Monday, November 03, 2003

California Burning

Gregg Easterbrook points out that

Fire cycles are natural; no form of woodland management could prevent all fires. In addition, people's voluntary choices have, over the last generation, increased the likelihood of wildfires, and the likelihood they will do significant property harm. Recent decades have seen construction of millions of homes too close to forested or brushland areas (sometimes, of course, spectacular vacation homes built by people who consider themselves environmentalists), putting men and women increasingly into the natural paths of wildfires. Also, building expensive homes in places that might burn increases the property-loss consequence of wildfires. The Sierra Club is not to blame for the fact that affluent Americans want fancy homes with spectacular views.

Steve Sailer addresses a point that Easterbrook chooses to ignore:

But the plains of Southern California filled up long ago. So the ever-growing population has been spilling into the more treacherous wild areas.

This is regularly denounced as "sprawl," which implies that individuals are wastefully consuming more and more land per capita. But in California the driver has been population growth . According to a 2003 Center for Immigration Studies report by Roy Beck, Leon Kolankiewicz and Steven A. Camarota, from 1982 to 1997 the total number of developed acres in California grew by 32 percent, but the per capita usage was up only two percent. Essentially all of California's population growth in the 1990s was due to new immigrants or births to foreign-born women. (Indeed, close to 1.5 million more American-born citizens moved out of California during the 1990s than moved in from other states.)

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