The only thing we can be sure of about the future is that it will be absolutely fantastic. So if what I say now seems to you to be very reasonable, then I have failed completely. Only if what I tell you appears absolutely unbelievable, have we any chance of visualizing the future as it really will happen.

- Arthur C. Clarke (h/t Brin)

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

More on Fires


An excellent piece on the Texas fire situation at Texas Climate News.
“In rapidly growing population areas like Austin, as more and more of the desirable land fills up, you get kind of a pushing in and a pressure to build in the zone that everybody knows you shouldn’t be building in,” says George Rogers, a senior research fellow at Texas A&M University’s Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center. “As your population expands, it’s a natural consequence: You have built-in pressure to build in less safe places.”
Picture is from a gallery at the Washington Post site.

15 comments:

The Peak Oil Poet said...

i've often wondered if the peak of population looms
and our time is bright but short just like a fleeting flower blooms
and maybe there's no going back the tipping point's been crossed
'cause we're all of us the most we'll be - peak people

Peak People

David B. Benson said...

Different than more on fire?

Michael Tobis said...

The wind is calm today, and I understand the Bastrop situation at least is improving.

n-g said...

I think "built-in pressure" is true in some cases, but in the case of Bastrop and many of the other fire locations, people lived there not because it was the next available plot of land outside the city (or the cheapest available plot of land outside the city) but because it was so damn pretty.

MM said...

My thoughts are with you guys. Having lived thru the fires in Victoria (Australia) not that long ago, what looked like sensible places to build were, in hindsight, not so sensible. There is also the fact that firestorms of such high intensity render normal planning and controls useless.

Adam said...

In the dim pre-history of my hippie days, my crowd would smoke dope and skinny dip amid the lost pines of Bastrop State Park.

It's a lovely place; it will really be a shame if those lost pines are all burned.

Pangolin said...

I honestly don't think people are very good at assessing long-term environmental risks. Our brains don't seem to be wired for it and it appears to take great personal and social effort to overcome this deficit.

The history of the State of California is replete with humans building in stupid places and then rebuilding when the inevitable earthquakes, fires, floods and mudslides take their toll.

The point being; we build anew in the exact same place that was destroyed. It doesn't bode well for humanities ability to get it's act together on long-term risks like climate change.

Doug said...

I've just become aware of the fact that Governor "Ponzi" Perry and his merry crew have =cut= state funding for Texas volunteer fire departments by 75% this year.

"But while Perry complains about the feds’ response, he and Texas lawmakers have also been called to task for huge cuts to state firefighting resources passed earlier this year. The two-year budget that took effect last Thursday includes a 75 percent slash to volunteer fire departments — from $30 million to $7 million — and a one-third cut to the Texas Forest Service. State Sen. Kirk Watson (D-Austin) said this year’s fires near the capital city underscore the need to better fund the emergency-services districts stretched thin at the outskirts of Texas’ growing cities."

When cities and suburbs sprawl, costs for services increase, they do not shrink. Are these people stupid, that they don't know such a simple thing?

Years ago, I was loafing at the gate of my grandpa's place outside of Gonzales, waiting to be let in. Boredom ended when a nifty little pumper truck from the local VFD-- piloted by a cattle bank VP-- arrived in a cloud of dust and a hurry, making for the other road leading from the fork at the gate. I was drafted on the spot to help put out a nearby brush fire, not that I minded. Little did it occur to me at the time that this bank VP, his truck and his volunteer crew were part of a shocking waste of taxpayer dollars, a construct of Big Government that ought to have been drowned in a bathtub. It's not obvious to us simple-minded folk, but according to Perry's Aggie wisdom it would have been far better to let that brush fire burn cattle, fences, wellheads, separators and whatever other improvements it ran across. That VFD was just a job-killing impediment to progress. Who knew??

Unknow said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jim Bouldin said...

Your governor is an idiot Doug, pure and simple. And he wants to be president. Haven't we seen this movie before?

Aaron said...

Friends,

We have arrived at a tipping point of our civilization. We can no longer discuss politics because any truthful thing said about some of our politicians is too rude to be uttered in a cowboy bar where everyone has been drinking whiskey all day.

I was living within 6 hundred yards of the 1991 Oakland Firestorm. The core of the fire area was old craftsman houses with ceder shake roofs covered with dry moss and pine needles. We lived in a different town with a more rational fire code.

Our town kept a couple of extra fire crews on duty, and they spent their "free time", going door to door looking for fire hazards. I evacuated when we lost power and water. Who could have guessed that the fire would just sort of stop at the town line?

Doug said...

Jim, I don't now live in Texas but spent many summers there in days departed, and did live in Texas while working in "the oil patch." I think I'd go nuts if I were exposed to the direct rays of Governor Perry.

Perry behaves as though he were brought up somewhere other than Texas. The Texans I knew were pragmatists, understood the concept of enlightened self-interest, were wryly tolerant of all sorts of walks of life, could have a picnic or a poker game including polar opposites in politics and still have a good time.

Not to get all soppy, but Texas was a place where conviviality in its deepest sense was practiced on a grand scale. Perry on the other hand doesn't seem to have a sense of how common interests bind folks together and make them greater than than their parts.

Adam said...

I hope people do not underestimate Perry. He is profoundly ignorant and dismissive of science, but he is not stupid and he is possibly the most talented politician on the American scene today.

It is entirely conceivable that a double-dip recession could sweep him and a gang of extreme right wingers into complete control of the US government. That would mean the extinction of useful federal environmental protection laws in America, to mention just one act of extremist policy vandalism.

Doug said...

Absolutely, do not underestimate Perry. He's so finely calibrated, he knows he can return from the campaign trail for a day of strutting through ashes of houses, making a few callous remarks about "strong visuals," while simultaneously dissuading questions about cuts in fire fighting budgets and criticizing the same countrymen he's threatened with divorce for not being sufficiently helpful.

He's a piece of work alright. Juggling tightrope walker ain't in it.

Pangolin said...

Aaron,

By accident I happened to witness the Oakland firestorm from the shores of Lake Merritt. All the kings horses and all the kings men, plus fire bombers, helicopters, every fire truck within 30 miles, and god knows what else were doing nothing to even slow the fire. That was at sunset.

Then the fog rolled in and largely put the fire out in two hours.

People who have not seen such a thing up close do not understand how helpless all our technology can be. Humans can create problems but rarely do we get to control them.