Environmental Journalist Bill McKibben on the Links Between Global Warming & the California Wild Fires

via Democracy Now

Tuesday, October 23, 2007 : "This is the kind of disaster we see more and more of as we begin to change the basic physics and chemistry of the planet we live on," says McKibben, who is organizing the Nov. 3 Step It Up National Day of Climate Action


What does global warming have to do with the fires ranging in southern California? More than 500,000 people in San Diego County have been ordered to evacuate. Over 900 homes have already been destroyed. At least one person has died in the fires. Another 37 people have been reported injured including 17 firefighters. The fires extend from the Mexican border to Santa Barbara. The most devastating fires were in San Diego County. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a state of emergency.

* Bill McKibben, leading environmentalist and one of the leading forces behind Step It Up. In 1989, he wrote the book “The End of Nature”, one of the first books to describe global warming as an emerging environmental crisis. His latest book is “Deep Economy: the Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future.”

Other fire factors; unregulated development

& fire suppression adds fuel

Some other factors that were not mentioned by either the corporate media OR Democracy Now;

Fires are NORMAL for SoCal foothills region! Since before the beginning of human (indigenous) habitation in this region, periodic fires have moved through the hills of SoCal, reducing fuel, adding nutrients and cleaning the hillside of excess litter. Many of the indigenous plants are dependent on seasonal fires for their seeds to open up..

Fire suppression in the SoCal foothills from recent (post-Columbus) human habitation (ie., multi-million dollar mansions) has led to an increase in fuels and thus more severe (hotter) fires when they eventually appear..

background info;

"Firebugs: Build it in California's foothills, and it will burn.

Mike Davis

Following last autumn's disastrous wildfires in Southern California, Governor Pete Wilson warned of "an army of arsonists lurking in our foothills." The governor was right. The arsonists are the developers and homeowners who built in a tinderbox, and the policymakers who allowed them to do so.

Southern California is a fire ecology in exactly the same sense that it is a land of sunshine. Its natural ecosystems — coastal sage, oak savanna, and chaparral — have coevolved with wildfire. Periodic burning is necessary to recycle nutrients and germinate seeds.

The indigenous Californians were skilled fire-farmers. They used the firestick to hunt rabbits, cultivate edible grasses, increase browse for deer, thin mistletoe from oaks, and produce better stalks for basketry. Their careful annual burnings usually prevented fire catastrophe by limiting the accumulation of fuel.

But aboriginal ecologists also understood that some areas are spectacularly prone to regular conflagration. What is now Los Angeles, for example, they called "Valley of the Smokes." Malibu Canyon is a huge bellows that seasonally fans hot, dry Santa Ana winds to near-hurricane velocities. Major fires here are frequent (five since 1930) and, as the board of inquiry into the disastrous 1970 Malibu blaze acknowledged, "impossible to control."

Modern Southern California, however, built on the belief that even the most elemental forces can be mastered, refuses to concede anything to the laws of nature. Yet as Stephen Pyne emphasizes in his magisterial pyrohistory, Fire in America (1982), Southern California's deadly foothill firestorms of the 20th century are, in fact, the ironic consequence of massive expenditure on fire suppression.

In a famous study, geographer Richard Minnich once compared the fire histories of eastern San Diego County and adjacent Baja California. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on fire suppression in San Diego's increasingly urbanized backcountry, while a natural fire-cycle has been tolerated in Baja's wild hill areas. As a result, only San Diego County has experienced out-of-control firestorms."

article cont's @;

So now that the fires are taking their natural course, people on the left and right are up in arms in a panic. So far only one person has died as the evacuations are being taken seriously. Those who remain in their homes to spray them down are playing with fire..

The real "problem" these fires are causing is for the economic sector; insurance companies and real estate tycoons who cannot promise safety of foothills properties and will see a decrease in mansions follwing the blaze..

The real estate tycoons can be thankful for the amnesia of most North Americans, as within a few months people will be rebuilding their multi-million dollar mansions atop the SoCal hills in the path of the next fires as if nothing ever happened. All this at the expense of taxpayers and the rest of us regular folk who have enough common sense not to build mansions in fire prone foothills..

Score one for Madre Tierra!!