Rain

A little, anyway. Not hardly enough, of course.

It’s knocked down the smoke some, perhaps the wind can take care of the rest.

Summer in the Golden State is losing its luster. It was never my favorite time of year, despite being a schoolteacher and a baseball fan! I like the rainy time which is from November to April in most of the state.

There are mountains between me and the Pacific. The Shasta Valley and environs are in the rain shadow of the Klamaths. Suffice to say it is dry here, like much of California.

Like most California cities, Yreka is an oasis sustained by plumbing. We have a water source, Fall Creek, that is a few dozen miles from here so we need a pipeline. Our green lawns and healthy gardens are an illusion. Left to itself, the land here would support juniper, ceanothus, and star-thistle!

Fires have ravaged the West this year. You’ll hear lots of reasons for it, and they are all true. Years of aggressive fire suppression have built up impossible fuel loads in the forests. Logging cutbacks have multiplied that effect. Arguments over policy and bureaucratic inertia have stymied progress. Population growth has put more people on the wild land interface. Climate change has increased the frequency and severity of weather and fire events.

Whenever you are presented with a complex problem, be suspicious when presented with a simple solution. A complex problem is one that can be approached from a variety of perspectives which yield a variety of potential solution paths. At the very least, a complex problem requires a multiplicity of solutions.

Most of the time we solve complex problems by just pushing ahead and seeing what happens, then adjusting on the fly. The problem now is that things are moving too fast. When we just push ahead without forethought, without at least an attempt at planning and problem-solving, we fall back on old habits, old biases, and outmoded ways of doing things.

Engineers often write impossible-to-solve equations for phenomena they study. So they have to make good approximations instead, and that helps guide their work. We need to do the same thing as a society. We don’t know the best way, but we can make models from what we do know, and use those to generate ideas.

And we need the poets on these things, too. They don’t work with differential equations, but they solve equally thorny problems like how to express truth and beauty in the fewest words possible. So they know how to imagine, and see beyond the limits of the language. We will need that to fuel innovation.

The future of life here in the Golden State will likely require an entirely new aesthetic. The California Dream is transforming before our eyes. Let’s get creative and build anew, and stop worrying about what went on before. The most important question is “what shall we do next?”

In the meantime we could use some more goddamn rain!

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