As Santa Barbara's hillsides burn, I survey the work we have done on our property this year to prepare for fire and wonder if anything really makes any difference when embers are falling from the sky and winds are driving raging flames towards us.
I contemplate again the paradox of living in this flammable paradise, captivated by the habitats we are harming just by being here. We ourselves are an invasive species that doesn't belong.
But we who live here in small and caring wilderness communities have no desire to return to the higher density and often more anonymous life in the suburbs and cities. We love our peaceful mountain homes, love the birds, the critters, the trees, all that stuff. But at what cost? Can it be justified? And even if not - what are we to do? Disassemble our homes, donate the property to nature and somehow start over? It just isn't realistic. Maybe we made a poor choice when we moved here, unthinking, unaware. But here we are.
In an article in today's SFGate ecologist Rick Halsey of the California Chaparral Institute talks about the fire and the ongoing drought conditions:
"Every year seems to be getting worse ... I don't see the climate changing and people are still building." ... Invasive, fire-prone weeds have taken over in many areas of Northern and Southern California, he said, creating kindling for fire. Combine that with a warming climate, drought and an ever-increasing population and you have what he called "a perfect storm" for fire.
So all I can say in defense of living here is - if I can work to promote safer living in the coastal mountain ranges of California, work to reduce those invasive, fire-prone weeds, and promote restoration of native habitats, I will at least be making a worthwhile effort.
The San Diego chapter of CNPS has put together page of links to great information resources. I plan to study it well, and to learn more about what is being done in my own area, and see how i can chip in.