Recent California wildfires are forcing us to face some uncomfortable truths about living in a desert metropolis.

There is no one factor that makes natural disasters worse than they need to be. No one factor that makes them more potent or frequent. The Earth is a cohesive organism: a unified, singular whole. The many pieces function as a unit—the land masses, the oceans, the rivers, the trees.

If your left hand is infected, your entire body feels that in some way; the closer to your left hand, the bigger the problem—and if the infection is left unchecked, it spreads and spreads. The same is true for the Earth. Further, if when your hand is infected, you are already in poor health because, say, you have diabetes, the infection hurts all the worse. The same is true for the Earth. The many pieces of an organism function as a unit: whether the organism is you and me or Mother Earth.

So when we look at these wildfires, there are plenty things to debate. And plenty uncomfortable truths to face. Bottom line: Southern California is a problem.


We do not need to go back far at all to see our number one, overarching uncomfortable truth. Southern California is supposed to be a desert.

Human beings brought most of those plants. Human beings watered them and drove them to take root. And now, what, one hundred years? later, we’re surprised that there are drought conditions rippling from Southern California and throughout the West? We invited this.

The drought is all throughout the Southern California collar: Central and Northern California, Nevada, Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, and Arizona. And no one is talking about the simplest, most important—and most uncomfortable—truth. Human beings overtaxed SoCal.


Listen, I lived in Southern California for two years. L.A. for a bit, and then Orange County. It’s beautiful. Those coasts and canyons are unreal. I get it.

How unfortunate that the entire region stands as testament to human arrogance. We had our cake and ate it too for too long. Humans can live in deserts, and we can do so in harmony with the Earth. There are plenty examples across the globe. But we can’t live in deserts the way we do in the Southern California one. Deserts cannot sustain such great numbers to begin with, yet we have gone so much further and turned the land into one gigantic oasis.


I am not worried in the slightest that, as Southern California fades, the surrounding areas will recover. When the earthquakes come . . . how long, folks? Mother Earth was forged in fire and lava. She’s built to weather far, far worse than us.

Sooner or later, human beings will no longer be able to call Southern California home—definitely not in the way we do now, and possibly not at all. One way or another, the region will return to desert or slip into the sea. With as indication these wildfires and droughts that ripple across the West worse than ever before in recorded history, the time cannot be too far off, can it? The earthquake would be the big kaboom, and the aftermath would be . . . what? Run.

Featured image by Sylvia Wrigley — Flickr.