About Droughts and Fires in Southern California

Something to remember next time panickers will yell about the consequences of anthropogenic climate change…

From “Diary”, by Mike Davis, The London Review of Books, n. 29, 15 November 2007:

Brown Hills (1938) – the second in a brace of carefully observed memoir-novels – is the diary of a long drought similar to the current aridity in Southern California. (My twin toddlers, like the calves in Van der Veer’s book, scarcely remember what rain looks like.) ‘Should a good fairy ask me what I wish, I know what I would say! I wouldn’t ask for a golden palace, or Arabian horses, or a handsome lover. I would wish for rain.’ But instead of rain, an October Santa Ana howls over Black Mountain and blasts her Ramona ranch

Yes you read it right: it’s the long drought of… 70 years ago.

Perhaps it’s the awareness of history that inspire Mr Davis’ wise words on the underlying problem: 

The loss of more than 90 per cent of Southern California’s agricultural buffer zone is the principal if seldom mentioned reason wildfires increasingly incinerate such spectacular swathes of luxury real estate. It’s true that other ingredients – La Niña droughts, fire suppression (which sponsors the accumulation of fuel), bark beetle infestations and probably global warming – contribute to the annual infernos that have become as predictable as Guy Fawkes bonfires. But what makes us most vulnerable is the abruptness of what is called the ‘wildland-urban interface’, where real estate collides with fire ecology. And castles without their glacises are not very defensible.