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Ashes, Ashes, All Fall Down: #ClimateCrisis, #MariaFire, #ClimateStrike, #RAWWineLA, and #Poetry too

November 1, 2019


Ashes, Ashes,
All Fall Down!

I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis.
I want you to act as if our house is on fire.  
Greta Thunberg
Because our house is on fire– literally as well as metaphorically.
Last night neighbors in the next town over lost their homes, ashes cover my front porch, and as I write this, I look out my window to the east where the sun glows orange as a pumpkin and an ominous cloud of smoke looms on the horizon. Only a few hours before the fire started I was notified that I was no longer at risk of having my power shut off.
I’m not the only one who awakes regularly to this scene. Literally over half of Californians live in an area threatened by wildfire, and California’s recent deliberate, outrageous, and harmful blackouts cost $1.8-2.6 BILLION, reports David Roberts at Vox. And they’re going to happen again and again with more lives lost.

There is so much we need to do– it can be hard to know where to start.

Twenty-five years ago people could be excused for not knowing much, or doing much, about climate change. Today we have no excuse. –  Desmond Tutu

As California burns as a result of a combination of climate change and poor policies, and with a fast moving fire currently less than 15 miles from my house up on South Mountain above Santa Paula near the winery where I have been interning, this weekend offers up glimmers of hope. (Photos from Halloween night about 10pm; taken by my son as I drove him to a sleepover ).


What gives me hope?

People who care enough to do something — to call attention to the problem, to share knowledge about the problem, to seek solutions and to take action. Among other gatherings of activists and progressives around the world, locally there’s a Youth Climate Strike at City Hall in LA with the European instigator 16 year old Greta Thunberg,  a poetry reading and art show about the climate crisis at Art City in Ventura that I’m participating in, and two days of RAW Wine in Los Angeles that I will be attending.

Keep reading for details on these local events this weekend, but first some thoughts about fire and the climate crisis– two issues which critically linked and particularly important to the 50% of Californians, like me, who live in fire ravaged and fire threatened regions.

I’ve been hearing friends say what PG&E and Edison needs to do is underground the lines — one way to “harden” them so they are less likely to contribute to the rampant wildfires primarily caused by climate change.

But no one wants to pay $15k to do so– something that would require everyone in the state to contribute to because “According to PG&E, the cost of converting an overhead distribution line to an underground line is about $3 million a mile, more in dense urban areas. It’s between $1 and $3 million a mile to build them new, depending on the circumstances.”

That 15k per customer is just the “distribution lines. Burying high-voltage transmission lines that travel hundreds of miles through forests and over mountains would be a financial (and environmental) nightmare,” writes David Roberts at Vox.

In addition to hardening the lines, ways to mitigate the fire danger are land-use reform including changing zoning and building codes, repairing and restructuring PG&E and other state utilities, and creating microgrids.

In a microgrid, during a PSPS event or blackout, consumers can island off using solar power: “The core problem with California’s electricity system is that its millions of customers are overwhelmingly dependent on power generated by large, remote power plants and carried over long distances on overhead power lines, often through hilly, mountainous, and/or forested territory becoming dryer and more fire-prone by the year,” writes David Roberts at Vox. “If the state continues with the current model, a growing population will mean more power plants, more power lines, more vulnerability to wildfires, and more PSPS events. The system is too vast and sprawling to entirely prevent that, no matter how well trees are trimmed. Over half of wildfires aren’t even caused by electrical infrastructure, but 100 percent of wildfires can burn it.”

From  the article linked to in the tweet above: “What California communities need is a partner in planning their distribution systems around their varying goals: resilience, clean energy, integration of EVs, smart land use, and so on. Right now, they have no such partner, because their power utilities are not structured to play that role.”

Fortunately, all new homes in CA will be built with solar beginning in 2020 — and wouldn’t you rather spend 15k on getting solar panels for your house than burying lines?

What can we do? In addition to going solar and creating an island so we can live off grid, one way is to continue to put pressure on politicians– and the Climate Strike started by Greta Thunberg has gone a long way to calling politicians and people’s attention to the problem of climate change.

Today, Friday Nov. 1, Greta Thunberg is in Los Angeles at City Hall to lead a local Climate Strike from noon-3pm.

In addition to Greta at 2pm, youth climate leaders discussed how California is one of the largest oil-producing states in the country and that there are very few cities on earth with so many active oil wells so close to where people live, work and play. Here in Ventura County, I grew up among the oil wells. In LA,
1.580,000 Angelos live less than a quarter of a mile from an oil well
2. There are more than 3,000 active oil and gas wells in Los Angeles County.
3. 100 million pounds of toxic chemicals were used between 2013 and 2017

Climate Strikers today demanded “Governor Newsom and California’s elected leadership act immediately to roll out a 2,500-foot health and safety buffer, stop all new fossil fuel project permits, and drop existing oil production through a just and equitable transition!”

This event is being organized by Youth Climate Strike LA in partnership with over 30 organizations. Livestream is being sponsored by Good Money, Avaaz, and Center for Biological Diversity.



Saturday, November 2 – All Fall Down, a climate crisis reading
Art City Gallery – 197 Dubbers – Ventura, CA
Hosts: Marsha de la O and Phil Taggart
Poets reading are as part of the Ventura Artists Union exhibit,  It’s Like, Fall.: Christopher Buckley, Jeanette Clough, Jennifer Kelley, Ron Alexander, Holaday Mason, Gudrun Bortman, Gregory Franklin HuyetteEllen Reich, Sherman Pearl, Amber Bassett, Mary Kay Rummel, Geoffrey JacquesJacqueline Tchakalian, Ken Jones, Conor Logan, Sara Ellen Fowler, Elizabeth KuelbsEmily Vizzo, Jordan Laband, Fred Odum, Susan Florence, Zachary Asher Marcy Wingard, Tressa Berman, Judith Barnes, Ann Buxie, Geoffrey JacquesAnita McLaughlin, Gwendolyn Alley
I will be reading a poem I wrote last year that was part of two Thomas Teaches performances and that will be included in Psalms of Cinder and Soot, an anthology coming out this week with a reading on Saturday at the Ventura County Museum.Here’s a link to a poem of mine called Ashes that was inspired by a previous rain of soot.
Thanks to Phil for the quotes included above and below in this article 
You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you.
What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.
Jane Goodall
What we eat and drink makes a huge difference. As Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard has discussed extensively, we must practice regenerative agriculture if we want to preserve our planet.
That’s where biodynamic wine comes in — it is a form of regenerative agriculture.
According to the facebook event page, RAW WINE is the world’s leading natural, low-intervention organic and biodynamic wine fair since 2012 and it comes to LA on November 3rd and November 4th: Master of Wine Isabelle Legeron’s two-day showcase of some of the best wine talent in the world leads “the charge for transparency, providing clarity to consumers and driving the conversation to know what’s in your glass. The fair will bring together producers, chefs, sommeliers and drinkers to showcase what natural wine is all about, aiming to help new growers target new markets and existing wineries reach the still developing natural wine scene.”
From the RAW WINE website:

RAW WINE is a celebration of some of the best wine talent in the world. They produce natural, organic and biodynamic wines, all with few if any additives in the cellar. They are pure, kind to the planet, very possibly better for your health and best of all absolutely delicious.

During my trip to France as a member of the US Wine Tasting Team, I met with one of the RAW WINE participants, Clos des Quarterons – Amirault’ s Xavier Amirault and he drove us around the vineyards, into the cellar’s caves, and to meet the chickens:
His enthusiasm about the soils and the land is infectious — and the wines are DELICIOUS. In France they are amazingly affordable, but they are comparable in the US to other biodynamic wines. His wines are available at Winehouse LA.
The event starts at 10am and goes until 6pm. In addition to tasting wine from 110 producers, each day offers three seminars.
Tickets are $110 for both days or $70 per day.  RAW WINE Los Angeles is being held the Fashion District of downtown L.A. at City Market Social House (1145 South San Pedro Street, Los Angeles, CA 90015).Visitor Information
How to get to the venue
Opening Times
Read more about RAW WINE
The Earth is a fine place and worth fighting for.
Ernest Hemingway

A few final words from my friend Grant Marcus that he gleaned from the Union of Concerned Scientists report “Playing With Fire:”
our fires have doubled in frequency and size in the last 20 years.

And did you know that WAR is directly related to climate change and that our military consumes over half the world’s oil on war?

California fire history over the last 120 years clearly shows that there are spikes in climate fires associated with major wars, WW I, WW II, and our current 20 year war in the Middle East which has more than equaled all the TNT dropped in WW II.

Global warring is global warming.

The bombs we drop there every 12 minutes all year long since 2003 cause droughts, floods and fires over here. And that the immediacy and urgency of climate change renders wars for oil unwinnable. Warring and drilling is our problem and yet we voraciously continue to do both. We are already beyond the threshold of 350ppm CO2 (415ppm) and 1.4 degrees above our base temperature.

The US is the #1 oil producer, with fracking producing methane, 34x more potent than CO2 because it traps heat on the earth’s surface. It is why the United States is higher than the global average and nearly 2 degrees above base temperature, which means science is already predicting catastrophic events for the U.S.

How does this transfer into concrete stats here in Ventura County? Our climate fires have dramatically increased in size and frequency. We have had all 5 fires over 100K acres since 2000. The average number of fires for Ventura County has been about 35 per decade from 1950 – 2000. After 2000 we have averaged 145 fires per decade! That’s a 4-fold increase. And because we are 2 degrees above base temps, we can expect much longer fire seasons and even stronger Santa Ana winds. And that is further exacerbated by heat stress to vegetation compounded by drier soil and rapid evaporation.

And while this is happening, Did you know that our Board of Supervisors and Ventura City Council have done NOTHING to protect us from wildfires? Did you know they still haven’t upgraded fire hydrants although the State has required them to do so for the last 7 years? Did you know that they have abandoned our fire lines in the hills while abandoning fire inspections while not doing anything to reinforce our fire department? Did you know they also refuse to regulate SCE our utility company even though SCE is responsible for causing both the Thomas and Wolsey Fires, and utility companies like SCE and PG&E are responsible for 17 of 21 major fires in California since 2003? And did you know that SCE is cutting corners by using aluminum equipment that on windy days throws sparks and is flimsy material.

It is bad enough being overwhelmed with climate change, but it is even worse when pur local politicians are climate deniers like Trump and collude with it.

I’m often asked whether I believe in global warming.
I now just reply with the question: 
Do you believe in gravity?
Neil deGrasse Tyson


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