Up In Smoke

It is horrible here. In Berkeley, the air is so thick with the putrid smell of smoke that you can’t even see the hills.

The smoke is a result of the raging wildfires in Northern California. Actually, the Bay Area is not that close to the burning wildfires, which is two hours north. Unfortunately, the wind has pushed the smoke southward, in our direction.

Many folks (including me) have been woken up in the middle of night the last two nights, because of the nauseating smell of smoke. The smoke is burning our eyes, inflaming sinuses, and giving most everyone a headache.

It’s a frightening scene. People everywhere are coughing. Many residents are wearing respiratory masks or staying inside.

But inside isn’t great either. One can smell smoke there as well. And, anyway, it is hot and muggy here, so it’s pretty torturous to be trapped in a hot room.

Of course, many people have it a lot worse than we do. I feel very bad for the people in Santa Rosa, and Mendocino and Yuba Counties, who have lost their homes. Wineries have burned to the ground, and several people, including an octogenarian couple around l00 years of age, have lost their lives.

All of this is a startling and disturbing reminder of many things. First and foremost, our lives and possessions can literally go up in smoke in a heartbeat.

Most of us believe that we’ll somehow live forever. But we won’t; and we don’t know when our time will be up. Wouldn’t these natural disasters be a good motivation to stop living for ourselves? Shouldn’t we use the fires and floods to contemplate the deeper meaning of life?

On a more earthly level, wildfires are a stark example of what happens when human beings play goodie-twoshoes with Mother Nature. Some of the wildfires we’ve had the last few decades may have been preventable.

The reason is that, several decades ago, the populace put a halt to clearing of the forests, because of concern for nature. But nature has a way of exerting its own powerful force if left to its own devices.

Decades ago, Northern California used to have thriving logging and lumber industries. Companies clear-cut the forests, selling the lumber for paper goods, etc.

But because of pagan worries about hurting trees, many of these industries were halted. This plummeted much of Northern Cal into a deep recession, with massive unemployment and the inevitable wreckage of this (alcohol problems, broken families, depression etc.). Some towns (and people) have never fully recovered.

What have been the consequences of stopping the logging of the forests? Massive wildfires, with great difficulty containing them, such as the devastation up north. It’s common sense: more trees and more dry hills and grass, and no rain for months on end, equal fire and destruction.

Ironically and sadly, many of the people who have lost their houses and businesses in wildfires are the very same people who vote for these misguided liberal policies. And these policies have enabled innumerable wildfires to exert their deadly force.

The wildfires are a stark and vivid example of what happens to a State when it is allowed to run wild. When many crimes are decriminalized; when there’s more concern for the criminals than the victims; when our freeways become parking lots because of an onslaught of immigrants– then disaster results. The State of California is literally going up in smoke because it is out-of-control — whether it is the wildness of people or the wildness of nature and fires.

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