Big Picture

26 thoughts on “Big Picture”

  1. The WTF expression on the African-American gentleman’s face is perfect. I would have put him at the top of the photo array.

  2. “A lot of folks prefer a random surprise natural disaster rather than pointy headed experts dictating how we all live.” That is certainly the tendency I see in my neck of the woods (totally land-locked red state) because pointy-headed experts are seen as stacking the deck in their own favor. I grew up working class in a high-poverty rural area and still tend to see the world through that lens. Among the people I know (obviously a limited sample), their attitude is that society’s sacrifice to deal with climate change will fall disproportionately on people with few means. A quote attributed to Bat Masterson seems appropriate: Everyone gets ice. The rich get it in the summer, and the poor get it in the winter.

  3. I had a friend whose house was cut off by the Hawaii lava flow. They prayed that their house would be knocked down, so they could collect insurance. It finally was.

  4. sorry for my misunderstanding
    people in US build wood home on place where is fire 2-5 time in 100 years ?

    in Europe we have similar people which build home on old river basin, but result is same = home are destroyed by stupidity

    1. There are three broad categories of people who build the wrong thing in the wrong place. First, poor people who have few other economic options so they build what they can in the cheap risky locations. Second, rich people who know the risks but love the view or the natural surroundings and can afford to rebuild if need be. And third, large scale developers and the accompanying municipal authorities who actively encourage growth and economic activity and who think they can manage the risk with engineering and insurance.

  5. There have been a number of fires in the Paradise area, most recently in 2008. Insurance companies have reduced their exposure in recent years, raising prices and refusing to cover some properties. The area is home to a lot of retirees and lower income people that could not afford to buy elsewhere. A lot of people that own their houses free and clear are not insured because they could not get insurance or could not afford it.

    Some federal official remarked that Paradise will be rebuilt but it could not be rebuilt the way it was. He was thinking that fire safety regulations would prevent it. He’s right, but for the wrong reason. It will be rebuilt, but with a different demographic occupying the properties. Cheap lots sold by people that that can’t rebuild will be snapped up by wealthier people that can afford to build structures that meet insurance company requirements. Infrastructure will be rebuilt or patched together over the existing base to meet their needs.

    A lot of the 40,000 plus people that are currently evacuated will not return permanently. FEMA offers little help to these folks and they do not have enough of their own resources to rebuild. The mobile home park land has higher and better uses. These people will drift away, looking for affordable housing elsewhere. The homeless problem up in the hills will move to that Walmart parking lot and similar places in town. Ten years from now, Paradise will look completely different than it did before the fire.

  6. It’s good to see you writing again; I was beginning to worry. Your point about the impact on the neighborhood, even when individual houses didn’t burn, is subtle and important.

  7. “If people are contributing to a shift in the atmosphere by burning hydrocarbons… ” If???

    No idea if you meant to push buttons, but as a guy who is a “just the facts ma’am” kind of guy it seems like the very least you could do is acknowledge that 90% (more or less) of climate scientists say global warming is being done by humans.

    1. Here’s my position. It makes zero difference why things are happening if society can’t agree on anything and is incapable of taking meaningful action. The important thing for us as individuals is to organize our own affairs in response to the on-going disruptions.

      There’s a significant percentage of the population that believes deep down in their bones that Climate Change is a conspiracy designed to force them out of their comfortable private cars and into filthy buses with junkies and whores. No exaggeration. The more you quote chemistry and physics the more they hunker down. Why would I want to fight that battle?

      As this post describes, even people who are sure humans are screwing with the atmosphere aren’t willing to change much about their own lifestyles.

      1. Fair enough. I agree that when even those who “believe” won’t change their behavior, there is no way “skeptics” will do anything either.

        It seemed to me that the cost of simply stating a fact and then moving on to your other, cogent, points made it a relatively easy thing to do and I wondered why you didn’t. In some small way I thought it was worth leaving a comment to say you can do both: acknowledge the “facts” and get on with dealing with the mess.

        1. On the one hand, “Drill baby drill” is going to continue to lead to unpleasant consequences. But I don’t see any way to stop it.

          On the other hand there are all sorts of policy options being suggested by do-gooders that are likely to fail or cause more problems than they solve. “Let’s subsidize electric cars and solar panels for the upper end consumer market, create elaborate carbon trading schemes for Wall Street brokers to skim, and do biochemistry research that turns exotic algae into jet fuel.”

          What we probably need instead is to radically simplify everything. A plain vanilla walkable Main Street neighborhood circa 1890 with a few extra layers of insulation, more efficient mechanical systems, nearby productive farmland, and a canal for cargo barges might just do all the heavy lifting for climate goals. But we can’t seem to wrap our minds around any of it. We’re blinded by fever dreams of limitless fracking or bullet trains.

          So I’m agnostic. I suggest we all get our own houses in order first.

          1. “A plain vanilla walkable Main Street neighborhood circa 1890 with a few extra layers of insulation, more efficient mechanical systems, nearby productive farmland, and a canal for cargo barges might just do all the heavy lifting for climate goals.”

            So… somewhere like this?,-2.774936,5104m/data=!3m1!1e3!4m5!3m4!1s0x487c62b6f3984b61:0x17dcdf1649eea456!8m2!3d54.127363!4d-2.768112

            1. Cranforth U.K. looks to have the right bones. I would compare it to places like New Hope, Pennsylvania or Cincinnati, Ohio in the States. At the moment such places don’t function as they were initially designed. The canals are no longer operable and the associated farmland and local manufacture are mostly gone. But it could all be reconstituted. I’m not recommending a return to Victorian era society. But a high quality modern life could be lived in a way that employed older lower energy systems. Basically, we slow everything down, relocalize, and replace coal with small scale renewables – but only after we radically reduced our demands.

              1. One thing I love about living here is that I don’t need a car. Three supermarkets, two doctors surgeries, three primary schools, a high school – and it doesn’t take long to get to the nearby city (Lancaster). The bus service isn’t as good as it could be, but at least we’ve got a train station. Still trying to get the mainline platforms reinstated, though.

                Which means we’ve been identified as an area to build lots of new houses. We’re currently working on our neighbourhood plan to try and shape that development. Hopefully we won’t end up with cramped, 5 bed executive homes at a density of 20/hectare… I’ll do my best (I’m on the committee drafting it).

                Three years ago we were hit by Storm Desmond. No major damage, but the electricity was on and off for a few days, and they had to close the road bridges in Lancaster. We got lucky. If it had been more intense and taken the motorway and railway bridges out of operation for a few weeks, it would have caused major problems with logistics. The government here don’t advise people to store any food or water, but the next Parish newsletter should include something about the three days rule in it.

                1. Adding density around transit stations is a fine concept which I’m in favor of. But the devil is in the details. Will the end result look like the best of traditional British towns or will new regulations result in bland mid-rise apartment blocks with no particular public amenities? Do a Tesco and a Burger King next to a car park translate to civic virtues?

                  The three day rule for stored food and water is a good place to start. That’s enough to get folks through a storm as you described. But there are many scenarios that would necessitate longer periods without fresh supplies. I personally maintain a year’s supply of necessities which I use and rotate weekly. Most of our great grandmas ran their kitchens this way.

  8. I noticed all the new houses pictured were wood frame.
    If I were building in high fire zone, it would use all non flammable materials, mainly masonry and steel.
    I know a lot of people are totally committed to wood frame, but I think it makes a huge difference to not have materials that can not add to the flame and produce smoke.

    1. I almost went down that rabbit hole in this blog and stopped myself. The replacement homes are in a spot that is known to be in a fire prone corridor and all the homes recently burned to a crisp. In fact, the old folks who used to live in this farm region told the authorities and the developer back in the post WWII era that fires came this way and it was a bad idea to put homes in harm’s way. Did anyone listen? Doh!

      Then again, steel framed single family homes are a novelty in this part of the country and it’s hard to get crews to build that way even if initially requested. It’s always faster, cheaper, and easier to do the mainstream thing rather than swim against the institutional tide.

      And masonry construction is a problem in earthquake country… Do you want your house to burn or crush you? Pick your poison. If I were building from scratch I’d prefer a steel frame with an exterior skin of CorTen or Galvalume. But that’s probably never going to happen given the cost and complexity.

  9. In answer: All the above.

    Having lived in So Cal since long before you could find California on a map (LOL), brush fires down here are not new. I don’t think they are any worse than, say, 50 years ago. More people/houses etc. make them worse from a structural loss standpoint, of course. But there are parts of the Santa Monica Mountains that have probably burned 5 or 6 times just in my lifetime, and I am not exaggerating (I’m 60).

    The death and destruction in NORTHERN California is something far beyond anything I can recall, however. Santa Rosa….now Paradise……I do NOT recall such enormous fires -in populated areas – in the past. Oakland in 1991 perhaps – though there was precedent for that (look up Berkeley 1923) Both were damaging, but fairly small in areal coverage.

    Trump may have something of a point regarding the forest fires in Northern California. He’s talking out of his hat with respect to the chaparral fires down here.

    My $0.02.

    1. If you take a look at the Cal Fire Map & enlarge the Camp fire, you’ll see that only about 15% of the fire area is forest. This is not a forest fire –> it’s what they call a WUI fire: Wildland Urban Interface.

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