Monday, March 2, 2015

Astrobiology or Earth's Biology - which ?

If all of the dire News Reports on the Earth being in trouble ecologically are true, where have all the research funds & grants gone to correct this ? Take a look at the image below. It was everywhere in all the News a while back & people ate it up like candy.

Alien Seed ???
Typical World Headlines Lately
"UK Scientists: Aliens May Have Sent Space Seeds To Create Life On Earth"  
"Antifreeze on Titan Could Affect Its Chances for Life"

Of course I can go on and on and list countless headlines and papers over the last few years where these very  words "could" and "may" are used repeatedly in the astrobiology literature. But isn't biology by itself supposed to tell everyone the just what "does" happen or what "did" happen in the past ? Years ago as a kid in the 1960s and later 1970s, I was intrigued by the fantasy of the possibility of life on other worlds. Hollywood actually helped a whole lot with that fantasy, as they still do today. Of course I'm not exactly on speaking terms with Hollywood anymore. Today the world faces crisis after crisis which are very very real and foretell dire consequences if this world doesn't change them. Many of these problem reports are of of an ecological nature. But when it comes to astrobiology, supposedly these people know what it takes for life to exist right here on Earth, right ? That's why they got the job in the first place, right ? Then why can't regular biologists find real world solutions to reverse climate change & restore damaged ecosystems and wildlife habitats that go beyond mere token protection ? How about eliminating pollution caused by Industrial Science-Based agriculture ? Etc, Etc, Etc ? The fact is they don't know or we wouldn't be in the mess we are in at present. So how can anybody believe the almost weekly dosage of storytelling we are receiving in the News Reports on a daily basis on life on other imaginary earth-like worlds ? Of course I still think it would be kool, but mankind has more pressing priorities now down here. 

NASA image of Amazon
If they actually know how live works on other planets, then why aren't they down here helping correct this mess ? Well, NASA has shown us good productive viable results through meteorological satellites which have helped identify the important cloud formation mechanisms like the old growth trees and shrubs from rainforests and other ecosystems. This is imperative for helping the world to reverse climate change. But the fact is, while NASA does a number of great things to help us identify climate mechanisms like what creates cloud formation like this recent photo over the Amazon where clouds always form over healthy vegetation, the Astrobiology division appears to be nothing more than a fund raising distraction which deflects attention away from our miserable reality of life down here on Earth. And most folks like that. But the reality is, NASA needs to recall all astrobiologists back down here to earth to research and create real world viable solutions for the Earth's problems. Let me tell you what the real science was behind the equipment Astrobologists use for their diving of the stars. For me, the real science was done by the men and women scientists, engineers, mathematicians and others who created and designed the Hubble telescope, even though they later had to give it a contact lens for better universal eyesight. The real science were the scientists, mathematicians and engineers who designed and built the rocket ship which blasted from the Earth and released the Hubble Satellite in orbit above us. Where the science fails is when Astrobiologists make up stories about what they think is out there based on personal bias, presupposition and metaphysical gut feelings of how they wish things to be. Now as I've stated, I would love for there to be other places in the universe where untouched pristine life could be existing and waiting to be explored, but the fact that Scientists are incapable of fixing things down here on Earth leaves me extremely doubtful that these astrobiologists are even close to knowing what they are talking about. Had our planet been managed and maintained more responsibly based on accurate knowledge of how nature really works, I'd be much more willing to allow them more leniency for their published stories. Recently, the world lost one of the great actors who helped all of us escape the reality of the miserable world around us, even if it was momentary. This was actor Leonard Nimoy. Many of the basic myths of what could be out there as far as lifeforms were actually breathed life by episodes of this very television series. For example you will often here people talk about how real Silicon based lifeforms are possible somewhere out there. However, such a myth has "life" because of one or two key episodes of "Star Trek." Leonard Nimoy was an actor, and the other cast and crew were also just plain people on a movie set. None were scientists on an actual star ship which in of itself doesn't yet exist. But Leonard Nimoy also narrated some interesting science programs. I wish he had done more, he had a great voice for it making science interesting.

The fact is, there never really has been any bio (Greek for life) in the field of Astrobiology. The articles that come out in various journals are simply loaded with stories and myths inspired by fantasy. You know what you get when you take the 'bio' out of the word Astrobiology ? Astrology. Know what Astrology was to the ancient Babylonian civilization who invented it ? Divination. What these ancient priest did was simply gaze at the stars and divine the stars to tell out future fortunes and happenings not yet realized or discovered. Know what Carl Sagan had to say about Astrology ? Listen to this 9 minute video on just what he said about astrology, especially at the very beginning:

"There are two ways to view the Stars. The way they really are and as we might wish them to be"
You know, I really miss Carl Sagan. I may not have agreed with a few things he said, but he made Science far more interesting than those who have made claim to take his place. Today there are Science Gurus who want to trip you off into multi-universes land where reality is not what we know it to be here. Seriously people, do you really like that kind of distraction to take you away from finding real world solutions for correcting things down here on Earth ? At the end of last year 2014 a fantastic article came out about Climate Change which was far different from the other dumb boring political spitting contest ones by opposing sides of the issue that we generally read. It dealt with reality and viable options for solutions. I commented on it the first day it came out. I revisited it three days later to find out what others commented on and there were only 5 or 6 comments. At that same moment, there was another typical modern day asinine article whose subject matter was something like, "Honey Boo boo's Mama June has affair with Uncle Poodle who molested her Sister". Seriously ??? That article at the time had been out for only 4 hours and already had almost 2000 comments. Idiots! People like being distracted from reality and slipping off into fantasy. Now more than ever the words below have more meaning:
"And they took no note until . . . " 
Okay, you fill in the blanks! No references this time. just think about it!

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Squaw Tea (Ephedra californica) or maybe something else ?

Funny how some images can trigger totally unrelated information than what you were originally Google researching for

Face Palm
Finishing some work on one of my latest articles on the Canary Islands, in particular Tenerife, I was researching some of the names of plants I had photographed on a recent visit. I hit Google images for Plants of Tenerife and one image stood out which immediately brought up one common name for a high desert plant native to the region where I come from in Southern California. The infamous Squaw Tea. The plant I was familiar with grows abundantly in an area east of Terwilliger Road in the Anza area. The plant is Ephedra californica, but it is known by common historical common names as "Mormon Tea" and the other common name which immediately rushed through my brain, "Squaw Tea". Yes, Yes, I know, I know. We don't call it that anymore, but old common names and terms are hard to shake off. This particular Spanish Model was on a website with other girls in outdoor Canary Island nature settings. But the pattern of the shrub and the Native American styling of the girl just fit like a glove. Most foreigners reading here won't understand the comparison, but Southwesterners will put two and two together. I don't believe the common name with the Native American reference is encouraged these days, but never the less the old names are hard to shake. So I thought, why not, write a short piece on the plant. I'm not particularly partial to Mormon Tea either. Desert Tea appears to be another preferred name for Ephedra californica. But the similarities of structural patterns in foliage, branches and habitat are where it ends. The flowering time of year will yield radical differences. The southwest has a few varieties of Ephedra. In many desert locations both species (E. californica and Ephedra virides) exist together. I'll post the Green Mormon Tea plant in full bloom below and contrast it with Teide Broom when it is in full flower to illustrate some difference.

Teide Broom, Tenerife - (Spartocytisus supranbius)
The plant I was actually looking for when doing my Google search is native to the area of the volcanic caldera on Tenerife and it's listed as the Teide Broom (Spartocytisus supranubius) shrub. It thrives best on the dry xerophytic lava and scoria zone (2000-2500 meters above sea level). But it bares a striking resemblance to the southwestern desert Mormon Tea shrub of those high desert regions. The Ephedra californica that I am familiar with grows in the eastern reaches of Terwilliger Valley on down to Anza Borrego State Park. Throughout the world there are several species of Ephedra, which are related to the Ephedra sinica which is from the region of Mongolia, Russia and northerneastern desert regions of China. This plant is well known to Chinese medicine, but by a more familiar botanical herbal name called "Ma Huang". Here is how one reference describes it's usage and I'll post the reference under the Caution heading:
"A shrub, the stem of which contains ephedrine, which is a bronchodilator, diaphoretic, diuretic and vasoconstrictor; it is used to treat asthma, bronchitis, fever, fluid retention, hypotension, paraesthesias, to stimulate the central nervous system and to suppress the appetite."
This plant is responsible for providing the raw ingredient for the well known weight loss drug called ephedrine. In the USA, many of these drug potions which added Caffeine and other powerful stimulants for weight loss have been outlawed because they caused dangerous health conditions in some folks with heart trouble, high blood pressure, rapid breathing issues, etc. This is why many probably get a lot of Spam email advertising Ephedrine as an appetite suppressant. People want a quick fix pill to rapidly take care of a situation for which they have no patience in making lifestyle changes. While there is evidence of short term weight loss, there is really no evidence of any long term keeping the weight off. As far as the Tea from the Mormon Tea, for me it has a sort of mild Alfalfa taste to it and the potency is not near as strong as the Ma Huang drug manufactured for Chinese medicine. 
image Bert Wilson: Green Mormon Tea (Ephedra viridis)
image: Mundani Gardens - Teide Broom (Spartocytisus supranubius)
I think the Canary Islands are my new favourite Nature region. I have been here many times and it feels more and more with each visit more like Home to me than where I originally come from. There are so many interesting plants here and each time I want to know more and more about them. Technical and mechanism type stuff really. I always walk away with more questions than I came with. The chaparral environment is so familiar with where I come from, especially when so many plants here are so common in most California urban landscape. Anyway, tomorrow I have some fascinating information on Pinus canariensis, fire ecology and it's influence with the island's hydrology. Stay tuned.
Some interesting as well as important links

The Biogeography of California Jointfir (Ephedra californica)
Chris Clarke: "On the Dry Side" 
Some Caution

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Greece, Democracy & Humankind's failure at Self-Rule

"Greece is the birthplace of democracy, Western philosophy, the Olympic Games, Western literature and historiography, political science, major scientific and mathematical principles and Western drama including both tragedy and comedy. Greece is a democratic and developed country with an advanced high-income economy, a high quality of life and a very high standard of living."
(Source: Wikipedia)
Image: Idyllic Harbour Town of Symi, Greece
The above idyllic harbour scene above is what most foreign tourists may think of when they ponder making a trip to the Mediterranean country of Greece. Indeed, it is beautiful, laid back and a slower easy going paced life style. Well, sort of. Many northern Europeans love going on holiday to such hidden Mediterranean places for relaxation. I have many friends and family who love to go there on holiday. But it's anything but relaxed in Greece these days and it's been that way for a very long time now. 
National Socialism Movement in Greece calling for
the removal of all immigrants
Over the last couple of years you've no doubt heard of the financial crisis in Greece which came to a head back in 2012/2013 when finally the European Union agreed to bail out the Greek Banks and government. Greek unemployment as of October 2014 was around 25:80%. That has created much anger, resentment and protest in the streets of Athens against the failed leadership of the Greek government during this time. During the height of the anger and riots in Athens, my wife and I were watching the news on CNN Europe which was highlighting the strong resurgence in not only Greece, but all  Europe of these Nationalist Socialism movements and the usual backlash blame game against immigrants [both legal & illegal] who of course were said to be at fault for Greece's political and economic woes. We saw one popular very large Greek Politician who had a following of over 7,000 supporters in the streets giving the "Heil Hitler" salute after one of his speeches in which he emphatically demanded that all African and Middle East immigrants be sent back to their homelands. It was creepy. But not uncommon as many countries over here in Europe have this kind of political mentality going on and that is something I don't think the USA Media is reporting on over in the United States who are also dealing with their own immigration issues. Clearly when I go back home in the USA to visit, the European Socialistic model of democracy is still being touted as the poster child of everything wonderful about true democracy. [whatever that is] At least when I spoke of this when visiting over there the past couple of years, no one I spoke with had any clue this was happening in Europe. Even here in Sweden National Socialism has gained greater support. But there are also other Mediterranean countries in the news who also experience much of the same economic and political crisis as well. Italy, Spain and Portugal all have issues. Well, after the bail out by Germany, France and other E.U. members, things seemed to quiet down, but now there is talk once again of Greece leaving the European Union for good. So what really happened anyway ?

Europäischen Parlament
When I first came to Sweden, my wife told me about the reasons behind the formation of the European Union. She said there were numerous justifications for it's so-called necessary creation. The one that mostly stood out to her was when she visited her brother who married a girl from Spain. Her sister-in-law said that it was necessary that Europe unite and fight and compete against the United States. Basically it was mostly an economic one. But it effected all the Mediterranean countries in a very different unique way. Part of admittance or acceptance into the European Union is that countries applying for application must meet certain social welfare criteria towards it's citizens. Keep in mind now that this European Union with strong socialist government leanings was for the most part a strictly central and northern European creation. The belief is that government takes care of the disadvantaged and elderly. Nothing wrong with that. But traditionally, in most Mediterranean cultures, family always did this. Government responsibility was never considered and most governments there had never budgeted or structured their governments towards such heavy social welfare programs. Hence they would have to heavily invest to pay for such programs. They would have to grow a large consumer economy and charge higher taxes for such welfare entitlements. Although the E.U. is Socialist, it's also very Capitalistic. So the Mediterranean countries bought into the consumerism agenda of the E.U. program. Traditionally, most cultures in the Mediterranean were never previously obsessed with acquiring many consumer goods. They were contented with earning a simple living and taking care of family, not that they were perfect, but like everyone else they have their faults as well. But prior to the E.U., families for the most part were close to each other and content. They took care of one another well beyond their immediate family circle. This is something Northern and Central Europe hasn't experienced in decades. World War II took care of that by shattering many traditional family values and traditional ways of life. Frankly, they were stumbled by the war which is also why most are not very religious. Fact is, the churches are at fault for that. And know there are many who don't wish to hear that, but it's nevertheless the truth.

(Just Add Feta)
When I first came to Sweden in early 2006 almost 9 years ago, I was at my Bank at Nordea here in Gothenburg. The Bank teller at the window who waited on me was a girl from Greece. We spoke about her country and I asked why she came to Sweden to live when she already lived in such a beautiful country with far superior climate. She said it was because of work. She said unemployment was bad in Greece. [keep in mind, this was 2006, long before the crisis] She said it had been a mistake for Greece to enter into the European Union. She said as a result of Greece obtaining E.U. membership, most families were being torn apart, they were becoming distant because of the need to work more. Any country that entered the E.U. had an immediate inflation on prices for all goods and services. She said that before the E U, Greek families only had the Father going to work and the mother stayed home with the children. She said after the E.U. membership, the mother also had to go to work and that Fathers often had to have two jobs. She said when it came to Social Welfare programs that were required by the E.U., they had to be paid for and Greece had to borrow money to pay for such services demanded by the E.U. Before the E.U. families took care of their elderly. It was never considered the government's responsibility. The traditional family of most Mediterranean cultures has always been about extended families [Uncles, Aunties, Cousins, etc], much the way Africa, Asia and South & Central American countries still are in some places. Even small towns and villages looked out for one another. But the Bank Teller told me that much of the stable cultural structure which held families together was gone for the most part. She said that life was better before the E.U was brought on board. And yet, at the same time there appears to be a change now where younger people who went to Athens to become wealthy consumers are coming back to smaller communities or islands and taking up traditional work to get by and actually becoming successful and more happy about their newer simpler way of life. Some of that traditional family can still be found about Greeks countless island communities if you get away from the bigger cities. In fact, last year I watched an interesting documentary by reporter Philip Williams of ABC News Australia where he interviews a few Greeks who have gone back to a more traditional simpler lifestyle of generations past and are successful and happier for it.

"Greece - The Odyssey, Reporter: Philip Williams. We've seen and heard a great deal about the economic apocalypse thumping Greece. Violent protests, enormous pain, staggering job losses, lives destroyed. But that's not the complete picture. Meet the Greeks turning national disaster into personal triumph. They're not sitting around under the thunderheads of austerity waiting for the economy to turn and the sun to shine again. They're taking matters into their own hands."
(Source: ABC News Australia)

There were some great suggestions and experiences by those who came back that showed a resilience to a bad economic situation and how they were able to adapt. They admitted that the consumerism and lifestyle of the bigger cities brought stress and that the life promised and promoted by it's leadership was false and fake. They found eventual happiness in a simpler way of life when they moved back to their smaller villages where they grew up which brought less stress. Pity that most of the world doesn't believe in a simpler way of life. But there were also some great points to come away with from this documentary about what many of these Greeks had to say about their own culture's invention of a type of government called Democracy which is championed today worldwide  as mankind's savior and what they think of it now. For example, there was this one woman, Eleni Boubouli, who left her career and urban lifestyle and moved from the second largest Greek city of Thessaloniki to the countryside where she now has created an Herb business. 
The reporter, Philip Williams asked her, "I've talked to many Greeks who say, you know, first of all it's the politicians, it's their fault." 
Eleni Boubouli's response: "No, okay, but the politicians I think are people who we voted for. So if we people hadn't voted for them to do all this bad stuff that they did . . . some Greek people take responsibility and others don't, but we voted for them."
Christos Rozakis being scolded by
an elderly neighbour woman in his
hometown for not taking care of
business and having a child.
Another man that reporter Philip Williams interviewed was Christos Rozakis who also was one of those disappointed with politicians and the decisions they have made which forced him to close his sports car automotive shop and move back to the small town rural life. There was a funny cute scene where Christos was being scolded by an older woman inside his boyhood town who said he should be taking care of business by having a child. He explains that he does want a child, but cannot afford one. Next, the reporter Philip Williams interviews him at his small town carwash where he still works with and details cars. Christos admits that he is not opposed to any type of work. Washing Cars or shining shoes, he says just let me do it. Later Philips interviews Christos behind closed doors at his private home and as Philip says, the real raw emotions takes over. Christos explains that he comes from a people and culture who invented Democracy. But then he says that he is wishing that Greece could rather have some kind a dictator now instead of democracy. He of course blames the present politicians for Greece's problems and then with tears and more raw emotion he explains how Greeks are not a lazy people. They are strong honest hard working tax paying people who simply wish to make an honest living, but that they bought into the propaganda of the wealth consumerism utopia promised by E.U. membership. It may seem odd that he would say such a thing as wishing Greece had a dictatorship, but I do understand what he meant. In many ways, most of the world's historical dictators held absolute power like ruling Monarchs of the past. As bad as many dictatorships were and are, they do have one common outcome of their iron fist type of rulership, they keep a sense of order, even if  much of their personal warped ideology is twisted. In other words people tend to know where they stand with a dictator. A couple of examples. When the Yugoslavian dictator Tito died, the once varying cultures who lived along side each other as peaceful neighbours eventually had their country fall into chaos and anarchy over self-rule sovereignty rights. Same with Soviet Union and the present Arab Spring crisis which not only has failed, but situations have become far worse. Christos of course isn't looking for a psychopath type of dictator, but someone with good ideas who will stay in power keeping Greece stable and rejecting democratic elections as long as his ideas work. The main trouble is however, as time pants on to the end, this is impossible with any human ruler.

Today, Democracy is still hailed as mankind's only saviour. But often it has become a mask or cloak for something else. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, the justification for the Gulf War was said to be for democracy and not oil, except there never was any democracy ever in Kuwait as they always had a ruling monarch called an Emir. In fact, when Kuwait was finally liberated, the first order of business for their Emir was to replace the gold fixtures stolen by Iraqi soldiers from his bathroom toilet & shower while his subjects were left with a ruined infrastructure of public services like water, sewer, electricity, etc. You know how most ruling monarchies are ? But the funny thing about democracy is that it is supposed to be by people and for people. There are these so-called free elections and whatever party is elected, all sides have previously agreed to accept that outcome and obey the rule of law under that nation's constitution no matter which side is elected to be in charge. Except that things have never really worked that way and it's getting worse. Each side wants to blame someone else's side for the problems and woes. So it was interesting to watch that documentary on Greece and most of the people interviewed actually blaming themselves for putting failed leaders in power which brought on the miserable consequences they are all suffering now. Not many people who are driven by the democratic animal are prone to admitting such a thing. It's always the other side's fault. But there is a historical warning which shows that putting trust in human leadership has always had consequences as well as any supposed good. The warning is not hard to understand and most people [even non-religious] could agree with what is said in an ancient historical account. Oddly enough, it's the majority of the religious folks within Christendom who should be adhering to this advice, but they completely ignore it by heavily immersing themselves into this world's politics no matter what country they reside in.

The setting is in the original nation of Israel where the Jews are wanting a King over them just like all the other Nations around them. They are apparently restless and dissatisfied with the simple arrangement of judges within their cities and communities offering guidance, settling disputes and generally keeping the peace among the people. So they are not content with their own God being their King as was originally set up. It would seem in their mind such a system of governance and direction was primitive and unsophisticated. They wanted a more modern trendy type of rule with all the pomp, ceremony and bragging rights that goes with it. The Prophet Samuel was appalled and displeased at the demand of the people. He took it as a personal failure, but was told that the people had not rejected him, but rejected their own Hebrew God Jehovah as King. The Prophet Samuel was told to warn the people  of their collective community responsibility for insistence on having a King and the consequences they would experience under such a harsh ruling human king. Here is how one modern day, easier to understand contemporary translation "The Message Bible" renders the account:
1 Samuel 8:10-18
So Samuel told them, delivered God’s warning to the people who were asking him to give them a king. He said, “This is the way the kind of king you’re talking about operates. He’ll take your sons and make soldiers of them—chariotry, cavalry, infantry, regimented in battalions and squadrons. He’ll put some to forced labor on his farms, plowing and harvesting, and others to making either weapons of war or chariots in which he can ride in luxury. He’ll put your daughters to work as beauticians and waitresses and cooks. He’ll conscript your best fields, vineyards, and orchards and hand them over to his special friends. He’ll tax your harvests and vintage to support his extensive bureaucracy. Your prize workers and best animals he’ll take for his own use. He’ll lay a tax on your flocks and you’ll end up no better than slaves. The day will come when you will cry in desperation because of this king you so much want for yourselves. But don’t expect God to answer.”
The predictable response of the people to the warning was this:
But the people wouldn’t listen to Samuel. “No! they said. “We will have a king to rule us! Then we’ll be just like all the other nations. Our king will rule us and lead us and fight our battles."
So those Israelites wanted to be a great and mighty Nation. They wanted to establish national pride and economic prosperity in competition with surrounding nations. Where have we heard that before ? Whether humans call their leader King, Emperor, Dictator, Premier, Prime Minister or President, the citizens of all nations bear a measure of guilt when their leaders go wrong. How well did things go for the German people who gave majority consensus to the Führer of Nazi Germany who restored German pride and National economy ? Incredibly, even the Churches [who should have known better] supported and helped in establishing that failed government. Now, I understand folks don't like hearing that. They never have when I've brought it up before, but it's a matter of documented historical fact. 
Typical Facebook Blame Game
Today, my Facebook's timeline feed is littered with all manner of political posters of all ideological persuasion blaming the another side's politics for the economic, social and environmental woes that their various countries are experiencing. Nobody accepts personal collective responsibility for their participation in a failed political system. There are times it is so bad that I have to unfollow someone's postings. Under the definition of democracy people agree by their participation in such a system that they will accept whatever the political outcome results of any election. Unlike those Greek citizens interviewed by reporter Philip Williams who were very honest and open, admitting that the Greek woes were their own fault, these other people blame another side's leadership within that democracy for getting their country involved in a War or bringing the country down to economic ruin as a result of what they see as failed environmental policies. Hence, when you turn on the nightly News Reports, all you see is angry protest and raw hatred towards other fellow citizens. This same observation was made by Salman Rushdie. My wife and I saw him interviewed live on CNN Europe in 2013 where he stated this:
“We live in an age of identity politics in which people have been encouraged to define themselves by what makes them angry. You know, I mean, I would say that the more healthy definition of the self is to define it in terms of the things you value and care about and love, you know."   
"But now, we seem to be—or many of us—seem to be defining ourselves by what we hate. You know, and that rage, as you say, becomes a badge of identity—becomes a kind of selfhood." 
(Source: India Currents)

You know, Salman Rushie is absolutely correct. People's modern day beliefs and support of any cause is generally based on something they hate or what makes them angry. Rarely does anyone anymore champion something positive that they love. Of course there are exceptions, but when you watch the nightly global news reports, things really are moving more towards raw unbridled hatred. People of every side will point the finger blaming others with neither side admitting personal responsibility of guilt by association for their participation in a failed system. I think what many of the common people from both political sides often times really want is absolute dictatorial rule as long as it's their side in the position of absolute power, with democracy as a smokescreen. When the next election [any country] comes up, the participants will fall for the next round of Manifesto after manifesto, piles upon piles of empty promises and the usual political rhetoric that goes with these party atmosphere election festivities. They will dance and cheer Viva this or that politician and totally ignore any personal responsibility on their part to actually read the fine print before purchase. Those celebrity politicians will reach out towards their political life-support constituents with promises of change, even though that change is really nothing more than the same old political pendulum swinging back and forth. Participants will once again allow themselves to be suckered into that new call for change, maybe even get the rare privilege of touching or even posing for a picture with their beloved Secular Messiah and not once considering the consequences that will follow, because for just that one precious euphoric moment, all is well. This is not to say there are not good viable ideas and solutions out there. Things to do with environment, economy etc all do really exist, but they never seem to be implemented. Why ??? They just always seem to be at an arms length away and yet still out of reach. Sometimes it just feels like some evil extraterrestrial alien force may be out there pulling the leadership strings over our globe whether that leadership is political, religious or economic to keep things from reaching that happy conclusion. Maybe folks should be more like some of those Greeks, start questioning what they've been putting their trust and loyalty in for most of their life.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Coastal Sage Scrub & Chaparral Exhibit @ San Diego Safari Park

image mine: San Diego Safari Park Chaparral Nativescape Exhibit

I've visited here many times in the past and I've always known that the Sage Scrub exhibit was the least visited of all the Park themes. But this time was worse and I actually will fault those in charge. While they certainly way back at the beginning of creating & constructing the exhibit, it's apparently that not a lot of attention to design planning went into the idea. This isn't unique to San Diego Safari Park (former Wild Animal Park), I found some of the same identical gross errors at the Mission Trails Park, particularly near the old Padre Dam parking area. Take note of the photograph below of a native California Sycamore planted within an Oasis setting with California Fan Palms in the San Diego County native plants Chaparral/Sage Scrub exhibit. Can anyone tell me what's wrong here with this picture ???

image mine: San Diego Safari Park Chaparral
 exhibit @ Oasis setting 
Let me help you out. Below here are just three examples of Sycamores which have a characteristic Maple leaf shape:
Mexican Sycamore (Platanus mexicana)
American Sycamore (Platanus occidentalis)
London Plane (Platanus acerfolia)
At worst it's one of these above species of Sycamores with the characteristic Maple Leaf pattern or at best a cross breed with one of the above examples and one of the Southwestern native Sycamores listed below here:
California Sycamore (Platanus racemosa)
Arizona Sycamore (Platanus wrightii)

This is the same exact mistake blunder at the San Diego Mission Trails Regional Park near the Padre Dam Parking area when I visited there in June and along also the old winding Mission Gorge Rd in the Mission Gorge Canyon. I have also seen this same mistake in many of the common conventional retail Nurseries with a label  advertising California Sycamore when clearly it was one of the  eastern North American or European varieties. Now I could almost excuse a mistake of Arizona Sycamore being mislabeled as a California since both these Western Sycamores have a long fingered leaf design as opposed to the obvious maple leaf pattern, but there is no excuse for the other mistaken identity. The other thing is the east North American and European [maybe even Eurasian Sycamore] are a darker green instead of the lighter green of characteristic of the western. Also their leaf is thicker and smoother & has more of a gloss texture on the surface than the western.  I can forgive a rookie gardener or greenhorn landscaper for this type of mistake, but it's irresponsible of those caliber of people in charge of exhibits or displays at public locations where biologists and botanists are supposed to be in charge of oversight and nature education of the public. Even Landscape Company owners or supervisors and owners of Retail Nurseries should have a measure of responsibility for the glaring mistakes where I often see California Sycamore labels on what clearly is a London Plane or American Sycamore tree. At times I have stumbled upon a mistaken label and mentioned this to Nurserymen. but my experience has been that they don't exactly appreciate you pointing this out and dismiss the complaint as nonsense. Whatever !!! It should be noted however that at Native Plant Nurseries, I have never seen this since their reputation is at stake and they pretty much know their specific plant subjects. Another give away of incorrect tree identification is the tree's overall silhouette, shape and form. California Sycamores as well as Arizona have a more picturesque twisting shape or form and often can be multi-trunked with competing leaders, but of course as in anything, it's not always the rule. In the urban landscape where most of the non-natives with Maple-like leaves are found, they are generally a long single straight trunk tree with rounded ball-like crown or  conventional tree form that most people consider in the landscape. Even when young the differences are obvious. But back to the other problems I had with the chaparral display at the San Diego Safari Park. They unfortunately use an inappropriate exposed drip irrigation system on the ground's surface which is normally a horrible idea for native California plants anyway. The result is an  unsightly, in decline and rangy dead appearance of the shrubs on display for the public to view.

image mine: chaparral display with exposed improper irrigation
One of the main goals of any public landscape exhibit is to educate  and instill deeper appreciation of the subject being displayed. The Chaparral Plant Community in general gets bad press from an ignorant public relations land management service whose loyalties generally lay within groups with vested interests in money making ventures of various sorts. The rangy appearance and degradation of the Chaparral and other native plant area altogether has only reinforced these negative views of the native plant life of Southern California in my opinion. I have hit hard time and again how imperative deep pipe irrigation is to California Natives and an irrigation which should not be used all the time. The other factor which hurts many of these plants they have selected is it's southern slope exposure over a geologically shallow soil with massive granite bedrock below a few inches of soil in some places. One of the things they could have done in preparation prior to planting is something home builders  do in rural environments where soil percolation for septic lines needs vast improvement. They drill fairly deep holes in strategic locations within an area and place enough dynamite charge in each hole to simply fracture the ground down deep. Had this preparation been done here, the chaparral and other native tree roots would have had an easier time of penetrating more deeply through  the surface to subsoil layers. Water would also have a better chance at percolating down into deeper layers of the earth where native plants prefer it. Now here was another disappointment for me below.

Image Mine: Former Tecate Cypress display which contained at least half a dozen trees which are all now dead and removed.

This was sad. All Tecate Cypress with the exception of the small one to the right here are all dead and removed. There are still some Cuyamaca Cypress, but even some of them are gone and the ones that are left are unfortunately defoliating. Once again the culprit is poor maintenance and an inept irrigation system which had an "enabling effect" on the trees which probably grew to fast and out performed the root system which could not later support the needs of the larger trees. Despite the present California mega-drought, the power of an urban landscape garden is that it doesn't have to reflect how poorly things are doing in the wild. This doesn't mean they need to water during summer, but they could have supplemented the poor showing of winter rains by irrigating slowly and deeply during the cooler months of the season. Below here is an example of what is left from the Cuyamaca Cypress display in the garden which was always right next to the Tecate Cypress location along the service road.

Cuyamaca Cypress 

Unfortunately, this Cuyamaca Cypress above is also in dire straights as it sheds foliage to weather the drought period until the next winter season's rains offer some hopeful respite from the heat. But the main purpose and idea is that behind an educational display such as this nativescape should always reflect the beauty of a Chaparral and other native plant landscape which will draw the average person to appreciating such ecosystems more fully. After all, this is a replica not so much of the wild, but of an urban landscape where people have the power to control the climate settings. Heat is no obstacle to chaparral and other native plants as long as they have deep access to available subsoil moisture. In fact that was the very purpose of creating the Nativescape Gardens in the first place. As their own website states, their goal is to influence as many visitors as possible  to replicate this Nativescape Garden in their own urban landscape back home. This is what the website and page on Nativescape project actually says:
"The garden's 4 acres (1.6 hectares) show off Southern California's plant communities: chaparral, coastal sage scrub, cypress, desert transition, high desert, island, low desert, montane, palm oasis, and riparian. With names like Apache plume, California buckeye, and monkey flower, these intriguing but often overlooked plants show that there's considerable variety and splendor to California's native landscape. Once you've experienced these unique plants, you can help restore some of California's botanical heritage by including them in your own garden!"
San Diego Safari Park: Nativescapes Garden

One exceptionally bright spot in this garden was the health and vigor of the Parry Pinyon which once numbered in the 1000s up in and around Anza Valley where I lived for 20+ years. Unfortunately as I last informed readers on their condition and survival up there in Anza, they are in a major steep decline. Many Parry Pinyon skeletons are everywhere on the southeastern end of the Thomas Mountain range where they once dominated. But it's still nice to see this one could indeed inspired landscape designers in building a nativescape and using this tree as a choice addition. I've always considered the Parry Pinyon the most beautiful of all the Pinyons and yet under used as a potential landscape tree. The closest pinyon competitor which is also beautiful would be the darker green Pinus edulis which is native to New Mexico thru Arizona on into the Mojave Desert's backyard. But still, the Parry is so unique and probably has smallest concentrated locations more than many of the  Pinyons.

Parry Pinyon (Pinus quadrafolia)

There were of course some other bright spots like many of the Native Oaks which looked healthy and some Manzanitas which also looked to be in healthy peak condition, but could have done with a bit of trimming and sprucing up. There were also some other negatives like the California Holly, Lemonade Berry, Dudleya and other plants needing cages around them to prevent the local wild Mule deer population from eating the display. Well you can't blame them, like the opportunistic gopher, they just do what they do. Every living thing is desperate in California at the moment. Again, while I understand the need to show or illustrate the wildness of the chaparral and other native trees and plants, the idea is to impress and inspire the public to develop deep appreciate for a beautiful but misunderstood and often demonized plant community. The demonization has always been unfair and the motives behind the Critics [who generally have no expertise on the subject] have always been influenced by power and money. I admit that I've been a critic myself of the way things are done at the San Diego Safari Park in other areas before, but not because I dislike what they are attempting, which I believe goes well beyond entertainment and a mere profit making venture. But I'm just jealous for things to succeed and work out towards a positive outcome. But I do hold what clearly must be the cream of the crop highly educated ones whom the Park hired in the first place because of their specific education and expertise in certain areas who were hired and placed in positions of  responsibility and oversight, for making what I consider countless rookie greenhorn mistakes that one would find at a high school level. If it's a landscape workers or laborers issue, then educational programs should be mandated as a requirement for anyone hired for a specific area of maintenance. Deep appreciation has to be in the figurative heart of those assigned to care for such an area or the result is exactly as what exists now. In fact it should be a employment hiring qualification. Again, this is the area of that entire massive Safari Park which has always been the least visited. I have been there maybe 100s of times, often as a yearly member since 1972 and people will stop short of the Baja exhibit and turn right around and go back to Park Central because nothing inspires beyond that point. Below here is a website which offers Garden Tours and one of them was this past season's winter period when moisture how ever slight greened up the area a bit. It illustrates how beautiful the area could be. And using the wrong plants and labels ? go figure - rookie stuff

 Just so that everyone is aware, this region up on that hill is still my favourite area of the entire Safari or Wild animal Park whatever you want to call it. I'm a freak for native chaparral woodland environments and so again if I'm critical, it's because I want their entire program up there to succeed and not fail. Generally when I come with family I have to tolerate several hours of seeing all the bottomland exhibits with the birds and animals before climbing up the hill to where I wanted go in the first place. But at least in the end I get my way anyway. *smile*
Further Reading Educational References of Interest
Deep Irrigation Methods for Training Deeper Rooting networks 
California Native Plant Resources
Tree of Life Nursery: California Native Plants

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Should Firefighters be expected to save Homes which are located in fire trap geography and where the owner cared less about landscape hygiene ?

Image: NBC San Diego
The above photo was taken up in the Coronado Hills above San Marcos back in the middle of May 2014 when the Cocos Fire erupted during one of the earliest heat waves driven by abnormal unseasonal Santa Ana Winds. I actually watched this fire creep up to this place on the Live News from NBC's helicopter. In the beginning, there was only a small spot fire, but it was headed towards these dead Aleppo Pines which the owner didn't bother to chop down. These trees went up like giant Roman Candles and from the vantage point of the helicopter, you could see 1000s of embers breaking free from these dead dried Aleppo Pines which exploded high up into the air spreading spot fires on both sides of this house & beyond that is pictured there behind the fire. These trees actually made the fire worse and prolonged it's life at the risk to firefighters on the ground. From the live News feeds you could see there were firefighters up around the driveway next to the house at the top, which is not surprising since heroics is part of most firefighter's nature anyway. But fortunately their commanders who had a better vantage point to survey the conditions ordered them to get out of there quickly. Luckily the house at the top of the hill was spared, but not the one closest to those trees. It should also be noted that there are some situations where homes with vast amounts of acreage that have home owners who clearly could have cared less about their landscape's lack of hygiene or landscape neatness which deserve to be left to chance. So should anyone consider such  properties really worth any firefighter's life for the sake of saving  material possessions ? Personally I say no. There is a vast difference in putting one's life on the line for them personally or saving their possessions. Houses can be replaced, but a firefighter who is a father, mother, son, daughter, friend etc cannot be replaced. This wasn't the only poor example up in those hills either, but it's an outstanding example of what I mean. For example, I saw multiple disease infested Oleander hedge rows used as a privacy barrier to outsiders which were mostly brown and dead. This phenomena with Oleanders isn't new. The blight attacking them has been spreading for years in Southern California, even Cal Trans has removed many median hedge barriers. Take the example below which as it was a couple years ago. Today it is almost totally yellow/brown & dead.

Google Earth
This photo from Google Earth is at the end of my mother's street across from Pepper Drive School in El Cajon California. This is at the foot of Rattlesnake Mountain. I neglected to take a photo on the very day we came back to Sweden the first week of July 2014, but not only is this exact same hedge almost totally brown and dead, but foxtail grasses which have been mowed down in the above photo, are two foot high leading clear up to this same hedge which is now almost totally dead. Now this location is an easier defensive position, but many places with such flammable landscape components in many remote property areas are in more fire trap locations where homes should have been allowed to be built in the first place. Of course never underestimate the power of future tax revenues when permits are issued. Now take a fast look at another fire which burned down in Lakeside at the very same week as the Cocos & Carlsbad Fires.

Image by Billy Ortiz Lakeside California Old Hwy 80 & Aurora Drive
When my wife and I flew into Southern California, we came during a period of intense heat and Santa Ana winds which are more characteristic of Sept/Oct/Nov. San Marcos, Carlsbad, Rancho Bernardo and Camp Pendleton were raging with fires. But a much smaller fire exploded further down south in Lakeside near old Hwy 80 & Los Coches Road. Oddly enough, I wrote exactly about this very spot where numerous dead and dying Eucalyptus could be found everywhere and the potential for future wildfire catastrophe. Low and behold lookie how accurate that prophecy came true. I wrote about this exact location back on May 29th, 2013 of last year and the issues regarding Red Gum Lerp infested Eucalyptus which seem to be everywhere and nobody taking any notice or actions to remove them. This would also include the San Diego Safari Park in Escondido: 
It's the Lerp Psyllid's fault ? So ? And ? (Nature takes the hit again in blame game) 

Image: Billy Ortiz - Fire along old Hwy 80 & Aurora Drive May 2014
Here again above is the wildfire as photographed by Billy Ortiz of Lakeside/El Cajon. Below here I drove by and took photos of the wildfire's aftermath. Both sides of the Highway were burned which means embers easily made it to the other side no doubt helped by winds burning dead Eucalyptus branches and twigs which exploded when the fire torched them. The very tall dead eucalyptus seen in Billy Ortiz's photo no doubt facilitated the fire's spread when it exploded into the atmosphere and carried along by the unseasonal Santa Ana Winds at that time of year. Fortunately they got the fire out, but it could have been much worse.

Photo Mine

Highway Eight Business Route, olde 80 & Aurora Drive

Photo Mine

This is the east side of old Highway route 80

Photo Mine

These next two photos are of the west side of
Old Hwy Route 80

Photo Mime
Now Back to Coronado Hills & the Landscape
My Son and other family members of mine have a house up in those Coronado Hills on Cycad Drive which was very much in the News. In fact, their house specifically was the focus of attention on the News during this firestorm. They lost three sheds, a truck, their  gazebo, and the back eve's of the house were burnt. Below is a News 8 team's 4:00 minute video of the fire moving up the opposite side of the canyon where the camera vantage point was right on Coronado Hills drive on the west side. The fire moves right up through their backyard which is on the east side of this heavily vegetated Canyon. Oddly enough, they did have a considerable firebreak on the north and west sides, but the neighbour to the south had a huge forest of giant Bamboo, which by the way has sprung back to life.

 From the very start of the video above to the 30 second mark, you can actually see the Coulter Pine my Son and I planted over a decade ago and I've written about in the past. The Cocos Fire never really burned the tree, as we had a lot of clearance right down to the bare soil all around this tree. But it took everything else around that tree. The tree itself was scorched by the intense heat. Like the tree, the house was miraculously spared with only the interior window blinds being melted inside, along with some exterior roofing. If you look very closely at the photo below here of the branch end tips, they still have life in them and are green. This happened in the 1982 with many of the Jeffrey and Coulter pine in the Mountain Center Fire. Many trees which looked dead were merely experiencing needle scorch. They sprang back to life and today a younger forest which was helped along by chaparral that was left intact and not interfered with for doing it's job of Sapling encouragement. Notice the green interior of the pine bud above ? Now look below at the branch ends of the young scorched Coulter Pine.

Image Mine
Now take a close look at some other interesting feature plant components within their landscape. For example, most folks here know of or have at least seen Sea Fig which has naturalized down along the SoCal beach coastlines or commonly used along SoCal Freeways. We also call them iceplant and they seem like such a perfect fit in a wildfire prone area's landscape. You may need to rethink that.

Image Mine

The above photo is of what use to be the bank's Sea Fig Ice Plant which burned like anything else on the property. In fact the immediate garden or landscape was surrounded by massive amounts of this plant which skirted the entire canyon side of the landscape. While it has the appearance of being the prefect fire barrier for it's seeming water storage capacity, what most folks don't often realize about all ice plants is that they have a heavy dead thatch building up underneath their top green exterior. I cannot find the News video, but one News outlet was showing firefighters during mopping up operations on some properties which had smoking and smoldering ice plant which had heavy thatch underneath the seeming protective mass of green water storage plants. Nothing is a guarantee if weather conditions are right. He are some more shots of the Sea Fig below.
Photo Mine

Looking west from property across
the canyon at Coronado Hills Drive

Photo Mine
Take a close look at these next two photographs below here. Both are of two different locations in their front yard which wasn't at all a part of the direct hit frontal attack from the fire coming up the canyon, but there were spot fires from embers. This is where landscape tidiness is imperative, but not always a guarantee. It's just the way things are. Blowing sparks and embers can find their way anywhere.

Photo Mine
Both of these photos tell a story of fire defense spaces. The one above was where a Manzanita with the usual amount of natural dander [mulch] underneath it branches once stood. Now I like dander underneath my native landscape plants, that's the way things work in Nature, but fire will find these spots and ignite a fire, just so you know. The other one below has succulents which had their own version of dead older leaves and thatch underneath. The main reason you'd never take notice of such older dead material is because the overall top cover was always pretty and green to the eye. It mirrors the very same deceptive problems common with the Ice Plant banks. But where ever dead thatch is present, wind blown embers are sure to find. BTW the homeowners mentioned in the property above did have a well maintained clean landscape, but nothing is a guarantee when it comes to poor location.

Photo Mine
Below here now is another interesting example of a landscape tree in the same neighbourhood which looks to have been enveloped by the intense heat which turned the needles brown like the Coulter Pine in the backyard. You can tell that the fire never actually touched this tree, otherwise we wouldn't be viewing anything in the way of pine needles now. In actual fact I have been told that this tree is still alive and well, although it's tough to view it that way from this photo. Canary Island pines are tough and one of the few to sprout back from the truck and branches after going through a forest fire. But fire prone areas even on the Canary Island are what this tree is adapted well to. I love Canary Island Pines, in fact so much that I traveled to the Canary Islands to see them in their natural habitat to see and view just how they live. Incredibly as tough & drought resistant as they are, I don't think I'd recommend them for rural properties with wildfire hazard potential. The main reason is that of all pines I have ever dealt with, they are the most intense producers of Pine Straw thatch on the ground below themselves. Their pine straw also completely coats and smothers other shrubs underneath them which makes those plants more prone to catching fire.

Photo Mine
When I was landscape head gardener in San Diego, we had numerous Canary Island Pines around the pool and clubhouse area. It was an almost daily chore to deal with the massive amounts of needles that were shed almost every single day. Below gives you an idea of the overwhelming task of maintaining under these Canary Island Pine trees. And yet I admire them greatly. They are beautiful and tough survivors and if you don't mind the regular maintenance, then by all means utilize them in your landscape. But be forewarned of their fire encouraging potential if you don't clean up after them. 

David Lange, Santa Barbara California

Below here is my trip to the Canary Island of Tenerife. The photograph was taken inside the ancient super volcanic caldera which collapsed in on itself and formed this massive several miles across in diameter enclosed valley. A later pyramid shaped volcano developed and is actually to the right, but out of the picture below. What fascinated me is the almost absence of any other shrubs on the slopes with the exception of this tree in pure stands. The forest floor under these trees was heavily littered with Canary Island pine needles which was extremely dense and thick. They tend to cover up and soften the geological ruggedness of the fractured volcanic soil landscape which then better allows for rain to soak in and percolate. Very little run off here from what I observed with no riparian vegetation that I could ever see in most of the washes and canyons on the island. When I maintained the landscape at the Mobile Home Park in El Cajon which was one of the properties our company maintained, it was always a chore to clean up needles off of all the shrubs and even within the entire Chainlink fencing which surrounded the pool deck area. This alone should give clues as to the present danger of fire ignition possibilities when maintenance lacks around these trees. Again, I'm not against Canary Island Pines, but Just Say'in.

Photo Mine (Tenerife 2012)

image mine: 2014 SD Safari Park
My favourite Pine for the rural landscape would be a Torrey Pine over a Canary Island Pine. The reason is they don't have as dense a needles production and their heavier needle bundles will fall through Chaparral easier than the lighter longer Canary Island Pine needles which will float and land on top of the shrub. When they are young they will tend to be long and leggy as you see here in the photograph I took of a staked young Torrey Pine at the San Diego Safari Park near Escondido. In the wild it's the large Chaparral Scrub which not only provides and nurtures these trees with water and nutrients, but also provide them with the natural mechanical staking that we do otherwise in our urban landscapes artificially with wooden or steel posts and ties. From a moderate to light wildfire perspective, they could endure much better because they have a much cleaner smoother bark and trunk than many other pines and they'll merely shed their lower branches with any heat or smoke damage. The smoke and heat even further prunes them naturally into a more clean streamlined tall look far above the ground. I had an experience with this in the photograph below when I lived up in Anza California. Those are the first Torrey Pines I planted back in 1986.

Photo Mine

Torrey Pines - Anza California, Burnt Valley Road

When the four Torrey Pines were as tall as the one pictured in the Safari Park photo above, there was a rather large Hedgehog Cactus at the bottom of this back below where that was is now. There were foxtail grasses which were only 5 or 6 inches high, but they had grown into the cactus spines and it was a tedious stickery job to get them out. Thinking I had a clever idea [please do not try this stupid dumb stunt at home], I decided one late night after the neighbourhood was in bed, to strike a match and take care of the foxtails cleanly. Didn't happen. The long large spines of the cactus caught fire, created a rather large high flame which in turn created it's own powerful stiff breeze which swished the lower Torrey Pine branches back and forth till it finally died down. The next morning I came out and found the cactus a total loss and though the Torrey Pine branches didn't burn, they did turn brown. Eventually those lower branches never came back and actually died. I had to prune them. Not all chaparral fires burn up through the Scrub canopy. Many small fires if conditions are right will burn the undergrowth only. I saw this several times in Anza where the weather conditions with high humidity and little wind allowed lightning fires to only burn chaparral understory. Even still, maintenance is a must for fire protection and defensible space and everyone in the rural areas should get this. 
Further Update: Monday 25, August 2014
The headlines everywhere read, "Small Actions can Reduce Wildfire Risks" and along with it the latest favourite poster child photo of a house that escaped because of it's landscaping. Well, that's only partially correct. Wind direction and luck played a bigger role.

AP File Photo Taylor Bridge Fire

USA Today
Lately there has been a reemergence of a double before and after photograph [above] of a house on a hillside above Bettas Road near Cle Elum Washington during the Taylor Bridge Fire which doesn't exactly tell the whole. The upper photo shows a roaring fire about ready to pounce on a helpless looking house. The lower photo gives the impression that the clever smart landscaping of the homeowners is what saved the day. The lower photo shows a completely blackened area which that raging fire consumed all around the home. While the landscaping was fairly clean and neat, those pictures and the story told in the articles don't reveal or expose the truth of the matter. You see, all but one [USA Today] news journal left out another important photo which reveals the fire wasn't as bad as first photographed. It was burning down hill and against the wind direction. The photo at the above right here shows a completely subdued slow moving fire with no firetrucks or firemen saving the day. What saved this house was the weather conditions more than anything else. Believe it or not I actually wrote about this exact fire and the circumstances back in August 2012 and yet still the incomplete story still prevails today:
Modern Day Megafires: Understanding Some Basic Fundamentals for Survival

In summing up, there are a couple of things rural homeowners need to come to grips with here. First, if you choose a high profile view lot, then you have chosen a wildfire magnet which wants to drive uphill. That's the nature of what most all fires will do. It's called physics. Fires thrive on defying gravity. You should also chose a property that is not a fire trap. The photo to the right here is in San Diego County California and is located behind the Sheriff Sub-Station on San Felipe Road or S-2. It has an impossible access with no escape route. I asked my brother in nearby Ranchita about this lot and nobody seems to know what they owners has in mind here.  If the person chooses to build and  to live here, then they should  be prepared to accept the financial property loss consequences and do NOT expect firefighters to be heroes and save your dream home by quite possibly sacrificing their lives literally. Many will try and save it anyway, because that's in their nature to rescue people and their material possessions. But j just don't take advantage of this. Even on my property in Anza, I always knew being at the top of a knoll with a fantastic 180 degree view also brought inevitable consequences which I accepted. Also, you need to understand there is no such thing as fire resistant landscapes. Everything organic under the right conditions will burn. Some do have more volatile oils than others, but everything burns, even the cryptonite immune ice plant on steroids burns. In southern California I have always found the Natives do the best under the climate conditions that exist there. Many non-natives will stress and partially die at best without constant water availability. But mostly you will have to accept the inevitable when and where you choose to live. With climate change and urban environments, there is no guarantee as we have seen on the News.
Update August 25, 2014
Lincoln Bramwell, US Forest Service Historian: “Wilderburbs: Communities on Nature’s Edge”