Tuesday, May 12, 2009

430. Sometimes Life Happens and You Allow Yourself to Absorb It: Jesusita Fire, Oak Trees, Los Padres Forest…. Wildland Fire Ecology Can of Worms

SidebySide Pictures of Heaven and Hxll on Earth. Life has just been happening to me. I have no control over it, and I am trying with my darndest hardest to soak it up and let it alter me and my perception of reality. Today I just witnessed my fifth-in-a-row FIN (Fisheries Information Network) meeting in light of effective fisheries collaboration (and instead of feeling overwhelmed, I actually feel proud of being a part of novel history). A few days ago I escaped the Jesusita Fire of Santa Barbara and managed to snap the chaos of houses burning down amidst chaparral. And a few days before that, I was as far north as the Heavenly Highway 41 (connecting Morro Bay to Atascadero on the 101 freeway), where I encountered an "enchanted forest" of gnarly, tangled coast live oak trees and the front yard of a ranch where figurine dinosaurs were romping around--probably in an area larger than the encroaching Sarengeti of Africa! And these adventures are just scratching the surface! Stokastika!

"Enchanted Forest of Entangled Coast Live Oak." Los Padres National Forest Campground off the Highway 41, from Morro Bay to Atascadero, California. If I had one more day left to live, I would be amidst and immersed the oak trees....

Jesusita Fire. Day 2. May 2009. Flames amidst chaparral amidst homes. Image taken from Ontare Road with a Nikon D80. Soon after I was booted out with others by the police. "Official evacuation!" I wish I had a reporter's badge and my own helicopter (because my father is a fire ecologist! I should have a right to be closer and take necessary pictures!) then I could have gotten REALLY COOL photographs like some of the work from the Los Angeles Times!

Jesusita Fire. Day 2. May 2009. Environmental Devastation Predestination. Humans setting up their own human-environmental devastation predestination, allowing fuel build up for half a century under Smokey the Bear Fire Regime... a homogenous stand of carpet bomb chaparral blew up before my very eyes.... Why prevent wildland fire when these plants are adapted to fire?!! (Scarid seeds, burls). Image taken near Ontare Road with a Nikon D80.

Santa Barbara MicroHiroshima. Jesusita Fire. Day 2. May 2009. A MicroHiroshima appeared right behind a hillside that was bursting in flames. Was it a house?! A gasoline tank?! A grove of Eucalyptus?! Image taken with a Nikon D80 near by Ontare Road.

Dichotomy: Luxurious Architecture in Hellish Smoke-plumed Skies. Jesusita Fire. Day 2. May 2009. I find it ironic that I have lived with my father's research-management dilemma of southern California wildland fire management all these years... and I still... until this day... did not attempt to get close and take pictures of these catastrophic events that fundamentally symbolize why I am interested in the interface of science and society! The other issue that bothered me with my wildland fire photography is that I felt that I was not "close enough" to the fire--when comparing my photographs to those displayed by the Los Angeles Times. I felt jealous that reporters were essentially IN the flames, alongside the firefighters. But then again, perhaps they are photos too focused on human interest stories rather than the conceptual properties of wildland fire. Maybe taking a step back is a good thing!

Santa Barbara MicroHiroshima. Jesusita Fire. Day 2. May 2009. A MicroHiroshima appeared right behind a hillside that was bursting in flames. Was it a house?! A gasoline tank?! A grove of Eucalyptus?! Image taken with a Nikon D80 near by Ontare Road.

Wildland Fire Ecology Can of Worms. I can now see why I was struggling to write this blog for about five days now. I am documenting intimate issues of my father's research... I am entering a meshed-up, entangled can of worms in my own head concerning wildland fire ecology and management--the interface of science and society. Maybe getting distracted by a fisheries stakeholder meeting is good thing. The flames and flares inside me cooled down (and were diverted elsewhere) as well as the flames in the Santa Barbara Jesusita Fire.

I started to think about what the fundamental message would be to anyone for such a complicated issue. When you change the scale of perception of a system, then your perception of the underlying driving factors that create the overall pattern shift. The given paradigm of thinking is instantaneous: the cause of the fire is the ignition. But there are several ingredients to make all things tick (or burn), and if you want to understand longer-term perspectives, you wear a new perceptual hat: "the cause of the fire is the plants." (predictability of outcome with given fuel accumulation, mass accumulation effects, tipping point). And with this fundamental shift in perception of a system, there is an overall shift in the entire approach to managing the systems--there should be a shift in the research agenda, a shift in educational/storytelling practices, a shift in media reporting of wildland fire, a shift in wildland fire policy (Smokey the Bear is dead! We can have a Smokey the Bear bonfire, burn the bobble head and a stuffed animal), shift in forestry management. It's all easy to think about in the head, and how do you move chess pieces of how society operates in the real world?! It's hard to get people to change thinking, change behavior, especially when their jobs depend on it. It take a really long time... and usually people have to get burned in the process. Ecosystem-based management is a lovely game to play in the minds of scientists and scholars, but a devastating, painful, long-term process in the world outside. It's nice to dream that things can change fast... but that usually requires a Hurricane Katrina catastrophe in the realm of fire ecology (2003-2007 firestorm). It's like one slight shift or tick in thinking requires society to redo it's entire wardrobe of human-environmental relations! And why it's very hard to manage a large-scale society in the domain of human-environmental health. Intrinsic inertia. You have to lose everything to be desperate, to gain, to see new things.... [bumper sticker: The cause of the [wildland] fire is the plants. Give it to every person you interview. Put on car. Drive away. Contingency: arsonist can't make a living in Death Valley. No fuel no fire. Contingency. No mass extinction ["mass suicide"] without a mass accumulation. [Perceptual shift --> reworks reality --> paradigm shift]


Victoria "Stokastika" said...

My dad has a convert at UCSB--one of my old advisors--"the cause of the fire is the plants!" tested on 6 other people! Spread the word! I should make a song!

Victoria "Stokastika" said...

Now some people can have a taste as to "why that poor Victoria can't fit so easily in a box."

Victoria "Stokastika" said...

Pertinent Quote of the Day: When you feel the heat, you see the light!