Saturday, November 15, 2008

There's No Winters Here; Only Santa Anas!

Julie and I planned to visit the new Griffith Park Observatory today in a small celebration of our wedding anniversary. But then, we were greeted with a massive traffic jam on the I-5. It was only 9am at the time, but we could see the massive plume of smoke that was coming from the Sylmar fire, which we had just learned broke out last night. And if you can imagine burning gas, paint, metals, plastics, etc. from homes, you can imagine how toxic this smoke is!

So we turned around and headed to Little Saigon for some Vietnamese food. But when we left that restaurant a short while later, we suddenly saw another giant plume of smoke hovering over the immediate area. This time, it came from Anaheim Hills/Corona/Riverside area.

Just when I was hopeful that the rain from a couple of weekends ago would usher in the Autumn and Winter and perhaps improve the conditions for some local waterfalling, we now get 90-degree weather and low humidity again - in the middle of November!

It seems like the Santa Ana winds are happening more frequently these days (wasn't it only a year ago that there were numerous fires in the San Bernardinos, San Gabriels, Santa Monicas?). It's pretty obvious to me that our drought and wildfires are intimately linked to Global Warming and overdevelopment locally. Two years ago, we saw firsthand the drought in Australia and they already made the connection (possibly one of the reasons why Kevin Rudd was voted in over John Howard in their election a year ago). I think it's our turn to feel that kind of pain (if we haven't been in it already).

Locally, it seems clear that Mother Nature is trying to take back the hilly areas where fire has been suppressed. But I always contended that irresponsible laws and economics (especially regarding the lack of environmental accountability) led to overdevelopment and increased reliance on fossil fuels. Well, we're witnessing the effects of such policies right now.

While I see the economic recession as an opportunity to right the ship nationwide and bring in a system that makes sense both economically and environmentally, locally I see these wildfires as an opportunity to halt urban sprawl, invest in desalinization, public transportation, solar and wind energy, etc. (pretty much restoring the state's infrastructure) rather than leaving things be. How much longer can we tolerate not doing anything?

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