Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Not Again

Friends in California emailed me to say that one of my favorite forests has been hit by a terrible fire. This is even impacting Mt. Wilson, the most important communications hub in the Western United States, and home to one of America's irreplaceable scientific treasures: the Mt. Wilson Observatory.

This fire is in the Angeles National Forest, where I spent a good part of 2004-2005. I know this area extremely well, and it just breaks my heart to see what has happened. It is like losing an old friend. The ecological costs will be simply enormous -- I do not think people can fathom the full impact.

The fire as seen from space, mid-morning, August 30th

Well, this happens every year in California, doesn't it? This happens to the extent that the California agencies are now the finest in the world when it comes to handling big wildland fires. But, it makes me stop and wonder. With all the horsepower devoted to the "back end," i.e. fighting the fire once it is started, is there enough being done at the "front end?"

It seems to me -- and this is purely my opinion -- that we could apply high-end GIS technologies to actually predict the areas most likely to be afflicted, and then move in brush-cleaning crews and so forth beforehand, to minimize risk. Just a thought. I am sure better minds than mine have already considered this.

Angeles National Forest is one of the world's special places. You can be in lousy L.A. (sorry, L.A., but you know what I mean), and then 20 minutes or so later, you can be in the beautiful mountains. In 2005, we did a "Tibetan Medicine Camp" up there, where we went around cataloging the various plants, and discussing their medicinal properties. It was one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done, and it really underscored what a precious resource we had. Now, so sadly, the very area where we were is gone. To recover will take at least 25 to 30 years.

I am earnestly praying to Guru Rinpoche to soothe the elements, and I hope you will all join me in that prayer.

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