Double Jeopardy

You have to wonder about the practical nature of human beings. We keep building our homes and town in places where nature has proven to be a superior adversary. I don’t know how many times I have heard flood or storm victims vow to rebuild their homes in the same places, right in the place where storm surges or raging waters have been destroying structures for generations, and sometimes centuries.

It is happening again today in Southern California, where the fires are burning their way through areas that have been burned or threatened before, in many cases several times. Southern California was a desert, of course, before people decided it would be prime living territory and began to infuse it with imported water. Trees and brush grew, pretty much out of control. But the natural rains were still sparse, and the dry wind still blew. So, every year, some part of it burns.

People have somehow gotten the idea that we completely control our environment just because we can heat and cool the air inside our buildings. The fact of the matter is that the world is a lot bigger than we are, and that we cannot alter the natural state of affairs without paying for it. If the planet decides that it is going to quake, spew lava and ash, flood our shorelines, or burn our homes there is precious little that we can do about it.

It is the same story all over again in New Orleans. It is a city beneath the level of the surrounding water, protected by dikes that rushing water sweeps aside like toys whenever it chooses to. Even as I write this, people are rebuilding New Orleans in the exact same location, totally ignoring the obvious and not even considering the 15-foot rise in sea levels predicted by global warming experts. In forty years, the newly raised dikes will be several feet under sea level, and New Orleans will likely be several more.

You would think we would eventually learn, but we don’t. We wait for the water to subside, or the fire to stop, or the ground to stop shaking, and rebuild on the same foundations. Not only do people do that, but insurance companies managed by people continue to insure the new homes that rise from the old disaster, waiting only for the next disaster. People just insist on fighting nature.

My money is on the planet.

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