Lions, Riots, and Floods
1998 book by Marxist California historian Mike Davis, in which he outlines his view of the socio-ecologic history of Los Angeles county. This book has proved controversial, and developed a vociferous group of critics, most tied to the LA economy in some vital way and led by a major Malibu real estate magnate. So if, as some say, a man can be judged partly by his enemies, Davis seems to be on the right track.
The part that stuck in my head most is the chapter on wildfires, partly because they have been so much in the news in the west in the past few years. It seems that American Indians used to regularly burn fields to prevent underbrush from building up to a critical mass before it burnt. Since this is no longer done, the fires are much harder to contain when they do erupt.
Out of all the wildfires in the recent past, it appears that one of them was started by the Forest Service doing just this - preemptive burning. In this case unfortunately the contained fire got out of control and spread. The media was full of ridicule - "They were actually trying to set fires out there? And our tax money is paying for it?" - and not once did I see commentary that they were actually trying to do the right thing.
Table of Contents:
1. The Dialectic of Ordinary Disaster
2. How Eden Lost Its Garden
3. The Case for Letting Malibu Burn
4. Our Secret Kansas
5. Maneaters of the Sierra Madre
6. The Literary Destruction of Los Angeles
7. Beyond Blade Runner