Burn California, Burn… The Price of Hypocrisy?

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

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13 Responses to “Burn California, Burn… The Price of Hypocrisy?”

  1. kathw Says:

    Good/cogent essay. Think NYT would favorably consider. Please submit if you haven’t already.
    Per your reference (below), I observed TX has 3X CO2 emissions from electric power vs. CA.
    Greatly increasing solar capacity would hopefully moderate this – by decreasing reliance on fossil fuel generation/distribution of electric power and increasing reliance on in-situ infrastructure (i.e., individual residences).
    I have been encouraged of late by continued trend for homeowners to invest in solar panels vs. enlarging their living space (which further burdens consumption).
    I believe there is little political correctness/hypocrisy behind this – rather, it is logical response to Texas climate (esp. summers that seem to bake us into oblivion!).

    Where does the carbon dioxide originate?

    Nationally, transportation is responsible for the largest chunk of carbon dioxide emissions, 36.7 percent. But generation of electricity is the second-largest offender, with 34.8 percent.

    Following is a percentage breakdown by sector for each state’s carbon dioxide emissions:

    Electric power

    Kathleen Watkins
    2018 Lakeway Blvd.
    Lakeway, TX 78734


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Dear Kathw (I think I know who you are! ;-)). Thanks for this very instructive comment. The comment was delayed, because the FIRST comment has to be approved, after that they go through automatically (over the last decade I blocked only a few crazed maniacs… Once I had one rabid Nazi comment sitting for more than a year before allowing it, with scathing warnings and comment…)

      I think censorship is a very bad idea. It’s even a bad SECURITY idea: I have been physically attacked a few times (last time a year ago!) and I was always taken by surprise. Full on enemies, declared, engaging in definite threats, I just went to the police, in advance… And so things got stopped before they started… Beats spending years repairing physical damage…

      Censors are always a bit demented: NYT at some point blocked me ten years (after I criticized them for promoting the lies for invasion of Iraq in 2003…). They stop the day the new boss, son of the old boss, came in…

      In the last week I was blocked by Facebook for the essay favorable to Warren.
      Now Twitter blocked me today for quoting Aisha (who had revealed Muhammad was against Halal…) They probably decided as UK’s The Guardian did, a decade ago, that I am a Jihadist… (I asked the Guardian and they told me I was censored and blocked because I “blogged the Koran)…


  2. Patrice Ayme Says:

    This found by a friend on the Internet:
    View at Medium.com


  3. Gmax Says:

    Hypocrisy is sure running rampant in California. Bay Area is beautiful though, I love to run on Tam. I think I met you there, one. We talked in a Sequim forest, I was going down, you were going up. Remember? Should do it again


  4. Benjamin David Steele Says:

    My take on the situation is, in some ways, simpler. The population is plain too large for the ecological constrains of California. It’s a variation on the Dust Bowl. There was a wetter period that attracted people to California. Also, as in earlier times, the Federal government encouraged people to move West. But the wet period inevitably didn’t last and the weather patterns returned to their historical norm.

    This was exacerbated in California. FDR implemented farm subsidies in California before they were ever used anywhere else in the country. Along with diverting water in from other states, this created a big ag that otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. Yet there is too much profit and too many powerful lobbyist groups invested in maintaining the status quo that, in the long term, cannot be maintained.

    The purpose of artificially constructing this big ag was partly to feed the growing population (further promoted by the Nixon administration guided by the corporatist vision of Earl Butz). And a large reason for that was because the Federal government needed a massive workforce to be employed in the defense industry so that the US military could have a presence on the West Coast. This defense industry also funded decades of the tech industry.

    Most of the Californian economy is, directly or indirectly, connected to and dependent on the military-industrial complex. This has brought immense wealth in the state and so created a wealthy class demanding luxury. They live beyond their means through taxpayer money and externalized costs. California, as it is presently structured, would not exist if not for the intervening alliance of big gov and big biz.

    Even if urban sprawl was eliminated and housing concentrated, the same basic ecological problems would remain without solution. It’s likely to get worse. As with large areas of Australia, there probably will be a mass exodus from California until the declining population reaches a sustainable size. But the motivation for that change will require mass crisis and catastrophe.

    That is my sense of things, anyway. Time will tell.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      Very interesting, Benjamin. I am getting ready to publish a major essay on Napoleon and related issues (Brexit, Rome, Lamarck, Caesar, etc.), so I will read what you say later.

      But, at first sight, I broadly disagree. Much of California is WILD. One could probably install five times more people in California… IF they are living in high density living, Yes, 200 million… Consider Shanghai province…
      OK, more later, thanks for the comment, I will study it carefully…

      Liked by 1 person

      • Benjamin David Steele Says:

        It’s just my thoughts. I can defend parts of my argument. I’ve written about the emergence of big ag in California and it’s interesting history. The military-industrial complex, in California as elsewhere is not only interesting but concerning.


        All of that, I’d argue, is pretty much straightforward established facts. As an example of hard-hitting data, 80% of California’s surface water is used by the agricultural industry, whereas the average water usage for urban areas is only 10%. As for water appropriated from the Colorado River, there is competition for it from many other states with their own agricultural needs and growing populations.

        However, the part about how much population could be supported through the local environmental resources is more speculative. A strong case can be made, though. And many others have written about it. If you do a web search, you can find numerous scientific papers and news reporting on the relationship of water shortage and overpopulation in California, including comparisons to the Dust Bowl.



        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          The comment was held up automatically by WordPress, bcs of all the links, while I was out. I went to see this Korean Palme d’Or movie. Good. Also added a second broadside against Hegel in my anti-Napoleon essay published today….


        • Patrice Ayme Says:

          I am pretty familiar with the Central Valley. I know they flood the fields. Should they use Israeli like techniques, farmers would waste less, much less money and water. And that’s what they would do if their water was not so outrageously cheap… That was just an example.

          Most of Northern California north of the Bay Area is just wilderness, but a very temperate wilderness. Applying European existing intense agriculture and urbanism, one could install 50 million people there (instead of a few hundred thousands). Another example… Oregon is even worse: the state is basically empty, yet extremely temperate, and, on, or west of Cascade range, full of rich volcanic soil and water…


          • Benjamin David Steele Says:

            My comments were about all of California, not limited to one region. A fairly small proportion of the Californian population lives north of the Bay Area. Maybe that area has a sustainable population. The greatest population concentration in Northern California is the Bay Area. But even if you look at all of Northern California including the Bay Area, that is only 15 million compared to the 25 million in Southern California.

            So, Northern California is far less than half of the population of the state and the Bay Area alone is half the population of Northern California. Northern California minus the Bay area is less than 18% of the total population. When I traveled across California, what stood out to me was not only that the South had a larger population but also more densely populated, although I don’t know in terms of urban concentration. Northern California seemed relatively empty, as large swaths of it wasn’t inhabited. My observations are cursory, though. Besides the Bay Area, the urban areas I saw were smaller.

            All of Central Valley, including every major city, is only 6.5 million, but as a comparison even that is larger than 39 other states and territories in the US. There are only 16 states, excluding California itself, that have more population than Central Valley and Central Valley is one of the least populated areas of California. That is in the context of California being the most populated state in the country. To really emphasize the massive population we’re talking about, Central Valley is larger than 124 countries in the world, Northern California is larger than 160 countries, and all of California is larger than 197 countries. Only 35 countries in the world have more inhabitants.

            That brings us to carrying capacity. California is one of the dryer states in the country. There are many other states that have far more water than California, even though no state has more residents. This is why California is dependent on water from the Colorado River and even then California is also draining its own aquifiers. Sure, using resources more wisely would help, but that can only go so far. It’s unclear what the carrying capacity is for the entire planet and some argue we’ve already overshot maximum population load. The problem is that the repercussions of going beyond the carrying capacity is that the full externalized costs wouldn’t show up for decades or even generations later. As such, if we overshot this breaking point sometime these past decades, we might not realize that is what we did until later in the century.

            It’s all rather speculative, as I said. But we do know that climate change is irreversible at this point. The melting of ice is a half century ahead of schedule, according to many predictions. It’s happening more quickly than expected. Large parts of the world are experiencing droughts and are draining their aquifiers, which exacerbates desertification. Even the 100th Meridian is moving eastward and drying out what used to be some of the most productive farmland in the world and hence the area that has been the breadbasket of the world. My own attitude is that of the precautionary principle. I see no advantage to seeing how close we can get to the carrying capacity of any particularly area or for the whole planet before going too far. But ignoring that, it’s possible that the carrying capacity can be extended a bit more, if we find more sustainable ways of living. Time will tell.


    • Patrice Ayme Says:

      The way it goes, California will probably reach 100 million inhabitants before the population explosion there goes down. The state has colossal resources.


  5. Patrice Ayme Says:

    Comment for: How Scientists Got Climate Change So Wrong
    Few thought it would arrive so quickly. Now we’re facing consequences once viewed as fringe scenarios.

    By Eugene Linden
    Mr. Linden has written widely about climate change.

    NYT, Nov. 8, 2019

    The problem has been that scientists are paid by governments which are manipulated by plutocrats, most of them part of the establishment… And the establishment is fossil fuel plutocracy dependent (say, Wall Street, as an example).

    So scientists didn’t want to bite the hand that feed them. And this is still true.

    The real truth is that the giant masses of ice of Antarctica will melt with a warming of just a few more degrees. I have explained the exact mechanism in essays on my site, in great details, for more than a decade. The reason is that half Antarctica is under water… And the densest water is at 4 degrees Centigrade (roughly 40 Fahrenheit)… Thus a hyper catastrophic melting is entirely possible… Millennia before what the old, baseless, “scientific” analyses pretended. Also a serious diminution of the oxygen content of the atmosphere, ridiculed by well-fed scientists, is actually entirely possible under very plausible (yet complex) scenarios. And so on.

    The plutocracy which rules over us is mostly fossil-fuel based. Any plutocracy knows that it needs to control the minds. Nowadays this means controlling the scientists. The gross attack, “climate denier” style, are there only to confuse us.

    The real danger is the subtle disinformation that the situation is not dire, that we have time, it’s a question of the grandchildren. I have lived in smoke for weeks on end in the tech metropolis of the San Francisco: the burning climate catastrophe is upon us now.

    Liked by 1 person

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