A culture of complacency?

Four American Special Operations soldiers who died in an ambush in Niger were reported to have died as a consequence of improper planning, training, and taking unnecessary risks – a “culture of complacency”.  Summarizing details in a classified Pentagon report, military officials found  “low-level commanders, eager to make their mark against local militants in Niger, “took liberties to get operations approved through the chain of command,”  ” according to the Wall Street Journal article today.

In the collisions between U.S. Navy warships and civilian freighters in 2017, the Navy found the same consequences of complacency,  not following procedures, and overconfidence.  In recent articles describing mishaps in Air Force and Marine Corps aviation,  both cite decisions regarding decreased training hours for pilots, as well as decreased material support and funding resulted in increased mechanical failures and pilot error,  particularly in the last several years.

For years, much of the attention paid to combat-action, training or mission-related casualties has focused on politics, funding (budget), and defense contractors, but less has been paid to warfighter training and culture.  In the last twenty years both the warfighters themselves and the military services have “adapted” by the social norms of the day.  Competitiveness, rigorous thinking, physical prowess, and unity of singular national identity ( e.g. American, not  hyphen American,  or French, not Algerian-French) has been debased internationally in favor of equality, fairness, tolerance, and individualism. Regardless of sexual orientation, gender, or spiritual concerns,  a warrior culture has to be obsessive and unyielding about unity, training, respect for and obedience to authority, to mission and to nation.   A warrior commander has to be  pragmatic about readiness, mission planning, and risk.   While there is always some acceptance of risk in any effort, there is no room for overconfidence, personal ambition, or politics in military operations.

However, with human beings comes human weakness.  From the American ambassador during the Barbary Wars (at the beginning of the Nineteenth Century) who diverted support from the U.S. naval commanders  interdicting pirates because he was not consulted, to the battlefront commanders who did not receive accurate enemy strength numbers when advancing on Tora Bora during the initial Afghanistan campaigns (with some fault from communication issues), character, training and planning shortcomings have resulted in unintended casualties.  While it is true that military forces, particularly among the NATO alliance, have become better trained, better equipped and more unified, particularly in communications (Blue on Blue, or “friendly fire” incidents declined), veterans, families of currently-serving members, and the public need to press our civilian leaders to make the necessary changes from the ground up. Better leaders make better institutions.  Better institutions makes better people. Better people make better warriors.  Better warriors make better decisions.

 

fiddling around

Sometimes you get assistance and support from your elected representative.  Sometimes you get a letter where they have miss the point the constituent was making entirely.

Thank you for your letter regarding your concerns about unsolicited calls and the enforcement of the Do Not Call Registry rules.  I appreciate hearing from you, and I welcome the opportunity to respond.

I understand that you have registered your number with the National Do Not Call Registry, but that you have continued to receive telemarketing calls with disguised identities and phone numbers.  In your letter, you expressed your support for stronger penalties against companies that violate the Registry rules. …”

I actually studied Political Science at the university ages ago, as I had some fantasy about going into government service.   But that was before most colleges became a breeding ground of Orwellian thought control.    These days I think back to the movie and musical, Fiddler on the Roof.   Living  as best one can apart from the Government bureaucracy.

Tevye: And in the circle of our little village, We’ve always had our special types. For instance, Yente the matchmaker, Reb Nachum the beggar… And most important of all, our beloved Rabbi.

Leibesh: Rabbi! May I ask you a question?

Rabbi: Certainly, Lebisch!

Leibesh: Is there a proper blessing… for the Tsar?

Rabbi: A blessing for the Tsar? Of course! May God bless and keep the Tsar… far away from us!

I actually reached out to Senator Feinstein to demand that the perpetrators of cell phone abuse: spammers, hackers (who masquerade as someone in your contact list — or when you receive a call from your own number! – and malcontents be the focus of more intensive prosecution and penalties.  I acted after my son received a call at his work number claiming that his mother had been injured in a traffic accident.  It was b.s.

So all my friends and family who truly believe that the proper political party leading the country will make the roads efficient, the cell phones free from telemarketers, and the social media free of Russian meddling have great faith.   Me,  I will continue to be

Tevye: A fiddler on the roof. Sounds crazy, no? But here, in our little village of Anatevka, you might say every one of us is a fiddler on the roof trying to scratch out a pleasant, simple tune without breaking his neck. It isn’t easy. You may ask ‘Why do we stay up there if it’s so dangerous?’ Well, we stay because Anatevka is our home. And how do we keep our balance? That I can tell you in one word: tradition!

 

Please be assured that I will keep your concerns in mind should the “Help Americans Never Get Unwanted Phone Calls (HANGUP) Act” come before me for consideration in the Senate.

 

Dust

Stephen Hawking, theoretical physicist, died this week.

Lots of people are voicing condolence.   Maybe people know of him due to the 2014 movie , Theory of Everything, that many who don’t understand his grand theories know his name.  A very intelligent being nonetheless, and one of the most celebrated brains who had ALS (also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease).  (As an aside, I thought Eddie Redmayne portrayed Hawking in stunning fashion in that movie.)  Not having read any of Hawking’s work, I nevertheless learned a bit about him.

He went to the grave an atheist.   Yet his religion was ‘science’, which for all the debate from atheists about facts versus myths,  is still human observation of the universe and its interplay on physical objects. With every passing decade, a “fact” gets refined, or refuted, or re-interpreted.  A deduced certainty – weather, tides, or planetary body is still victim to an “uncertainty principle”.   Of course, we have launched satellites and people into space, but these have finite parameters.  We cannot create an organism from a vacuum.  Science still cannot define origins.  It cannot define why – in our own solar system – life evolved to the scale it did from gas and dust.  It does not explain the origin of the gas and dust.  And science does not explain human thoughts.

Stephen Hawking for all his contribution to science wanted to determine a grand unifying theory for the universe.  It eluded him.

Some atheists who really examine evidence and limit their biased presupposing, have admitted that they just don’t know.  Those who believe what that grand unifying theory is,  and have empirical evidence – also from human experience and perspective – in their lives, will continue onward.  I do not pretend to know why some very intelligent scientists  and scholars do not embrace belief in God,  while other’s look at the same evidence and hold an awe for a Master Engineer at the center of everything.

Hawking may now return to dust from which he formed.   Sagan may be “star stuff”.  And it all may be a futile cycle of randomness that anything exists at all.    But what if Eternity is … a corollary of the Grand Unifying Theory?  And all that scientific dust….

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honorable service

The current President of the United States pardoned a sailor this week who had been convicted and sent to prison for violating regulations protecting national security. , He took pictures of his submarine’s propulsion compartment which is a classified area.   Without knowing the particulars, it seemed to the President that the punishment of imprisonment and a discharge,  in light of other government employees who also had taken an oath to support and defend the Constitution and nation, was  – in this current climate – oppressive.  In the last several decades, access to classified information and equipment  was granted to personnel specific to their position and job; it required thorough training, a thorough personal investigation, and continued exemplary conduct.  Individuals in the military who deviated from this lost their access, were subject to punishment, and in extreme cases, based on a courts martial, sentenced to prison.

Perhaps the President was taking issue with the previous Administration’s handling of cases in this regard.  As we all are aware there was a former candidate for President who had a non-government server with classified information (hacked?),  lied about it, and influenced those charged with investigating this breach of national security.    A member of the military who intentionally broke the law by transferring secret information to Wikileaks was imprisoned, but also was given ‘transgender’ treatment,  had his (her) sentence commuted and was released.  An earlier contractor employee, Edward Snowden,  who transferred classified information and fled to Russia, is still lauded by those who have questionable “honor”.

In 2014,  both the then-President of the United States and his National Security Advisor declared a soldier returned from Taliban custody, served with “honor”.  Bowe Bergdahl, was later convicted by courts martial for desertion, by walking away from his unit in Afghanistan willingly.  He was given a dishonorable discharge.  In these prior cases, the climate that was established by those critical of the United States and set about ‘radically transforming” the culture and laws, rewriting history,  only served to embolden adversaries and weaken American respect in the world.

From the bruhaha over the prior Administration’s FBI dossiers and NSA surveillance of  private citizens (then-candidate Trump’s staff),  backroom deals with cash for Iranian mullahs, to the still-implausible blame game for the murder of an ambassador and security staff  in Libya after Gaddafi’s overthrow, the term “honor” is not very apparent.   Career service members of the United States armed forces understand it.

If we as Americans can respect each other, resolve our differences through the ballot box and offer a hand up, it can change.    No human being has risen above the temptations of power, greed, lust, or other “sins”, but what is corrupting this generation is the added ambivalence to what served this nation’s unity for two centuries – family, a common language, common ideals, and a positive view of the future.

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So what does “serving with honor” mean in 2018?   Those of us who have served honorably know what it means.   If you perform your job to the best of your ability.  take care of those in your unit,  treat people with respect,  understand and follow authority,  practice self-control, and represent the best of an American (speaking to Americans) , a person can say they “served with honor”.  Those who have the added spiritual values, understand that theirs is a higher commitment but the same understanding of honor.   We have raised our families to know what it means.  Not everyone who has served  or continues today to serve the nation, in the armed forces, law enforcement, fire and rescue services, or in the spiritual “front lines” has the same understanding, when it comes to politics, economics, or community,  but those values that we trained to in the uniform of the United States still have meaning: Honor, Courage, and Commitment.

to boldly go

Space: the Final Frontier.  These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations.To boldly go where no man has gone before!  – Star Trek

Watching the first episode of season One of a Sci-Fi drama last night, The Expanse, on my smart TV (via the internet),  I  was enjoying how this first episode piqued my interest.   Stories of  an unconventional cop,  political intrigue –  the 23rd Century is apparently just as full of plots, terrorists, and manipulation as the 21st is;  interplanetary social unrest, and human drama in space.  These are all elements of shows I’ve watched for decades.  It must continue to be well-acted and well-written as I find it is beginning its third season.

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image courtesy SyFy Channel

Perhaps it is the era I grew up in.   Star Trek (the original series),  NASA moon landings, Space Shuttles and the Voyager satellites that left earth in the 1970s are now (2018)  in interstellar space.  The future held great promise, but the vast expanse of space seems beyond the reach of humanity.  The solar system  and non-warp technology is much more credible.  What was the stuff of science fiction- tiny personal communication devices,  automated  purchases,  computer surveillance systems,  self-driving vehicles and electromechanical replacement body parts are reality or in development.   With Elon Musk’s plan, people living on other planets in our system are a soon-to-be reality,  or not too fantastic for the near future.   The future predicted by television shows and movies in the latter half of the Twentieth Century, was often visited by alien races that wanted to eat us (Alien franchise) or obliterate us ( Independence Day).

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image courtesy Wikipedia

The Day the Earth Stood Still in the 1950s, Star Trek, Close Encounters of the Third Kind and ET were the rare exception.  In the 1960s, 2001: A  Space Odyssey was another where people were the beneficiaries of an alien encounter,  but the technology predicted forty years ago for the year 2000 in the story and movie is not far-fetched for 2018. In the 1970s,  Silent Running, remains one of my favorites, if it was very heavy with environmentalist commentary ( the last plants on Earth were propelled into space on greenhouse spaceships tended by men who really didn’t want to be there.) The Terminator was a future of artificial intelligence that wanted and kept trying over several sequels and a TV series, to wipe out humans. And many Sci-Fi movies over the years were set in a post-nuclear war ravaged Earth.  Totalitarian societies controlled the future.  Or the Earth was polluted,  or frozen, or flooded,  or a barren desert.  While a worldwide epidemic that renders apes (or more likely, cockroaches) inheriting the earth, is also sci-fi,  I prefer thinking more down-to-earth.

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Image courtesy nasa.gov

 

 

culturally irrelevant?

it’s the kiss of death for a celebrity that is long past her or his prime: being ignored, or worse,  being mocked.

Madonna,   now 59-year old,  is that embarrassing icon of 80s music that lost her relevance twenty years ago, but refused to go quietly into producing other artists or cultivating wine on a French estate, etc.   She tried to drum up support for Hillary Clinton’s Presidential bid.  She was quoted saying some incredibly stupid, sexually explicit things.  She has been mocked for at least three years by radio stations in the U.K.  and their music awards.   Do the Millennials even know who she was?  And apparently this week she put herself out on Twitter in a bid that she may regret more than being forgotten, being mercilessly mocked.  

Nicholas Cage.   I generally watched his movies for the co-stars’ performances.  Even the cars were more watchable.

Mel Gibson.  Memorable movies. Memorable characters.  And then …. in person, a drunk,  a bigot,  given to tirades, abuse …..

Lindsay Lohan.  Mostly a celebrity for being such a human trainwreck.

For musicians ever since the music video fame is measured in months it seems.  A casual search on the internet revealed a whole lot of “irrelevant” performers who apparently rose and then flamed out in the last five or ten years.  Rita Ora is one according to one critic.  I never heard of any of them.

And of course, my “fan fave”,  William Hung, the rejected American Idol of 2004 who became an internet sensation for his lack of singing talent.  But he’s a successful motivational speaker now

Cuban Missile Crisis

As a veteran and retired Navy Senior Chief, wearing a t-shirt celebrating Navy Chiefs is a point of pride, even in San Diego with a large population of veterans, Active Duty and families with members of the military in them.

While shopping at a Lowes Saturday afternoon,  a gentleman thanked me for my service and we chatted as two veterans are likely to do.   Gene’s service as a Comms Officer at SECOND Fleet, the commander of all afloat naval forces in the Western Atlantic and Caribbean, occurred at the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

That was almost fifty-six years ago.  In six decades, millions of American (and a number of foreign-born) men and women have served or continue to serve in the armed forces.  Travel, learning self-discipline, gaining a better perspective on many topics,  and useful work-related skills.  Many took advantage of the college benefits to become very skilled professionals in everything from agriculture to zoology.

And yet for many who have served in combat, in combat zones, or even when injured in training or other military-related periods,  there has been sixty years of failure to live up to promises by the Government.  Mental illness, drug addiction, homelessness, and incarceration plague veterans who have served honorably but became only statistics.  And with every election cycle, promised of change may cause a stir, but then either never are completely realized, or get the budget axe.

I am one of the fortunate.  I have a good post-military career.  I have a support system that is independent of the government. And I have good memories of camaraderie, as well as some challenging memories of the bureaucratic foul ups and health issues from military service.   With a population that increasingly is self-interested, emotionally-fragile, rigidly opinionated, and in many cases unprincipled,  the graying veterans like me may spent more time reminiscing at a Lowes, or a Target, or in the park.   You cannot really ever hide the walk, the bearing, or the “USA!” branded clothes and pro-veteran opinions.

On the Cuban Missile Crisis, this is one article for further reading

 

death and taxes

Work day ends.  Time to figure out how much of my earnings are going to Uncle Sam.  I’ve started to work on our family’s taxes for 2017 and the first pass has me scratching my head.   We owe more that we already had withheld over 26 pay periods in federal taxes?    My wife took a pay cut from prior years,  was furloughed the last week of the year, and we did not strike oil in the backyard when I planted a tree, so what happened?  
 

Continue reading

an Ulchi by any other name

“Saretsky, Eric W. CTMC (UFL N39 COPS3)” <xxxxx> wrote:
It’s 6 AM in El Cajon and I’m hoping that you’ve been able to sleep. I know how hard it is for you when you are in the middle of problem-resolution (baby-sitting) teachers and students!
I’ll be here all night, so I am just sending you lots of virtual hugs to comfort you!
Love you,
me

My wife found and shared with me old email we exchanged over ten years ago when I was on a Navy Reserve assignment to COMSEVENTHFLT AOR.   It was my second visit to  Yokosuka, Japan.  Seven years earlier, in 1998 or 1999, I had been on Active Duty, aboard the USS CORONADO,  when it visited Japan and Korea.   That previous time,  I had only just begun dating my future wife, and our exchanges by email were very slow and tedious.  This,  from a ship that was “state of the art” in most things electronic.  In 2006 I had been a Reservist nearly six years, married five years and when I received orders to the SEVENTH Fleet for ULCHI FOCUS LENS,  it was my first time in seven years that I was again on sea duty.  And email was quite a bit more advanced in comparison.

My assignment aboard the USS BLUE RIDGE during UFL was interesting work, simulating tactical intelligence options, “PsyOps”( (psychological efforts to dissuade North Koreans from participating in the event of hostilities) and so forth.  Other teams had different scenarios to develop.   One of the things I learned, working with a joint unit of intelligence professionals ( Reservists who were also civilian experts in the fields they supported in uniform),  is that some battlefield commanders, i.e. the Active Duty Army general heading up this exercise, are “warhead on forehead” types and not given to deep consideration of other forms of military conduct.  I had previously seen that in a prior year working with an Air Force team who were reluctant to employ a new technology- because it was new, and not part of their manual (printed before the technology was in development).

Were I to do it again,  I would again prefer to be a Navy Chief Petty Officer aboard ship.  There is truth in Rank Has Its Privileges.  While a Reserve Commander from my unit was also on this same Exercise,  he had neither the camaraderie, nor the access to good chow that came with being a Chief in the BLUE RIDGE CPO Mess.  It’s a tradition that all Navy Chiefs past and present are one, and all Navy units’ CPO Mess are one Mess

  new Chief Petty Officers initiated into the BLUE RIDGE CPO Mess (Sept 2006)

One other thing that seems to remain constant over the years since I last donned a uniform, is the fondness for change – in uniform styles, acronyms and Joint Exercise names.   When I was reminiscing about ULCHI FOCUS LENS,  online I found that this Joint exercise was subsequently changed to ULCHI FREEDOM GUARDIAN.   In the decade that this has been in use,  I presume the Pentagon is probably searching for a new name.  “ULCHI FREEDOM MAGA”?  Anyone?  It undoubtedly will be huge.

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article:  U.S. Army STAND-TO! | Ulchi Freedom Guardian

Falling star

It is a stressful time to be a General Officer in the United States Armed Forces.  An Army Major General,  Ryan Gonsalves, was on the short list to get his third star,  or promotion to Brigadier General, when he abruptly inserted combat boot in mouth.  An article asserts he made some colorfully blunt and condescending assessment of a Congressional delegation and particularly offended a female staffer.   He should not have been so colorful.  Perhaps he could have watched “A Few Good Men” for insight in how not to be condescending.

One gentlemen I know summed it up well.  For millennia, men have used power to obtain sex; however, in the same time, women have used sex to obtain power.  At the extremes we have seen abuses. Effective warriors in history, such as Alexander, Charlemagne, Ulysses S. Grant and Omar Bradley were effective leading people and changing the course of history.   However, I would think that a general in the second decade of the Second Millennium would have some acumen.  For the last two hundred years, the United States military has had civilians making policy, authorizing budgets, and setting priorities for national defense.   Many times this has been contrary to the advise of the seasoned warriors who know that adversaries and potential adversaries respect the threat or the actual implementation of force.

Yet a parent’s advice to a child aggrieved about many things should still be a fundamental truth. Apparently, the wisdom of picking one’s battles carefully was not heeded by this general.  Perhaps he reflects the current Commander-In-Chief in that regard.  And unfortunately it seems, this general officer has learned that indeed, the “pen (to strike his name from consideration) IS mightier than the sword”.

 

should an atheist put up Christmas lights and other questions

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Google Maps gave me driving directions around the worst of my evening commute tonight that inspired this blog post.  While I have made prior references to driving through San Diego at rush hour,  it is pointless to meander along that sordid topic – it is only going to get worse and not better.  However,  I can use the time to make some observations about some of my fellow Southern Californians.

Driving through an obviously middle class neighborhood in suburban San Diego this late afternoon, two weeks prior to the Christmas holiday,  I was intrigued that no more than perhaps one in forty homes displayed Christmas decorations or lights of any kind.  This was not a section of the city that appeared bound by any homeowners association prohibition,  nor a singularly Muslim area or commune of Ascetic monks,   It was a single-family style,  $600, 000-average price neighborhood (for California, a little more than the median price for 2017.)

christmas-lights-san-diego-vuvfwufpI am not denigrating anyone for NOT displaying Christmas decorations, and I in no way attribute Santa Claus,  decorated trees,  inflatable Minion or Harley-riding Santa Claus to the Birth of Jesus.   But I find it very “unusual”.   For a nation that spends a lot on holiday cheer regardless of their spiritual aspirations,  (a retail survey calculated that Americans spent $3.2 Billion on decorations, lights, trees and so forth in 2015) I found it unusual.  In neighborhoods that become a festive attraction for the surrounding communities, band saws in garages start going in September, and decorations start being put up on the Black Friday shopping day.   I thought I would look up the relationship between decorations and personality.  One article  was particularly interesting in perceptions.   An experiment was conducted on observers perceptions using pictures of groups of more socially-engaged neighbors, not socially-engaged (keep-to-themselves sort), each with decorated and not-decorated homes.  People who were generally unable to distinguish between social traits for decorated homes, could generally determine the level of social interaction  of people with non-decorated homes.  People can tell what you are like by the stuff in your environment.   20171209_202207.jpg

Next post,  I may discuss why some late-middle-age men like to tootle around town in a fire-engine red, convertible Porsche Carrera, and why some young people driving Civics, or BMW 3-series, or a 3-cylinder Prius, feel the need to be the most ignorant drivers on the road.

climate elementary (school)

the debate

Many people, myself included, refused for a couple decades to acknowledge that people could really affect the weather.   My religious beliefs hold that God is in control of all things, yet God did put Adam as steward of the planet.  Whatever your belief,  in my lifetime, I have witnessed barely breathable polluted air over Southern California,  rainy years, drought years, colder and milder winters,  hotter and milder summers.  Hurricanes.  Tornados.  Floods.  Climate change is the topic that every schoolboy in the industrialized countries of the world has had stamped into their consciences in recent decades.   Everyone from politicians in California to European “Green” parties demand humanity stop using resources that are “proven” to destabilize our climate and pollute the planet.  For the last twenty years, politicians debate and people divide into camps.  But does anyone really know a solution?

“something must be done”

pelosiThere have, as yet, been no realistic nor popular solutions proposed nor any process enacted.  One nation refuses to hinder their industrialization by employing technologies they cannot yet afford to mitigate pollution.  Other nations have no solid infrastructure to enact regulation.  In the First World, taxation is the first response to climate change, but hinders any real discussion or experiments at solutions that are not “lobbyist”-championed projects. (Several of these have all-but-embezzled millions of tax dollars.)  For those of us who work many miles from our homes,  lack of public transportation to get there is at odds with the government actions to dissuade personal vehicle use.  (Population in most cities outside California is many factors more dense so personal vehicles are less efficient than mass transit.)

climate impacts humans

Geologically, human existence has been a blip on the clock.  It is still unclear whether volcanism, sun spot activity, and tectonic forces are responsible for the oscillations in weather over millions of years.  Weather changes created Ice Ages and in-between glacial periods caused sea level change. Drought, lasting decades and even centuries,  put pressure on feeding ancient populations  and caused ancient civilizations to decline.

hohokam-canals_hohokam1-courtesy-arizona-historical-societyTwo in the Americas,  Hohokam and Anasazi civilizations were very advanced, yet may have faded – centuries before European visitors – due to extended periods of drought.

A volcanic eruption of Santorini in the Mediterranean was a primary factor the successful Minoan civilization faded around 1500 BCE.  From the Bible and other texts, years of record crops followed by drought and famine in the Middle East occurred.   Yet history teaches us that human beings in sufficient numbers can alter the environment as well. The millennia that Middle Eastern, Egyptian, Roman and Greek people cut the “cedars of Lebanon” for ship timbers and structures has all but eliminated them.  copper-t1.

In northern Michigan 7000 years ago ancient ancient people mined copper; tailings and debris left behind tell the stories before 19th Century mining began there.  But the growth of the world population and the demand for resources have caused more debilitating changes in many aspects on the planet.    In more recent times,  denser populations along the coasts – the heavy industrialization using coal, oil and natural gas for energy first in the Americas and Europe, then Asia and Africa have had unrestrained and inefficient (heavily polluting) consequences.  After several decades, each region in turn developed a conscience about limiting “acid rain” and early deaths from lung diseases and cancers.  Before  government management in the Americas, clear-cutting forests and mining were damaging what we later preserved through government intervention.  This is still rampant in Brazil and the Amazon Basin.

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Amazon deforestation  

Strip mining that ruins the land and the chemicals used to extract metal poison groundwater in many developing economies.  Of course, the topic that give California Jerry Brown the largest headache,  is burning hydrocarbon fuels for energy,- releasing billions of tons of chemicals that were deposited over millions of years within the last  century or two.

 

 

it’s elemental

Fire

Less than two months ago, the Sonoma region of California became an inferno.

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Ventura, Los Angeles county, December 2017

This week, another tragic environmental calamity is occurring not only a couple of hours north of me in northern Los Angeles but forty miles north of my home, the Lilac fire,  in the hills at the edge of San Diego County.  Wind-propelled wildfires have consumed the lives, property, and dreams of hundreds of residents,  displaced thousands more. and killed dozens of stabled horses in the last days.  Ten years ago, my third of the county was being turned to charcoal by wildfire.  Coordinated effort of thousands of firefighters, military and civilians have managed to keep human casualties few while battling the environment.

Perhaps the Government and the governed can put down their acrimony long enough to work through “defensible space” in residential areas.  Tangible efforts such as clearing wider swaths of highways near open country might prevent vehicle-caused brush fires.  Remove diseased and non-native species of trees and plants, many of which are very flammable, by dedicated planned cutting and clearing.  Allow natural clearing through regular controlled burning.

Earth

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Mexico 2017

Living at the tectonic boundaries of continents, Asia-Pacific and western North, Central and Latin American residents, earthquakes, and the infrequent volcanic eruption destroy  property, kill people living in un-reinforced structures, and wreak havoc. The residents of central Asia suffer a major quake every dozen years of so. A decade or more ago, a major earthquake severely damaged eastern Japan, and one previously induced tsunamis from Thailand to India. Volcanic eruptions occur over a geologic timescale, so it is often ignored by people from Indonesia, to Naples, Italy, to some Caribbean island residents who live on their slopes.

For those who live at tectonic boundaries, nations can provide technical expertise with construction, but it will be up to the affected nations to employ these methods and materials.  While many nations do not have infrastructure, others have corrupt or ineffective leadership in their economies.

Water

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aftermath of Maria, Puerto Rico

Hurricanes or cyclones or typhoons, and tornadoes are either more damaging now – or are more reported in the twenty-four hour news cycle.  El Nino or La Nina cyclic ocean heating or cooling contribute to heavy growth of fuel for fires in wet years in the western US, then in dry years contribute to tinder-dry fire conditions;   hot winds blowing toward the Caribbean from western Africa mix to become tropical depressions and then storms that churn into the Caribbean,  the Gulf of Mexico or Eastern seaboard. For this hemisphere, it is a roulette wheel every June through September where storms will make landfall.   Hurricanes in 2017 have ruined large swaths of the Caribbean,  and flooded southeastern Texas.  For other hemispheres, cyclones or typhoons  have often killed many and displaced thousands in the Philippines, and coastal Indian Ocean countries.

Nature has a way of mitigating hurricanes through dense miles of mangrove swamps;  humans building in flood-prone regions, building over land that would absorb or deflect flooding has had devastating effects.  Home owners who have properties along the beaches where hurricanes have come ashore frequently make a choice to live there, yet the debris that piles up and down the coastline is environmentally damaging and take a long time to remove.  With storms such as that which struck New York in winter, or Houston, or Puerto Rico and the eastern Caribbean this year, there may be more frequent and stronger storms in future years.   Sea walls, restored wetland, stronger levees, stockpiled supplies and more durable materials are some of the things that people can demand.

Wind

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Texas, (courtesy CNN)

From westerly ” Santa Ana” winds out of the deserts of California that dry out vegetation in the forests and hills every Fall (and sometimes Spring through Fall), to the tornadoes that develop in the Central and Eastern United States when cold air masses clash with the warm moist air from the Gulf of Mexico,  to hurricanes,  wind is a major force to be reckoned with.  As part of the whole climate debate, people want to use wind to generate power yet curse it when it accelerates fires, lift roofs off schools, blow down trees or sink ships at sea.  As a natural force, wind is not going to be stopped by human will.  However, more intelligent design for buildings may mitigate storm damage.

I am so exhausted listening to everyone blame climate change for the problems in the world.  It is not the weather “why” I care about.   It’s how the world population – as a whole – intends to alter in meaningful ways the slide to more unstable and unpredicable  future.   As long as there is President Obama-style unilateral initiatives  or Congressional “legislation”  or California bureaucratic fiats without real adoption in the new industrializing regions of the world – there is no leadership.    However social media page “Likes”, group-think, hysteria and the resulting inaction is a poor gift for future generations.