by Worldchanging LA local blogger, Evonne Heyning:
Living in a city that fumbles toward green it's sad to look out my window and see the hills on fire. Over the past century Hollywood has specialized in featuring every other city on fire while carefully protecting its own dry terrain. We pay to pump water halfway across our state! Deep down we fear the fire here knowing how close we dance to destruction just by nature of living in this ecosystem. Our forests and greenscapes are endangered by our living choices and the demands we make on the water and land around us.
It's been a very dry year in Los Angeles, just a few inches of rain on the ground. Our rainy season will end soon and a long dry summer awaits us. Some of us will plant free trees, make roofdeck gardens to grow our own food and hope that our neighborhoods offer little fodder for the flames. In a city compressed so tightly it's essential that water, alt energy and emergency preparedness plans are well communicated and easy to share.
Yet Hollywood and LA's media moguls have yet to take on crisis care in their own city! Blockbuster films and most media out of Los Angeles would rather feature every other city on the planet being destroyed by climate change and giant monsters du jour. Instead of using our media teams to help people think proactively about fire, earthquake and major catastrophic preparedness, we have spent millions in special effect dollars making the biggest possible explosions!
Perhaps Hollywood is getting the fiery wake up call it deserves, a scare close enough to home that the studios can watch the flames from their offices. At least the helicopters all have something to do!
Los Angeles spends many millions to keep a strong Emergency Preparedness Department along with big police and fire forces available for times of crisis. There are ways to get involved on the neighborhood level through Neighborhood Councils and grassroots organizing amongst communities that want to plan and prepare together. Get trained to teach your neighbors how to turn off the gas and learn how to pack a kit to care for yourself and those around you.
LA shares unique communication and flow challenges along with a large transitional population; these gaps in connection make it very hard for people to feel rooted and able to take on tough times of crisis together. We saw how New Orleans fared and many of us go and help repair communities in other cities knowing that we are lucky to be living in a city that has been relatively safe and disaster-free for the last few decades. Media, arts and communication professionals are especially needed to start conversations at street level on how to prepare ourselves for whatever the future may hold. We avoid talking about it until there's a day of news and big dark clouds to remind us of how fragile our urban ecosystem can be.
Hollywood is still burning. Who has the water?
I have a question out there for those in the know. Aren't fires a natural and healthy process of regeneration? Native Americans use to use the slash and burn method to refertilize the soil and stimulate new development. Fires occur naturally, we just seem to get in the way and get our houses burned in the process. But are these fires really caused by humans? Maybe the Global Warming contributes to it, but regardless, these fires are natural and important to a healthy eco system and do not necessarily need to be viewed as sad.
Sami, as you say, fire is a natural component of many ecosystems, including the chaparral that makes up much of the LA region. The problem, indeed, is that we have placed ourselves in the way of those fires, just like people who live in floodplains, earthquake zones, in the path of hurricanes and so forth.
The problem is, when you add all of these things up, there are actually very few 'safe' places to live in the US, or in the world. So I do not think that the post's emphasis on emergency preparedness and human safety are out of line. Fire in LA is going to happen, but we can still strive to keep it from destroying lives...