back to you with a bunny butt hanging from her mouth. More than once she’s gone off with the coyotes in the darkness and returned, unable to tell her stories.
As they run, they brush against the sage — black and white — and the air is redolent. The black sage is more common on the scrubby looking slopes, but the white sage is what the Indians use to purify spaces. You sometimes pick a branch or two to burn in your car.
Low clouds drifting in from the ocean climb the slopes, so close you can reach into them, walk through them, small patches of moving fog. When you reach the top of the hill — mountain, the world is green. You climb up to the top of the rock. Truffle and Molly join you. You pour them some water, take the orange out of your pack, peel it, suck on the juicy sections and watch the light play over the ocean, breaking through the shaggy remnants of last night’s storm.
That’s black sage after a rain.
“Salvia mellifera. Salvia mellifera (black sage) is a small, highly aromatic, evergreen shrub of the genus Salvia (the sages) native to California, and Baja California, Mexico”
California has naked geology in many places, fissures where the earth has broken apart. In these spots, Earth’s oldest rock is brought to the surface by seismic activity. Sometimes these fissures opened up a fresh-water spring.
It was fun hiking between the two highest “mountain ranges” in San Diego County. The ranges themselves had resulted from a combination of pulling and folding — like laundry? In between were fissure/valleys, often with small streams and springs.
You can kind of see what I mean on the map — the area is actually pretty small — maybe only 16 square miles. It is exactly between the two ranges and near the spot where they split (to the north). There are two creeks (Indian Creek and Lucas Creek) and at the lowest part of these valleys is a small pool.
I had several hikes that took me to that pool — it’s important when you hike with a hairy dog that they have chances to cool down. One of my hikes took me to the mountain top from which I could see both ranges. The trail is on this map but hard to see. That mountain is in the lower left hand corner facing, pretty much just opposite the direction arrow.
There are a few ways to reach the fissure — one is going down the Noble Canyon Trail which is a mountain biker’s paradise so not the most fun hike, BUT once off the mountain bike trail, within earshot of the stream, there were (before the Cedar Fire) some very ancient manzanita.
One afternoon, hiking with Ariel, my white husky/low-content wolf, as I sat eating my picnic lunch against a hillside and Ariel swam, a mountain biker came thundering down the slope. He couldn’t see me, but he saw Ariel and crashed his bike. He came tumbling down the hill. Ariel just stood in the water looking at him. I got up and said, “Are you OK?”
“Is that a wolf?”
“No. Siberian husky.” I wasn’t given to advertising Ariel’s genetics. Ariel got out of the water, shook and walked over to say hi to the guy.
Another splendid fissure was in Mission Trails Regional Park, a spot now called “Oak Canyon.” In my mind’s eye, the Kumeyyay, while they were under the dominating thumb of Father Junipero Serra and building his damned dam on the San Diego River, retired to that canyon every evening for their dinner of wild bunny and acorns. Morteros and small cisterns litter the Precambrian Gneiss revealed in some seismic moment eons ago. It’s one of the only spots in that summer-sere place that is cool in the afternoons because of the deep shade of the canyon walls. The Indians had blocked the flow of water from the seasonal stream that runs through it with ONE round boulder, a dam that held water for their use 12 months a year in elegant simplicity.
The featured photo is my dog, Truffle, swimming at the place I named Indian Kitchen, Oak Canyon, Mission Trails Regional Park.
On this day five years ago I began the journey home to Colorado. Just at dark, I locked up my house in Descanso, CA and headed the 30 miles down the hill to San Diego. The next day, I would be renting a van at the airport, and turning over my car to a guy who would transport it, but that night I spent in a motel near San Diego State. Lily and Dusty went to a boarding kennel for two nights and Mindy went to stay with her two friends, Bailey and Reina at my friend’s house.
On my way down the hill, I stopped at McDonalds and got a Happy Meal (the best deal if all you want is a cheeseburger, fries and a drink) and I ate it on the way.
I was in a kind of exhausted catatonic state, numbed by necessity. It’s only been in the last year that I have allowed myself to “miss” California where I lived for 30 years.
What do I miss? Mostly I miss the “friendly mountains.” I’d hoped that hiking here would prove great, but it hasn’t, and I doubt it will. Even when I lived here in my youth, I didn’t hike in the Rockies much. The “Friendly Mountains” were far more accessible than the mountains around me now. I’ve thought of returning with the dogs to visit them in December for a few days.
Lots of people hike in the Rockies all the time, but (as I should have remembered) good hikes require overnights and better legs than I have. The “Friendly Mountains” also have no bears and that’s a very nice feature if you don’t want do deal with them. I like bears, but a person hiking alone doesn’t really want to deal with that possibility. Also, I don’t really have pals to hike with consistently — and, when you hike with other people (though I enjoy it very much) the people are the main part of the experience, not nature.
In the “Friendly Mountains” I could get to the top of a “high” mountain within an hour and, from there, I could look down 7000 feet to the desert floor. Weather phenomena was amazing at the convergence the Mediterranean ocean climate where I began a hike and the desert where I might end one.
I’ve learned in these five years that the Rockies are for me to look at. The valley floor itself is a pretty friendly place for a solitary woman with arthritic knees, which makes this the best place I could be. I’ve been learning to see the wetlands in all their stunning diversity. I was already tuned to the miles and miles of the Big Empty, vistas of awe-striking immensity, ringed by mountains. ❤
Tony the Tree Man was an East County Character (there were a lot of those in the remote wilds of San Diego County maybe I was one…). Tony was the best (and only) local tree-trimming guy with a boom truck.
Tony the Tree Man was a local legend.
Years of drought had led to major infestations of bark beetles that killed the indigenous oak trees. Old trees were particularly susceptible and some of them were very tall.
I had a 100 foot dead black oak in front of my Little Stone House in Descanso and as time wore on it was clear to me that sucker could easily fall on my house in one of the 70 mph windstorms that came with Santa Anas. One day I noticed a business card stuck in the chain link fence.
“Tony the Tree Man for all your tree needs. Tell your wife. I’ll trim her bush.”
Yes. How could I NOT hire a weirdo like that? I took the card and called him. Tony showed up to meet me and bid the job. He handed me a magnet for the fridge with the same offer to trim the bush. He looked at the job and said, “I dunno. $300?” An incredibly low bid, but there was more. “And I keep the wood?” Ah. That’s where the big money was in East San Diego County. In firewood. I paid upwards of $500/cord and burned through two cords every winter. Sometimes three if winter were long and spring was wet. There were easily five cords in that tree.
“$200,” I said. $300 was actually fine, but I had to demonstrate that I knew how to live there.
“Have you seen my scar. I was in a MF of a motorcycle accident,” and he proceeded to show me a grizzly scar that went from his groin to his ankle. I’d been warned so I just shuddered respectfully and ignored the divestiture of clothing that accompanied the revelation of the scar. “Amazing you lived,” I said.
“True that,” said Tony reassembling his clothing.
He showed up a few days later with a decrepit boom truck and his assistant. A deaf Mexican.
Since Tony’s language was liberally sprinkled with non-obscenities it was probably for the best that his assistant couldn’t hear him, still, I’d think a tree man would need an assistant who could hear, “HELP!” Maybe the Mexican could hear a little something, but the thing is, the Mexican spoke no English and Tony spoke no Spanish.
They leveled the boom truck. Tony was lifted to the top of the tree. He climbed out of the basket and onto the tree, strapping himself around the tree with a leather lineman’s belt. The tricky part was getting the top cut off so he could safely just cut down the tree.
The boom truck roared. The basket he had abandoned was Tony’s only safety “net.” He hoisted his immense chain saw and started to work on the skinny branches surrounding the top, then, he started in earnest on the trunk — above his head. It was so reckless, so scary that it was hard to watch, but the Mexican had to. At one point he whispered “cojones,” and for a split second I felt I was in a Hemingway novel, but that didn’t last long. Tony sawed and cursed and sawed and cursed, and I went inside. If he were going to split his head open and die, I didn’t want to witness it.
Then came a moment when the chain saw stopped. There was a second or two of silence. “Oh my god,” I thought, my heart pounding. Then…
“We are the champions, my friends And we’ll keep on fighting ’til the end We are the champions We are the champions No time for losers ‘Cause we are the champions of the world”
I went out and Tony stood on a couple branches, leaning backward on his lineman’s belt, his massive chainsaw thrust into the air, singing with all his heart.
Featured image: My little stone house in Descanso, CA. There’s a similar tree in the background. The dog in front is Lupo. 2004 ❤
On the rocky coastline near Ensenada, BC, is a curious natural phenomenon known as, “La Bufadora,” the Blowhole. La Bufadora is a marine geyser. The spout of sea water is the result of air that is trapped in a sea cave. The air is forced into the cave by wave action. It blows up out of the hole with a spray of water when the waves pull back.
Not far from La Bufadora — which draws a number of tourists, even in winter — is a small market and beyond that is the requisite beach bar. On a chilly March night, Señor Marquez, a grape farmer and vintner, and his farm hand, Jose, were lifting cervezas after a long day clearing winter’s debris from the vines. Jose was Señor Marquez former brother-in-law and oldest friend. They’d grown up together, and when the shame of divorce invaded the Marquez home because Jose’s sister was and remained an incorrigible slut Jose appeared at his friend’s front door, shame-faced, hat in hand, “I’m sorry for my sister.”
“You have no reason to apologize to me. We have always known about Erlinda. Do you want a job? You can move in.”
So Erlinda had moved out, Jose moved in, and life continued smoothly from then on and no one ever guessed the secret of the two men.
The party lights around the bar flickered and moved in the wind. “Los turistas estan commenzando venir.” Jose gestured with his head to the door of the bar where a woman in her forties came in with a dark haired, dark haired boy in his late teens or early twenties.
“Not sure. La mujer? Si, but el joven, no se.”
There were only two empty seats in the bar, both at their table. After looking around, the enigmatic couple approached. Señor Marquez and Jose stood.
“¿Con permisso?” asked the woman.
“Sure,” said Jose in English. They all sat down. “You speak Spanish?”
The woman nodded and smiled. “Un poco.”
“You study in school?”
“And you, you speak Spanish?” Jose asked the dark haired, dark eyed boy.
“No. I’m Italian.”
“Close though, ¿no?”
Señor Marquez, having caught the eye of the waiter, raised four fingers in the air and gestured to include the whole table.
The woman shrugged. They had a long drive back to San Diego and she was driving but, one beer?
“You know how? Like this.” Jose took the slice of lime from the plate, sucked on it, took some salt and took a swig from his beer. The waiter had brought glasses, but why?
The woman slowly nursed her one beer and waited to see how things would go.
Before long the table was covered with Tecate bottles, salt shaker, small lime slices, empty glasses. In a cacophony of Spanish, English and Italian stories that no one would ever tell rolled across the table’s wooden surface.
“Love is love, right?” said Jose, shrugging. “So now, I am un campesino, trabajo con las uvas de Andres. ¿Y Andres, here? ¡que desastre! Married to my whore of a sister.
“No mas,” said Señor Marquez with great passion. “Tengo mi libertad.”
¿Y usted? ¿cuál es su historia?” Jose looked at the woman.
The woman stared into the warm beer in her glass as if looking for an answer that would reveal nothing (the waiter had carefully poured it. A lady should not drink from a bottle).
The young man answered for her. “Too much to tell.”
“Debemos irnos. San Diego esta lejos,” the woman said, standing. If the bar had been lit by more than a string of party lights, the two men would have seen her blush.
They shook hands all around, thanking each other for the beer and conversation. When the door closed behind the inscrutable couple, Jose turned to Señor Marquez, “¿Amantes?
Los turistas estan commenzando venir = the tourists are starting to arrive amantes = lovers libertad = freedom debemos irnos = we have to go largo viaje = long drive cual es su historia = what’s your story trabajo con las uvas = I work with the grapes
The cutest baby in the animal kingdom is the California coastal horned lizard. Your chance of seeing one is pretty bleak since, as you see from the photo above, their camouflage is excellent. Add to that they’re shy. You would be, too, if you lived in a place with innumerable skillful predators. Whenever I saw one on a hike, I felt a little bubble of joy. One day I saw a baby. I picked it up and looked at it a long time. As it was in the olden days before cell phones with cameras, you have to look at this other guy’s hand with a different baby horned lizard. It’s OK. They all look the same and all of them are named Spike.
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.”
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.”
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?
“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:
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.
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.
A 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.
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.
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.