California Burning

Flames from the Valley Fire cover a hillside along Highway 29 in Lower Lake, California on September 13, 2015. Image by Jeff Head. Public Domain

There are a whole lot of things stressing me out these days. One of the big ones is the reality of Global Climate change and the changing landscapes across the world. Today in the Los Angeles area, temperatures reached 121F. 1 This was the highest temperature ever recorded in Los Angeles county. 2 At the same time, fires are ravaging California, causing dangerous air quality in some of the most populated areas of the state. 

One of the reasons this is happening is because we haven't been living in partnership with the Land for a very long time. The indigenous people of California know how to live in partnership with the Land, but they have been stopped from taking care of the Land for over two hundred years now. They know that controlled burns are an important part of taking care of the lands of the West Coast of what we now call the United States of America, however starting with Spanish conquest the burns were banned because the Europeans feared fire and didn't understand its purpose in the care taking of the bounty that they found when they arrived on these shores. 

I found a really wonderful PBS show called Tending the Wild that has an episode about cultural burns. It's short at just around 15 minutes, and there is so much more to know, but as California continues to suffer from environmental degradation, it's an opening to conversation about the need for the renewal of traditional relationships with the Land. 

You can watch the show here on the KCET website.

Of course, there's a lot more to facing climate change and environmental degradation than just returning to the cultural knowledge about controlled fires. We desperately need to shift culture so that people recognize that we are not the only sentience around here, and that we humans have an important role to play in the give and take within the community of beings on the Earth. Most people reading that last sentence probably just tuned out, or thought, "Geez, what a hippy!" but we can't deny that the arrogant approach of land management that sees everything as a resource and doesn't take indigenous knowledge into consideration has not worked out well for us.