The scenes from the southern California hillsides are apocalyptic — wildfires devouring thousands of acres of brush, forests, homes and communities. Whipped by the Santa Ana winds, sometimes with hurricane force, the flames defy any effort at human control.
My first thoughts are for our alumnae and friends in California. So many alumnae have welcomed me into their homes in those beautiful hills, I hope all are safe. I welcome any news from our alumnae in the area, please send me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call to let us know how you are faring in this crisis.
I am also thinking of friends at the many wonderful colleges and universities in that area — Mount St. Mary’s and Scripps College and Pepperdine University and the University of San Diego and all of the California state institutions. I hope their campuses and communities are safe.
Theories abound about the reasons for this tragedy, as with all modern weather tragedies — global warming, overdevelopment of hillsides, human interference with nature’s rhythms. Around the country, other signs of environmental destabilization make everyone anxious: a too-warm autumn in the east, with drought conditions even here in Washington; a water crisis of increasingly great severity in the south; in New Orleans, too much water again; and all year the midwest has suffered floods in the farmlands.
Whatever the cause, the conditions remind us that in spite of our privilege of living in the most advanced civilization the world has ever known, we live on the edge of nature, and often at its mercy. We should remember that whenever we are tempted to disregard the balance and rhythms of nature; as the ashes of multi-million dollar homes on Malibu hillsides sadly remind us, no amount of money or human achievement or technological wizardry can stop the natural forces of fire, wind, water and movements of the earth itself.