The Unelected Tyrants Who Burned Down California

If this seems like an unfair title, it isn’t, though some of these tyrants were appointed by elected politicians. And all of these tyrants rely on laws that were passed by elected politicians. But while there is plenty of blame to go around, tyranny is what Californians have endured. A tyrannical system is entirely to blame for apocalyptic fires that are wiping out California’s forests, fouling the air, and killing everything in their path.

So who are these unelected tyrants?

We can start with federal and state bureaucrats. Principal among them are the careerist ideologues who dominate the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, abetted by the fanatics who run California’s Air Resources Board, along with dozens of other federal and state agencies. Joining them outside of government to assist in the incineration of California’s precious ecosystems are the lobbyists and litigants representing powerful environmentalist nonprofits such as the Sierra Club and the Center for Biological Diversity.

So numerous they escape individual accountability, these tyrants collectively have made it nearly impossible to engage in logging, forest thinning, or controlled burns. The policies, regulations, and judgments these tyrants relentlessly advocate and ruthlessly enforce are the reason California’s fires in recent years have been cataclysmic.

As a consequence, after more than a century of increasingly effective suppression of natural fires, California’s forests are now overgrown tinderboxes. They’re either going to get cleared out mechanically, or they’re going to burn like hell.

Opposing this tyranny does not signify a lack of concern for our natural […] Read More

How to Save California’s Forests

For about twenty million years, California’s forests endured countless droughts, some lasting over a century. Natural fires, started by lightening and very frequent in the Sierras, were essential to keep forest ecosystems healthy. In Yosemite, for example, meadows used to cover most of the valley floor, because while forests constantly encroached, fires would periodically wipe them out, allowing the meadows to return. Across millennia, fire driven successions of this sort played out in cycles throughout California’s ecosystems.

Also for the last twenty million years or so, climate change has been the norm. To put this century’s warming into some sort of context, Giant Sequoias once grew on the shores of Mono Lake. For at least the past few centuries, forest ecosystems have been marching into higher latitudes because of gradual warming. In the Sierra Foothills, oaks have invaded pine habitat, and pine have in-turn invaded the higher elevation stands of fir. Today, it is mismanagement, not climate change, that is the primary threat to California’s forests. This can be corrected.

In a speech before the U.S. Congress last September, Republican Tom McClintock summarized the series of policy mistakes that are destroying California’s forests. McClintock’s sprawling 4th Congressional District covers 12,800 square miles, and encompasses most of the Northern Sierra Nevada mountain range. His constituency bears the brunt of the misguided green tyranny emanating from Washington DC and Sacramento. Here’s an excerpt from that speech:

“Excess timber comes out of the forest in only two ways – it […] Read More

Mismanaged Forests Burn, Newsom Blames “Climate Deniers”

What we quaintly refer to as “super fires” have incinerated nearly 5,000 square miles of California’s forests so far this year. In response, Governor Newsom has declared he has “no more patience for climate deniers.” But it isn’t climate change that caused these superfires. It was negligent forestry.

When it comes to facts that matter on the issue of our burning forests, perhaps Newsom is the one who is in denial. Because when Newsom denounces “climate deniers,” he denies the following far more pertinent facts about wildfires and climate:

The timber industry in California has been cut to a small fraction of what it was in 1990 in terms of employment and board feet of timber harvested. In 1990, 6.0 billion board feet were harvested from California’s forests, today the harvest rarely exceeds 1.5 billion board feet. Dense, overgrown forests result in unhealthy trees, because the increased number of trees are competing for the same amount of sunlight, water and soil nutrients. This is the reason so many of them cannot resist disease and infestations, not climate change. Year after year, millions of acre feet of snow and rain fall on these dense tree canopies and either evaporate immediately, or are sucked up by the overgrown, water stressed biomass as soon as they hit the ground. Far less water makes it into the aquifers and rivers as a result. The overgrown forests are not only packing up to ten times more fuel than what is historically normal, […] Read More

“Apocalypse Never” Takes Direct Aim at Consensus Climate Alarmism

An important new book by Michael Shellenberger, “Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All,” attempts to counter the common belief that climate change poses an imminent and existential threat to humanity and the planet. At 285 pages, this is a relatively short and very readable book, but it covers a lot of ground. And with an additional 125 pages containing over 1,000 footnotes, Shellenberger’s arguments are well documented.

The book should be required reading for politicians. It should also be required reading for Google CEO Sundar Pichai, Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, and the handful of other online communications titans who exercise almost total control over what what facts and opinions make their way into public discourse. Needless to say, this book also belongs in the hands of climate activist journalists, for whom a sixteen year old truant is an oracle with unassailable credibility, while contrarian scientists and economists are only targets for smear campaigns.

Needless to say, Shellenberger’s book has attracted furious rebuttals- this one in the Yale Climate Review is typical – but it is unlikely many of these critics read the book all the way through, or read it with an open mind. One of Shellenberger’s primary points is that while climate change is occurring, it is not the biggest global environmental threat, and that policies undertaken to “fight climate change” are causing some of the most harm to the environment. So-called “renewable energy” is a prime example of this.

To […] Read More

Mega Cities Require Mega Suburbs

Housing is unaffordable in California, and, increasingly, housing is becoming unaffordable in every other part of the United States where Democrats control state legislatures and city councils. And in the spirit of nonpartisanship, it is fair to say that when it comes to housing, far too many Republicans share the same agenda and goals as their supposed Democrat opponents.

The shame of these policies is not only the misery they impose on growing proportions of Americans, but the pessimism they represent. Read beyond the initial recitation of mundane obstacles to share a positive vision of the future. The economics of affordable housing do not have to be complicated. Awesome housing for everyone can be realized merely by changing the conventional wisdom.

Here are four policy choices that have turned millions of Americans into slaves to their home mortgages, and pushed additional millions into cheap rentals that cost them most of their paycheck.

1 – Punitively high fees for building permits. These exorbitant sums are necessary to pay for infrastructure such as connector roads and utility conduits that cities used to pay for out of their operating budgets. But out-of-control expansion of government combined with overmarket pay negotiated by government unions has changed all that. Now local governments have to charge developer fees that can easily exceed $100,000 per home.

2 – Laws that require “inclusive zoning,” whereby low income people are given subsidized homes and apartments in high-income neighborhoods. This pushes up the costs for housing that people have […] Read More

No, Antarctica is NOT “Rapidly Melting”

The BBC, which in September 2018 announced its decision to censor any reports by climate skeptics, continues to propagandize for climate alarmists. On March 12, BBC “Science Correspondent” Jonathan Amos published an alarming article entitled “Greenland and Antarctica ice loss accelerating.” According to Amos, “Earth’s great ice sheets, Greenland and Antarctica, are now losing mass six times faster than they were in the 1990s thanks to warming conditions.”

The BBC was not alone, of course. Generic journalist NPCs around the world ran with the story. The Guardian’s version came with a predictably terrifying subhead “Losses of ice from Greenland and Antarctica are tracking the worst-case climate scenario, scientists warn.” USA Today offered its version on March 16, with a story entitled “Greenland and Antarctica are now melting six times faster than in the 1990s, accelerating sea-level rise.”

The source of these dire statistics was a report in the journal Nature, published in late 2019 and released online on March 12. The key findings were summarized by NASA/JPL, and come down to certain quantitative assertions that invite skeptical analysis.

Perhaps the most alarming sounding statistic was the following, quoting from NASA/JPL:

“The two regions [Greenland and Antarctica] have lost 6.4 trillion tons of ice in three decades; unabated, this rate of melting could cause flooding that affects hundreds of millions of people by 2100.”

This sounds like a lot of ice. “6.4 trillion tons.” But it’s not. This equates to 6,400 billion […] Read More

Venice Beach Locked Down Except for Homeless Encampments

Apart from excursions to perform essential work or engage in essential activities, California’s 40 million residents have now been under house arrest for over a week. But in the homeless haven known as Venice Beach, the party hasn’t skipped a beat.

Law abiding residents have deserted the Los Angeles coast after a crackdown following a weekend of what mayor Eric Garcetti called people getting “too close together, too often,” Parking lots along the Los Angeles beaches are roped off. Along the boardwalk in Venice Beach, all the businesses are closed.

None of these new rules seem to apply to the homeless. Whatever minimal law enforcement still existed in Venice Beach prior to the COVID-19 outbreak has diminished further, and more tents than ever have appeared on the boardwalk and along the streets.

It’s important to recognize that some of California’s homeless are victims of circumstances beyond their control, who want to work, who have to care for young children, who stay sober, who obey the laws. But not sufficiently acknowledged by agenda driven politicians and compassionate care bureaucrats is the fact that most of these homeless find shelter.

The vast majority of homeless that remain unsheltered, especially in places like Venice Beach, are either drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill, or criminals. None of these people belong on the streets, not now, and not ever. There is not a homeless crisis or housing crisis in Venice Beach so much as a drug crisis, an alcoholism crisis, a mental health crisis, […] Read More

How Much Water Went Into Growing the Food We Eat?

The rains bypassed sunny California in January and February 2020, encouraging talk of another drought. California’s last drought was only declared over a year ago, after two wet winters in a row filled the states reservoirs. To cope with the last drought, instead of building more reservoirs and taking other measures to increase the supply of water, California’s policymakers imposed permanent rationing.

This predictable response ignores obvious solutions. Millions of acre feet of storm runoff can not only be stored in new reservoirs, but in underground aquifers with massive unused capacity. Additional millions of acre feet can be recovered by treating and reusing wastewater, and by joining the rest of the developed nations living in arid climates who have turned to large scale desalination.

All of this, however, would require a change in philosophy from one of micromanagement of demand to one that emphasizes increasing supply. To understand why a focus on increasing supply is vastly preferable to reducing demand, it helps to know just how much water California’s urban residents consume compared to other users.

As a matter of fact, the average California household purchases a relatively trivial amount of water from their utility, when compared to how much water they purchase in the form of the food they eat. For this reason, reducing residential water consumption will not make much of a difference when it comes to mitigating the effects of a prolonged drought.

To illustrate this point, it is necessary to determine just how much water […] Read More

Sustainable Megacities

Modern urban centers around the world now have neighborhoods that house well over 100,000 people per square mile. The Choa Chu Kang district in Singapore, defined by boulevards lined with 10 to 12 story mid-rise residential buildings, has a population density of more than 125,000 people per square mile. The entire borough of Manhattan has an average population density of more than 70,000 people per square mile, with far higher densities in areas of midtown and lower Manhattan.

According to a 2018 report released by the United Nations, today 55 percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas, a proportion that is estimated to increase to 68 percent by 2050. At the same time, the United Nations projects the global population to increase from 7.8 billion today to 9.7 billion by 2050. These projections lead to a surprising calculation: the absolute number of people living in rural areas is expected to decline, from 3.5 billion today to only 3.1 billion in 2050.

What should not be surprising by now is that people around the world, voluntarily and inexorably, are migrating from rural areas to cities. But the corollary effect is relatively unheralded; that around the world, open land is slowly depopulating. For the most part, this is happening absent government coercion. It flies in the face of the conventional wisdom—heard endlessly in the United States—that we are running out of open space. We aren’t.

If we have a sustainability challenge, it is not […] Read More

California’s Progressive War on Suburbia

For three years in a row, California’s progressive lawmakers have attempted to legislate higher density housing by taking away the ability of cities and counties to enforce local zoning laws. And for the third year in a row, the proposed law, Senate Bill 50, was narrowly defeated. But eventually, inevitably, something like SB 50 is going to passed into law.

In opposition were homeowners who understandably don’t want their single family home neighborhoods subjected to random demolitions in order to replace single family homes with construction subsidized fourplexes to be filled with rent subsidized tenants. These homeowners, and the local elected officials who represent them, were joined by “housing justice advocates” who claimed the law didn’t adequately address the gentrification effect, whereby higher density developments often displace existing residents to construct luxury condominiums that only the wealthy can afford.

There’s a lot going on here, and it seems that very little in the way of analysis can support a dogmatic ideological perspective. For example, from a property rights perspective, you can argue that people who purchase homes have a right to expect the zoning density of the neighborhood to be respected, since that’s what they relied on when they invested their life savings and lifetime earnings. But a property rights perspective might also have one argue that each individual home owner has the right to do whatever they wish with their property, even if that means demolishing the home to construct a multi-story apartment building. These unresolved and conflicting […] Read More