Shrubs, dammit

Trump says it’s obvious how to fix the problem of wildfires in California: just remove every scrap of vegetation from the entire state. One wonders, among other things, if he realizes how much of the state is devoted to agriculture.

Shrubs, he says angrily, flailing his stubby little hands. He really seems to think that California needs to pave itself over right this second to avoid more wildfires. One wonders how he thinks that would even be possible, let alone desirable.

The BBC has a long, painful story on the eradication of Paradise, which makes it frighteningly clear how fast it happened.

06:15 November 8, a report of damage to a power line.


The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire) reports that a wildfire has started outside Pulga, about three miles north-east of Paradise.


Staff at the Adventist Health Feather River Hospital in Paradise, about 25 miles from Pulga in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, are warned that the Camp Fire is getting close to town and that they should evacuate their patients.

One nurse, Tamara Ferguson, is carrying out checks on new mothers in the maternity ward alongside a new trainee. She spots an orange glow out of the window and steps outside with her colleagues.

As they look up at the sky, ash starts to fall like snow.


The sky over Paradise is by now a deep sepia as the smoke starts to blot out the sun.

Within 10 minutes, it is as though night has fallen.

The only lights are those of the cars trying to make it out of town, but much of the traffic has ground to a halt. Ash falls on Paradise at a rapid rate.

“No, it is not six o’clock or seven o’clock at night, people,” William Hart says on a video he broadcasts on Facebook. “I don’t even know what the eff time it is.”

His is the last car in the queue leaving Paradise as the flames close in.

As she tries to leave town, nurse Karen Davis’ vehicle breaks down.

“Fire was coming on both sides. It was a fire tornado,” she later tells CBS. “All of a sudden, it filled with black smoke.”

It was fast.

And things like faults in power lines aren’t predictable. Unless you shave the whole state bald and then cover it in concrete (which would not be physically possible), you can’t prevent wildfires by cutting down the “shrubs.” Trump can flail his stupid hands all he likes, but that won’t make him right about the shrubs.

Reasonable people, who understand that other people have brains and knowledge, can grasp this point, but Trump, who understands nothing outside his own head, cannot.

This is without even touching on the question of what it would be like to live in a world stripped of vegetation, and how any life would survive.

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