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Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Tempered Sympathy
Polizeros points out that the destruction of many of the homes in California by the raging fires was entirely predictable.

In "Ecology of Fear", [author Mike] Davis details how people, usually well off financially, build homes in dangerous fire-prone areas, then get low interest loans to rebuild when the homes burn. He rightfully says this is a tax subsidy for the wealthy paid by the rest of us. There are other costs too, like maintaining expensive fire departments, roads, sewage, electricity, etc. in canyon areas.

Most controversial, and the article touched on this when it mentioned controlled burns, is the insistence of homeowners that property be protected first, even at the expense of fighting the fire. Thus, fire crews sometimes are forced to leave an area where they have a chance of stopping the fire to, say, go to an evacuated housing development to protect houses. This is backwards, as it puts protecting individual property above that of protecting the general populace.

If a house in a canyon burns, it is lunacy to give low cost loans to rebuild in the same spot, yet this happens all the time.

These letters to the LA Times echo the point. Having lived in LA for a year, I have to add that the whole place is extremely over-developed, not just the hills and canyons. Without the massive dams, aqueducts and reservoirs which supply the city with water and were built at enormous expense, much of it federal, the LA area probably couldn't support 1% of its current population. It's a desert, mostly unsuitable for human habitation. Cities like LA, Phoenix and Las Vegas are monuments to American arrogance, greed, and stupidity, and have done enormous damage to ecosystems at enormous costs to taxpayers.

Sorry to hit you when you're down, guys, but don't you dare go rebuilding in the same spots! And those of you living on the hills that are going to wash away in the rains next February, maybe you ought to move out, too.