Could we civilized people with all our technologies and resources have entered a “long emergency”, sometimes called “disaster in slow motion” or a “bumpy plateau”? If so, here in California it’s materialized with longer, drier summers and big winds kicking off huge fires.
The October power outages meant to prevent more fires were a major inconvenience to say the least. I’ve heard that we have a less reliable electrical grid than countries like Lebanon.
Many of us are wondering why the wealthy state of California has such an old-fashioned and run-down electrical grid. Others add that we need to scrape biomass from what’s left of our forests and burn it for energy. Our democracy is controlled by plutocrats, with an assist from corporate owned media. We’ve been bought out with stock options. We are given to believing whatever our favorite elected officials (who are not well educated in the science of fire suppression, soil or forest management, or climate change) tell us.
Would it be an exaggeration to say our lives are turning into a living nightmare? Well, now that the power’s back, the firefighters are getting the blazes under control, and rain will surely show up in a few weeks -- yes, let’s not get carried away. Everything’s fine, right?
I have an unsettled feeling it’s not. I am still in a fire zone, with virtually all of California being in a fire zone. I have a go bag (just the bag, not very packed) ready. I’m really not ready to evacuate in five or ten minutes in a windstorm. How could anyone be?
Likewise I’m not ready for a bumpy plateau. This concept came from studies of peak oil where regional peaks in production of relatively cheap petroleum, a non-renewable resource, would start adding up to a global peak.
What if we can’t get gas from gas stations? During the PG&E power shut-downs I had to search for an open gas station because many in the towns around Chico had no power to pump the gas that they had.
It’s not just gasoline that we need, we need the whole system, from resource extraction to consumption, to operate our civilization.
How easily one little thing like wind can affect our economy and our lives. We truly are dancing on the edge, as Professor Guy McPherson has written, Dancing on the Edge of Extinction.
So dance, live, and love the people and animals and land where you live. Buy an extra bag of rice, pasta, oats, dog and cat food (for pets) and whatever other long-shelf-life food you can, that you can prepare in a pinch, without the help of civilization.
Beyond that, love your community. I visit Paradise often and hold on to the property where we lived. It still carries so many memories.
In October I picked apples at Noble Orchards, where they now have a shed and expect to start sales soon. I gleaned grapes at Heinke’s vineyard and made grape juice. I so appreciate the Nobles and Heinkes for having opened their properties for special picking days. Their losses are huge, and yet we still have apples and grapes in Paradise, thanks to these families who continue their farms.
As a community let’s make every effort in Town and Paradise Irrigation District planning and policies to encourage farming on the ridge. Farming is a fire-safe endeavor, contributes to the local economy, and provides local food.
Working outside is more fun and meaningful to me than working on a computer and going to a gym. I’d like to do more of the former, even at my age, as long as I can. We, all of us, are adapting to wind storms and fires and shortages in all kinds of ways, by moving elsewhere, by farming, by prepping, by learning and trying new technologies, and by returning to a way of life our great grandparents might recognize.
So This Is What California Unsustainability Looks Like was published in the Paradise Post on Nov. 16, 2019.
Robin Huffman lived in Paradise, California from 1989 until she evacuated from the Camp Fire on Nov. 8, 2018.