California’s Four Seasons: Fire, Flood, Mud, & Drought.
Many thanks to all of you who have contributed as a guest writer. This week, a friend and former business associate stepped up with his take on his home state of California. Peter has enjoyed a career as a CFO with many successful entities. This week he chimes in on the serious drought and fires devastating parts of California. While many of us around the world are dealing with our own set of climate and socio-economic issues, the dynamics affecting California are troublesome. Note: if a sovereign nation, California would be the world’s fifth largest economy, ahead of India and behind Germany (and yes, LM, there is a good bit of agriculture in California! 🙂 ).
As a resident of Southern California (CA) for over thirty years of my life, I have some insight into the fire season. Yes, CA has four seasons, just like the rest of the country. They are Fire, Flood, Mud and Drought. The fires in Northern California are natural. The vast majority are the result of lightning strikes and the burning of the undergrowth. This natural process replenishes the soil and thins coverage for new growth to survive. What is completely unnatural in the process is the massive consumption of water by California’s residents, agriculture, and industry.
A small digression: In the early days of America, explorers sailing up/down the West coast only needed to bring their boats near the shore to haul up fresh water. The aquafer under present-day California leeched so much fresh water, that it was still fresh 100 yards offshore. Today, the salt water has leeched several miles onshore into the soil and ground water due to California’s unquenchable thirst.
In the 1940’s and 50’s our natural lands and our parks needed to be maintained and cleared of fallen trees, dropped leaves, and pine needles, etc. Why? Because all of those things are fuel sources. Overtime, as budgets got tighter and priorities shifted, less infrastructure was dedicated to clearing fuel sources for large scale fire events. Subsequently, the more fuel on the ground, the larger the fires.
Going back to the discussion on water…CA, especially Southern California, holds most of the power when it comes to water in the region. When CA became a state, and as early as 1850, planners were involved in adopting the common law of riparian rights. In 1851, they recognized the appropriative right system as having the force of law. California has used a larger and larger straw, sucking up water from the Rockies and Northern California ever since. As the population grew, demand for water grew with it.
Over time, the water usage in Southern California, Las Vegas, Arizona, etc. has forever changed the water table and the balance. When there is a drought year, more water is released to Southern California – it’s their rights, it’s the law. This leaves Northern California, Colorado, etc. dryer and more vulnerable to a natural event, like a forest fire, being a major catastrophe. Add to that, the flight from the cities to the sprawling suburbs and mountain homes to “get away from it all” and we have, over the decades, created the perfect storm.
We moved into the woods.
We stopped taking care of the woods.
We made the woods dryer.
So, to the original reference from last week’s post: “The fires of California and Evia – are these man-made or due to changes with the global climate?” I would label it a natural event made worse by our own actions. I am not a huge proponent of Global Climate Change. I do though, absolutely believe that our actions in regions impact those regions profoundly and with long-term consequences.
On last point… It’s California, not Cali. Nobody who actually lives there would ever say “Cali”. SoCal or NorCal – perfectly acceptable. That is my take. What is yours?
California is a very interesting place to live, according to my friends who now or once lived there. I like a number of things in California, including the Carlsbad, La Jolla, Carmel, Central Coast and Bay Areas. I, for one, like Los Angeles, and so did Missing Persons as described in their 1982 hit Walking in L.A.