Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Paradise Lost

The small city of Paradise, California has been burned off the map. It is a smoldering ruins, unrecognizable. Foundations where once there were houses, charred remains where once there were cars, with sometimes only the ashes remaining of the people that occupied those cars and houses when the firenado overtook the city and laid it to waste.

The heat, the speed of the wind, how dry the brush is, how drained the aquifers are, how much development there is in areas further and further away from population centers, how high the cost of housing is – all of it is unprecedented. In combination, it turns out we now know what the consequences of the status quo are – the evidence is now in.

If you have a society built largely on real estate speculation and free market capitalism, one thing you end up with is a housing crisis. The solution to the housing crisis is led by the market, because the political leaders who believe in sensible zoning don't tend to last long here in the plutocracy, so we end up with entirely unsustainable forms of suburban sprawl. Real estate speculation and free market capitalism also dictate other policies related to the use of land and water, rather than environmental considerations that can't be monetized by local political bodies, largely controlled by developers, so as a result, existing land and water use policies are completely unsustainable.

In a society led by a real estate speculator billionaire, founded by an obscenely wealthy real estate speculator (named George Washington), we are faced with the reality that our survival as a society depends on declaring officially that all of these homes in California are really worth nothing if they're just going to burn up, if the air is going to be unbreathable, if there's no water. These homes are worth nothing, this economy is based on kindling.

The question before all of us is whether we can possibly reverse course. But doing so will not involve recycling your garbage, riding your bicycle or taking shorter showers. It will involve declaring all of this so-called property to be as worthless as it really is, and starting over again with a new economic model that puts society first – that is, the needs of people for things like housing and food within an ecologically sustainable environment – above individual profits.

We have seen the consequences of the American Way, and it is the apocalypse.

Paradise Lost
Up on a ridge is a nice place to be
The trains pass by in the mining country
Time marches on and the old saloon
Was joined by houses and shops and then pretty soon
An old mining outpost, an old timber mill
Became a small city as a town will
But it's a town in the west and it's 2018
An age of drought and of fire and things unforeseen
You just throw the dice and see how they get tossed
This time, Paradise lost

The fire was started and all the dead brush
Went up in flames in a terrible rush
Thousands of homes soon were on fire
Along with the cars, the roads and the tires
Melted and charred with bodies inside
Of the scores or the hundreds of people who died
You can talk about forests, but all that you need
Is the dead grass that grows from the grass seed
In this age of tornadoes and firelines crossed
And places like Paradise lost

If you don't get gunned down then you can be burned
Is that the lesson we're supposed to have learned
Either way it makes sense, it's the logical end
For a system that's based on how much money you spend
Divert the rivers, sell real estate
Until early one morning we find it's too late
As the townspeople woke or slept in their beds
And the skies above them turned suddenly red
Soon a graveyard will mark out the terrible cost
Of the day that left Paradise lost

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