Thoughts on Air Quality

Ordinarily our air quality in the San Joaquin Valley is some of the worst in the nation so we really appreciate getting away from the muck and breathing deeply the air at the mountains or at the coast. And since our four seasons are Earthquake, Mudslide, Fog, and Fire this is the time of year we are accustomed to the subtle scent of L.A. or Santa Barbara burning. And it's always worrisome.

This year the Rim Fire is burning near Yosemite. We are not getting the bad air from this fire, it is largely polluting Nevada, but for the past two mornings I have walked outside and caught the scent of the fire. It activates my lizard brain to seek safety and then my heart gets heavy with the realization that the fire is in the Sierras where we often run when we are seeking refuge from the stress of life in the valley. Not a good place to run to right now.

Mother Jones magazine has a good article about why this is not just another wildfire. Click here if you are interested.

I am reminded of the earlier tragedy in Prescott, Arizona and overwhelmed with gratitude for the over 3000 firefighters engaged in the job of containing this fire and protecting life and property. 

Yet I continue to struggle with the idea that human intelligence must control it's environment to it's own ends. What I mean is -- the forces of nature are indiscriminate and awesomely powerful such that puny human intervention seems ridiculous. Earth will move, fire will burn, floods will come, winds will blow. And we are not going to control the forces of nature. We can engineer and build amazing huge construction projects, but the idea of gaining total control of the Environment or Nature to benefit our needs or desires just seems like the height of human arrogance to me. 

So here I sit.

Hoping the Rim Fire will indeed be contained by the estimated September 10th date, and so very appreciative of the great human effort involved in bringing that to pass. Also, saddened by the scarring the fire will leave on some of the most beautiful wilderness in the world. 

Yet I know that the wilderness will recover. Trees and bushes and flowers and grass will grow again. The marvel of regeneration occurred after Mt. St. Helens in Washington state erupted and half a mountainside was "destroyed" in the early 1980's. Later that decade Yellowstone National Park suffered a tremendous fire and there was great controversy about how the fire should be "managed" but once it ended the meadows and forests grew again. Wilderness does not need us to intervene in its cycles.

The smell of smoke in the air provoked these musings on our need to carefully consider our place in Nature because the natural world preexisted human beings and it will continue to go on with or without us as witnesses to its awesomeness.

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