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This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Today's Note From a Madman

October 25, 2007


When it Hits Home

The California fires hit home for me last night. After catching one of the TV Ghoul News shows (who all appear to revel in the misery of others) and seeing Qualcomm Stadium as a temporary home for tens of thousands who have been displaced by the blazes, a picture came into my mind, much like the wet slap of a towel to my head: My best friend from High School lives right near there!

In 1978, JY (my friend's initials) moved to San Diego. His father had lost his job in New York and both of his parents, two of the finest people I've ever known, had picked up and left in the middle of our senior year of high school, leaving JY and his older sister (another JY - as are all of the "Y" children are) to finish up the school year in Brooklyn. They did and JY moved after graduation.

After viewing an aerial of the stadium (formerly Jack Murphy Stadium, the late Southland sportswriter); seeing the smoke in the air; and hearing the background voices inform the viewers that as many as one million residents have been asked to leave their homes either because those homes' demise was imminent or "just in case." JY his wife and son, who is less than one year older than my son, were all okay and at home. It seems that their home isn't in line of the fires.

it was then I asked about his parents. They're fine, but their home is in danger.

I remember my first visit to san Diego in 1992. Upon arriving at JY's house (I came down from Los Angeles while on a business trip and was only staying in San Diego for the day), he took me to his parents home just a few minutes ride away. I was amazed at the varying plants and trees that surrounded the home (as this was a home, not just a house) and the hominess and comfort the inside of the home offered to me. it rivaled that of the second home I frequented years before back in Brooklyn.

After speaking, which we do all to infrequently, for a few minutes, we said our good-byes. I hope to see JY again soon. And although we don't see each other as often as I would like; and don't speak as often as we should, I still consider him one of my best friends. After all, I just don't have than many to lose even one.

After hanging up, as human nature will do, I asked to no one in particular, "Why?" Why is JY's family hurting? Why have two of the best people I will ever know been asked to leave their home of nearly thirty years. That's when I thought of the 60 Minutes piece on the wildfires I had seen just a couple of days before. The fire chief being interviewed said something that tweaked my interest.

"A fire of this size and this intensity in this country would have been extremely rare 15, 20 years they're commonplace these days,"

"Ten years ago, if you had a 100,000 acre fire, you were talking about a huge fire. And if we had one or two of those a year, that was probably unusual. Now we talk about 200,000 acre fires like it's just another day at the office. It's been a huge change,"
"We’ve had, I believe, two fires this summer that have been over 500,000 acres, half a million acres, and one of those was over 600,000 acres."
"You wouldn’t have expected to see this how recently?"
"Seven of the 10 busiest fire seasons have been since 1999,"
-Tom Boatner, chief of fire operations for the federal government, and head of the "Hotshots", those who fight these new mega-fires, to CBS' Scott Pelley

And Tom Swetnam of the University of Arizona, one of the world's leading ecologists added this:
"The fire season in the last 15 years or so has increased more than two months over the whole Western U.S.,"

Swetnam added that the increase of one degree in temperature has caused a 400 percent increase in fires in the US West.

And then this from Boatner:
(Pointing to some brush ) "This kind of low brush would normally be really moist and actually be a fairly good barrier to fire. But as I look at this I just see wilted leaves everywhere. There's no moisture left in them. They're dead,"

One would like to know where the moisture went.

It's no secret that global climate change has resulted in the loss of water, at least in the northern hemisphere. As such, it has a helping hand in all of these fires, including the one endangering JY's parents' home in San Diego. But if my words don't mean anything, maybe the top US government firefighter's will:

PELLEY: You know, there are a lot of people who don't believe in climate change.
Boatner won't find them on the fire line in the American West anymore.

You won't find them at my friend's home in San Diego or in Sayreville, NJ either, Mr. Boatner.

Keep safe, Jerome.

-Noah Greenberg

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-Noah Greenberg