The wildfires that have befallen our state might cause one to wonder why California? Why now? Other states have forests and nearby communities with electricity and they have not had these firestorms. California itself has had communities with electricity close to and within forests, but without these conflagrations until recently. We’ve had hot and windy days before without the fire storms that face us now. Before we unfairly harass electric workers, we might want to ask those questions. I submit the true causes have been lost down George Orwell’s “1984” “memory hole”.
Many Kern residents and others in the San Joaquin Valley are familiar with the loss of water caused by enforcement of “environmental” regulations without regard for human costs. For no significant benefit to the environment, farms and communities in Kern and other south valley counties have lost hundreds of thousands of acre-feet of water. Aside from the cost of that phantom water, we have lost thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in lost crops due to unreasonable enforcement of these regulations.
Outside our area many have forgotten facts that have disappeared down the “memory hole.” Some have forgotten that vast segments of forest were declared off limits to normal timber harvesting and clearing of underbrush. Some have forgotten that thousands of jobs in the timber industry were lost as single purpose bureaucrats tried to foster habitat for “endangered species.” Some have forgotten the warnings more than three decades ago that a resulting build-up of underbrush in our forests and grasslands would pose a severe fire hazard.
We pillory those trying to provide us with essential electric power, but they are unable to clear brush in most of the forests because of practices that disregard fire hazards in favor of phantom benefits to “habitat.” The cost of clearing right of way and forest roads has risen significantly due to environmental regulations and threats of “eco-extremist” lawsuits. Forced investments in millions of dollars for inefficient power sources have further limited the clearing of rights of way. All this while more efficient methods of reducing carbon dioxide emissions, such as nuclear power plants and enhanced hydroelectric power plants, are disregarded by extremists hiding behind the “environmentalist” mantle.
Those younger than 35 can be forgiven for not knowing this history. For those of us older than 35, it’s time we recall the history of why our forests and brush land have become tinder boxes. It’s time we demand environmental regulations that take into account the extreme human costs, in property and in lives, that these regulations impose.
John Stovall, a retired attorney and professor, has lived in Bakersfield for more than 60 years.