Those California Conflagrations—And Immigration

As I`m writing, blessedly unseasonable rain and snow
is falling upon the Southern California fires that have
devoured over 3,300 homes and 1,100 square miles. This
is a wonderful turn of events, although the TV
newscasts, after a week of nonstop coverage of the
conflagrations, are now warning of that tragicomic
offspring of wildfire:


But that`s life in California: one disaster after
another. California is a

particularly fragile
place for 35 million people to
live in. And the cost of

cramming more people
into the state keeps rising.

Brushfires and mudslides used to seem more amusing
because they afflicted Hollywood celebrities
significantly more often than average citizens. This was
not just a matter of God`s good taste. Average citizens
lived in the cheaper and safer flatlands. The rich
poised precariously in the hills, where construction and
maintenance costs are higher—especially if you want your
home to survive what Mother Nature keeps up her sleeve.

But the plains of Southern California filled up long
ago. So the ever-growing population has been spilling
into the more treacherous wild areas.

This is regularly denounced as "sprawl," which
implies that individuals are wastefully consuming more
and more land per capita. But in California the driver
has been

population growth
. According to a 2003 Center for
Immigration Studies


Roy Beck

Leon Kolankiewicz
, and

Steven A. Camarota
, from 1982 to 1997 the total
number of developed acres in California grew by 32
percent, but the per capita usage was up only two
percent. Essentially all of California`s population

in the 1990s was due to new immigrants or
births to foreign-born women. (Indeed, close to

1.5 million
more American-born citizens moved out of
California during the 1990s than moved in from other

As low-income immigrants pour into Southern
California`s lowlands, crowding the freeways and
overstressing the older cities` public schools, the
middle class (at least the ones who don`t

leave the state
) have responded by taking to the

The hill country`s environment is benign most of the
year. But the local ecosystem evolved to require
periodic blazes. Up through American Indian times, these
brushfires were frequent and thus relatively mild.

Unfortunately, we modern people haven`t really
figured out how to manage the chaparral and pine forests
yet—especially when the canyons and mountains are home
to housing. The best-known remedy, controlled burns, is
disliked by people who live in the backcountry because
they pollute the air, and they can jump out of control.
The 2000 Los Alamos

set by the Forest Service ended up destroying
hundreds of structures.

Thus the policy has been to try to suppress all
fires. This, however, causes fuel in the form of dry
brush and dead trees to build up each decade, inevitably
leading to infernos like those of 1993 and 2003. Indeed,
an order of magnitude more homes could have burned this
year if the hot Santa Ana winds had blown for another

It`s just California`s problem? `fraid not! Taxpayers
across the country always end up chipping in, through
government disaster loans, new federal firefighting and
forestry management programs, lower stock market prices
for insurance companies, and other forms of

And, in some ways, that`s fair, because so much of

California`s current crisis
traces back to the

refusal to

adequately enforce immigration laws

California desperately needs a slower population
growth rate until it learns how its current vast
population can live with its lovely but sometime lethal
landscape. And the state`s burgeoning numbers are solely
driven by immigration.

The logical solution: cut back on immigration.

Reality is literally lighting a fire under us.

[Steve Sailer [email
him] is founder of the Human Biodiversity Institute and

movie critic

The American Conservative
His website
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