It never fails. Every year the fires come to the mountains of Los Angeles, and when the winter rains come, the denuded hillsides become rivers of mud, sliding down to the houses that we have foolishly allowed to be built in areas prone to fire and mudslide. What is new this year, is that some of the people who have lost homes are demanding to be reimbursed by the federal government because it's federal mud.
Wow. Not too long ago I had a conversation with a young, twenty something, lady who cursed the greed and short sightedness of the baby boom generation. It was her theory that boomers were so incapable of denying themselves anything they wanted, that they had pretty much destroyed the world around them. As a boomer myself, my first inclination was to defend myself, or at the very least point to that most self mythologizing generation in American history, the sixties generation. But, I gave her complaints some thought, and then reluctantly agreed with her. For all our yammering about how much the boomer generation changed the world, we are, as a group, unable to accept that we might have been more destructive than not.
So what does this have to do with the natural cycle of fire and avalanche in southern California? It's pretty simple really. The development of the mountains and canyons ramped up to unprecedented levels in the past 40 years so that boomers could live in pretty places with nice views. No thought was given to the environmental damage so long as some artificial sense of living with nature could be indulged. No, the federal government doesn't have a responsibility to recompense people because they made very bad decisions on where they wanted to live. We already spend disproportionate sums of the public treasury to defend homes from the inevitable wild fires and to put up barriers in a futile attempt to save home owners from mud slides. And we should. Once the zoning boards give permission to build in dangerous, though beautiful places, those homes become a joint responsibility for us all. My point is that our own stupidity is at the heart of these problems. An unwillingness to think beyond our own immediate desires.
Santa Monica Mountains National Park. See my post of 12/23/09. Tejon Ranch National Park, an idea whose time has come.