Are California’s wildfires ‘a horror that no one could imagine?’ Why Scots and other North Europeans maybe shouldn’t be in California, South Australia, Southern Spain and other similar places.


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As wild-fires race across California, killing 40 and leaving 300 unaccounted for, Governor Jerry Brown said: ‘It’s a horror that no one could have imagined.’ but I know someone who could and did imagine this kind of thing decades ago yet has been ignored.


‘Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster’

Mike Davis, a self-educated, Marxist, former abattoir worker and driver wrote ‘Ecology of Fear: Los Angeles and the Imagination of Disaster’ in 1998.  In it he said there are two kinds of climates – ‘high frequency/low intensity’ and ‘low frequency/high intensity’ and that it matters a lot which you live in or move to.

Scots and Northern, even some Central and Southern Europeans, have lived in a ‘high frequency/low intensity’ climate for centuries, where it’s never the same from one day to the next but, also, it’s never very extreme. At worst we get a few storms and localised floods. Few die. Some parts of the world, especially, California, Florida and the Caribbean, Southern Spain and South Australia have ‘low frequency/high intensity climates where it’s calm, warm and dry for days, weeks, months, sometimes years but where, rarely but devastatingly, they get tornadoes, hurricanes, flash floods because the ground surface is too hard to drain and wild-fires because the vegetation is so dry. They also, not surprisingly suffer water shortages, droughts, even desertification. See this map for growing desertification in Europe:



Notice South-East England?

These latter regions had small, knowledgeable, nomadic populations surviving quite well before the mass arrival of Europeans in the 19th and 20th centuries, drawn by the ‘low frequency’ part of the climate but used to the ‘low intensity’ climates where they and their immediate ancestors originated. They have no cultural memory of the intense events and when these come, they seem extreme and abnormal but they are actually normal just very infrequent.

Now in the 21st Century, these high intensity events seem to be increasing due to climate change and I wonder, when do the populations in these areas decide enough is enough and want to move back to somewhere admittedly boring but safer? When this happens, does Scotland become more appealing than it current population could imagine.

Footnote: Mike Davis also wrote Victorian Holocausts which is a disturbing reminder of one of the the many horrors of the British Empire, unknown to most Brits yet absent from our school curricula. A young German referred me to this book and pointed out that he had been obliged to visit the death camps to make sure he knew what his people had been capable of. He knew, of course, that our children visit the same death camps to learn how horrible Germans had been but never learn of the millions dead in colonial India or, indeed, of the massacres by British troops across the globe.



30 thoughts on “Are California’s wildfires ‘a horror that no one could imagine?’ Why Scots and other North Europeans maybe shouldn’t be in California, South Australia, Southern Spain and other similar places.

  1. Alasdair Macdonald October 15, 2017 / 3:20 pm

    A couple of examples which appear to uphold the thesis being presented – the dustbowl in the American midwest following several years of intensive industrial agriculture, and the notorious ‘groundnut scheme’ in East Africa set up under Mr Attlee’s Government. There are huge numbers of others on major and minor scales, such as the flooding in Perth several years ago caused by consent to build houses upstream on the floodplain of the Tay.

    In ‘Blade Runner 2049’ the ‘most radioactive place on earth’ is Las Vegas. The very name is a sick joke: Las Vegas – the meadows, where due to intensive engineering a small area of desert has been made different, but requires continuous maintenance and the massive production of electricity to keep nature at bay. It becomes literally unsustainable.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. johnrobertson834 October 15, 2017 / 4:56 pm

    Jings Alasdair, you know lots of stuff and all of it very interesting to folk like me. Did you like Blader Runner 2049?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Alasdair Macdonald. October 15, 2017 / 9:07 pm

    I really liked Blade Runner 2049. I am in a film group which discusses films and there was quite a variation in the opinions, although generally, most scored it highly, but often for quite different reasons. SciFi is an acquired taste. The co-owner of all my worldly goods has not acquired such a taste. The men in the film group, with one exception were pretty favourable, but the distaff side, though generally scoring it highly, were more reserved in their approval, which gave us guys plenty of opportunity to show off and explain.

    Most men are great collectors and retailers of facts and generally useless information. I inherited all this factoidal geekiness from my feyther.

    Liked by 1 person

      • Alasdair Macdonald October 16, 2017 / 8:23 am

        The self-indulgence argument was one which was deployed in our group. The Harrison Ford ‘saving the film’ trope was mainly deployed by the women members of the group! The point-heidit sci-fi geeks were disdainful of this view, feeling it was motivated by desire and lust!

        Liked by 2 people

    • Clydebuilt October 16, 2017 / 8:14 am

      Apparently it was made in mid Lanarkshire. Guaranteed rain and grimness. Think they missed a trick omitting the Orange fellas.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Alasdair Macdonald October 16, 2017 / 8:26 am

        It showed mid-Lanarkshire from the early 18th century up to the 1980s until all the mines, steel works and other industry was closed. The Clyde and the Clyde Valley was one of the cradles of the Industrial Revolution. America is only catching up by 2049.

        Liked by 1 person

      • johnrobertson834 October 16, 2017 / 8:55 am

        Making a wee Origami of his horse? The pneumatic one he rode at the Battle of the Boing Boing Boing?

        Liked by 1 person

      • Alasdair Macdonald October 16, 2017 / 2:52 pm

        You’ve gone too far conflating SciFi, Industrial History and sectarianism in Scotland.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Clydebuilt October 16, 2017 / 9:29 pm

        Ha ha . . . Ultra Dystopian

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Clydebuilt October 16, 2017 / 8:56 am

    High Frequency / low intensity . . . Is that the same as never ending rain. Some time back I posted about farmers in West Coast Scotland not being able to get their silage in. Since then if anything the rain has increased. I personally know one farmer who is going to have to sell some beasts to pay for winter feed.
    And I’m sure he’s not alone. He managed to buy the left overs of last year’s silage from a farmer who had managed to get in this year’s. Later on the seller told him he had had 10 calls from farmers in the same position within an hour.
    I’ve noticed that farms growing arable crops have got them in. So drawing the conclusion that arable crops are grown on ground that can take sustain a higher rainfall and still carry machinery.

    As we’re being told that global warming will lead to wetter summers in Scotland then some farms will become uneconomical.

    There’s a good analysis of the BBC’s propaganda on Sunday over at.
    Trying to undermine the SNP’s upturn in the polls

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clydebuilt October 16, 2017 / 9:26 am

      Just because the roof hasn’t been blown off your house doesn’t mean our weather hasn’t caused others problems

      Liked by 1 person

    • johnrobertson834 October 16, 2017 / 1:30 pm

      High Frequency / low intensity . . . Is that the same as never ending rain? No, pay attention CB – frequency? We get lovely days all more so when the rain has made the air crystal clear and fresh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Clydebuilt October 16, 2017 / 9:34 pm

        Geeze oh! . . . Crystal clear and fresh . . . Sounds good! . .
        Plenty of fresh air tonight

        Liked by 2 people

  5. johnrobertson834 October 16, 2017 / 8:58 am

    Am I losing my pointed heid? Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy at 12, Huge Vonnegut fan in 20s. Loved BR 2017. Haven’t read or really enjoyed any SF for abt 15 years. Tried China Mieville recently, gave up. Reading Robert Harris these days. In readiness for death?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Clydebuilt October 16, 2017 / 9:29 am

      What about home grown SF. . . Iain M Banks

      Liked by 1 person

      • John Gordon October 16, 2017 / 11:47 am

        Iain M Banks, definitely. The Culture series is great. Brilliantly imaginative, witty, and races along. Thoroughly recommended.

        Liked by 1 person

      • johnrobertson834 October 16, 2017 / 1:32 pm

        Tried. I’m clearly just reaching maturation at 66 and too grown up for that stuff 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    • gavin October 16, 2017 / 1:12 pm

      Anything by the great Iain M Banks.
      A random few…………..A fire upon the deep….Revelation Space….Dune…..The last Legends of Earth……Children of Time. I tend to go for years without Sci Fi, then find one I like.

      If you prefer dystopian fiction, read anything by David Torrance. Anything at all.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Clydebuilt October 16, 2017 / 9:41 pm

        Ahem . . . . Torrents of . . . . Drivel dressed up as wisdom! It can’t be easy coming up with all that rubbish. I’m not convinced Torrents really believes his stuff.

        Liked by 2 people

  6. Ludo Thierry October 16, 2017 / 5:54 pm

    And like a Torrance rush

    Rebellious Scots to crush

    God save his queen

    Thanks, Ludo

    Liked by 1 person

    • gavin October 16, 2017 / 6:17 pm

      Thanks, Ludo. A wee cheery moment to help see us through the storm and orange gloaming.

      Liked by 2 people

  7. Alan Gordon October 17, 2017 / 9:08 pm

    Hello all. This thread is now possibly dead but thought I would like to add tuppence worth, might be of interest to Clydebuilt and Alasdair MacDonald.

    Part of my background is farming and soils. I realised years a go that the virgin soils of the great plains USA were built up to incredible fertility by thousands of years of roaming buffalo, a ruminant. It took the white europeans about 80 years or so to bring the plains to blow away soils. It took the same people a little longer to deplete the cod stocks on the Grand Banks. By which time the industrial and commerce base of America was well under way.

    Each emerging nation has needed plenty of food to flourish, the Romans, the Egyptians. They gave thanks to the provider, the Nike, Demiter.

    I have yet to hear, America wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for Cod fish and Buffalo shit.


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