Archive for October 30th, 2019

Burn California, Burn… The Price of Hypocrisy?

October 30, 2019

Obama (rightly) just lashed out at “purity”, observing that “casting stones does not get you very far”. Hopefully, I will dig in this opinion of the former Commander in Chief a bit more. However, casting stones on those ho cast stones goes only so far too: to be wise means to be more wise, and that addition of wisdom requires some demolition of old logic always. The following essay is about having a correct urban culture, but that requires to demolish the opposite mentality.

Some who believe they are clever and are believed to be clever, pose and deny the enfolding Climate Catastrophe: there is a lot of fame and money to be gathered that way. However, fires are happening all over, including in one of that pole of opinion, California… And it’s no accident my power was not cut: instead of living like a hog in a giant mansion (that could have been organized), I long opted to live correctly (not torturing the biosphere with extravagant energy spending… as the most successful US academics tend to do, with self-glorifying trips all over the planet…)

The problem in a nutshell: giant mansions and giant flames. California’extravagant lifestyle is greatly at fault, helping to cause the greenhouse calamity and making its consequences worse. [Malibu, 2018; but mansions like that are all over California, it’s not just a few celebrities getting roasted…]

California makes a lot of noise about “Climate Change”, and pretends to be leading the way, and, for the US, it is: 9.2 metric ton CO2 per capita per year (more than double France and the world average).

However considering the overall situation, this is rather mediocre. California has lots of advantages: an ideal Mediterranean climate covers most of the state, which gets lots of wind, lots of sun and lots of water falling down from high mountains which cover most of the state. Moreover, the state packs more intellectual, and engineering power than any other US state, and its semi-direct democracy and size enables it to behave as a semi-independent country, brain and engine of the USA, if not the world.  California’s CO2 production is not decreasing fast enough.


So what is wrong?

California cities. They are too spread-out in the wilderness. California has three huge metropolitan areas. The San Francisco Bay, including Sacramento, has a population of twelve million and a GDP of the order of the Netherlands. It is also 250 kilometers across, and the public transportation system can only cover a very small part of it. OK, there are mountains, bays, parks, even two large national parks (Point Reyes and Marin Headlands/Golden Gate) in the middle of it all. 

But the fundamental problem is a flaw in the Californian character. It’s not that the Californian race is a bad sort: there is no such a thing. Minorities are a majority in California, and 25% of the population was not even born in the USA. However, as soon as aliens land in California, they wiggle their antennas, and immediately adopt Californian ways, some of which are not just ridiculous, but offensive to the planet.  

OK, now for a bit of comic relief:

The Qur’an says Allah found fire to be the solution to hypocrisy:

Sura 9, At-Tawbah (Arabic: التوبة‎, “The Repentance“),

68. “Allah has promised the hypocrite men and the hypocrite women and the infidels, the Fire of Hell, to abide in it forever. That is enough for them, Allah has cursed them, and for them is a lasting chastisement.”


California talks big and lives even larger, hence the big flames. In the Golden State, to be inhabiting high density  living is generally viewed as low class, a failure, nearly immoral if pursued too long (except for a few luxury apartments in downtown San Francisco lots of them bought by Chinese who don’t know any better). A real Californian is supposed to move to the leafy suburbs, conducting there the Californian dream, a car life according to which a family has an entire fleet of electric cars plus a few gasoline SUVs for longer trips (60% of California CO2 emissions are from transportation).

Gigantic houses cheaply built in wooden planks among the chaparral. That’s the bottom of the problem: the highly flammable character of this life of debauch and luxury spread from horizon to horizon among desiccating hills prone to annual fires can’t go on, its ecological cost is too great.

Just look at the San Francisco Bay Area: its real dimensions are astounding: it’s 150 miles from Santa Cruz to Sacramento, and there are houses all along the way, often mixed with dry grass and trees. Most of the landscape is covered by large houses if not mansions, separated from each other by landscape which has evolved to burn over million of years… 

Only high density living is easy to defend from fire, and that’s a small portion  of this urbanism. A change of mentality is needed: instead of living from horizon to horizon, horizon after horizon, California has to learn to esteem high density living. I am living in a small sliver of relative high density living where power was not cut, precisely because there is nothing to burn very easily. Even if lines get buried as in Provence, where the winds are more frequent, and stronger, the fact is, Californians have to learn to live in high density living if they don’t want to burn (and stop being hypocritical in ecology)… Once again, as in Provence (planting more Redwoods would also help, as they stop fire.)

Don’t expect Californians to change their ways soon: laws proposed by politicians to encourage high density living were beaten back by the enraged mansion dwellers, in their luxurious wisdom.

However, the problems with power supply (as perhaps 5 millions were cut of it in the last few weeks), will probably help expand the photovoltaic and battery industry…. And that is an excellent development, so burn, California, burn…since I am in an area protected from cuts, I can run my air filters, even when visibility outside tank… And this is not the nice smell of African savanna fires; in California smoke carries a whiff of scorched plastic…

Patrice Ayme