The Thinker: Rich Galen


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Mullings by Rich Galen ®
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Wildfires & Hurricanes

Rich Galen

Monday October 16, 2017

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  • The past few months have been tough on the United States of America. Three hurricanes combined with dozens of wildfires, plus a maniac firing rounds out of a modded assault rifle into a defenseless crowd in Las Vegas.

  • Ok. We get the message. We'll change our ways. We'll be better.

  • But, we won't.

  • According to a 2002 article in the New York Times, precursors to modern humans, "apelike creatures walking habitually on two legs were flaking crude stone tools 2.5 million years ago."

  • But it might have been only 70,000 years ago that the the kind of creativity emerged that produced "The Last Supper" and the Saturn 5 rocket that, along with all the other bits and pieces, took humans to the moon in 1969.

  • According to some estimates, in the year 5000 BC, the total human population was about 5 million. Today the estimate is 7.5 BILLION humans.

  • The Earth doesn't appear to have gotten any larger over the past 7,000 years, nor have (to any appreciable degree) the oceans gotten smaller. So, more and more people are crowding onto the same amount of land.

  • And, we are not evenly distributed. According to NOAA about 10 percent of the total U.S. counties (not including Alaska), are located directly on a shoreline, but account for 39 percent of the total population.

  • Many of them live along the Gulf Coast: South Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama and a lot more live on the peninsula known as "Florida" which is, just about, ALL coast line - Gulf and Atlantic.

  • Those places were pretty sparsely populated before the Europeans showed up on Hispaniola. And then came back to claim Americas as their own.

  • At the time of the first U.S. Census (1765) Puerto Rico had a population of about 45,000. The current population estimate is 3.4 million.

  • As Donald Trump properly pointed out last month, Puerto Rico "is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it's a big ocean; it's a very big ocean."

  • On the other side of the North American continent sits California which, annually, suffers wildfires in the southern portions of the state after the dry season, followed by houses sliding down into highways when the rains come, but the vegetation holding the ground together has been burned away.

  • This year, as you know, the wildfires have struck Northern California.

  • The "wine country" is generally defined as the region just north of San Francisco including Napa, Mendicino, and Sonoma Counties.

  • The Sonoma County website shows that pre-WWII, there were about 100,000 people living there. Now, there are more than 500,000. As recently as the 1960s, only 12,000 acres were in wine production. By 1999 that had had grown to over 49,000 acres.

  • Less land for housing, more people packing themselves in.

  • Amy Weiss, DC-based Public Affairs guru and her husband bought a home in the fire area a few years ago. From her report:
    A friend told us he had left to go to San Francisco, there was no cell service for a chunk of the ride, and that I should download and save maps with detours before we headed out.

    Thank goodness we took his advice.


    Read the rest of Amy's brief, but moving, report on the Secret Decoder Ring page.


  • The New York Times' David Brooks pointed out in a recent article that in nature, "Even the worst fires make way for new growth."

  • People who live in Houston, don't spend all day worrying about floods from a stalled hurricane. People who live in the VIs or Puerto Rico don't plan for months without water, without communications, without electricity, and (therefore) without refrigeration to store food.

  • But, it does make them think about betting building codes, better flood control, better fire protection.

  • New growth.

  • Think this is bad? Wait until Yellowstone blows up.

  • There is a lesson in all this: God (whom we routinely refer to in the masculine) and Mother Nature (by definition ) every so often decide to remind us that while we humans have been painting animals on cave walls for about 70 thousand years, their Earth has been around for about 4.5 billion years.

  • What I am saying is we are merely renting modernity and any of us - or all of us - is subject to having our collective iPads and SUVs reduced to burned, buried, or swamped junk.

  • On the Secret Decoder Ring page today: Links to the Subscription Drive page, two essays about the California fires and an interview with the non-voting "Resident Commissioner" to the U.S. House from Puerto Rico.

    The Mullfoto is of a county windshield sticker with a mind of its own.

-- END --

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