Photo: AFP

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.
[emphasis added]

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.


Tatyana said…
If the majority of people thought as you...
You be safe there!
lostlandscape said…
We have fires and earthquakes, the South has hurricanes and mosquitoes, the midwest has tornadoes... We have to figure out a way to live where we do, and to do so as responsibly as possible.

Rick Halsey lives locally, and spoke at the local CNPS meeting a couple months ago. I've been meaning to share some of his points in a post, and it's now more timely than ever...
Although I live in an urban area, and not near foothills or slopes, when fires pass through the LA foothills and mountains it leaves me feeling vulnerable and awed by the power of natural (and unnatural) phenomena. It does get one thinking about our big, life decisions. We can only do our best. Thanks for the thoughts and the resources.
What an interesting post--love you calling us an invasive species! In Michigan, fire is an active restorer in oak-hickory ecosystems. It used to be caused naturally be lightning strikes as well as on purpose by native Americans who did controlled burns. Because of the devastation of forest fires out west, we stopped burning and invasive plants grew, while fire-dependent natives died. My city (Ann Arbor) does do controlled burns of natural areas and I love watching them. To me, fire is fascinating, but I don't want to minimize what happening in CA. It's so different and scary to think of fire as a threat. I hope you, yours, and the gardens are safe.
Gail said…
An excellent read...While we aren't under assault from fire in the Middle South, our woods and forests are under attack from invasives and in danger of disappearing I appreciate and commend your responsibly living on your land...Good luck. I hope you continue to be safe. gail