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Connecting The Dots: Climate Change, Drought, And A Wildfire Film Series

For several decades now, scientists have anticipated that climate change would likely trigger increasingly severe droughts, especially in places like semi-arid Southern California. The state is, of course, in the midst of a merciless drought, and last Friday, state officials announced that for the first time in its 54-year history the State Water Project would not deliver water to 29 local water agencies serving 25 million residents and nearly 750,000 acres of farmland.

Still, it’s hard to connect any one weather event directly and simply to climate change. California has had droughts before and snow on the East Coast, even in its southern regions, is not uncommon. The majority of the world’s scientists, however, maintain that the planet’s climate is changing due to the increased amount of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. And such extreme weather events like we’re currently experiencing, they say, are likely to become more common as the planet continues to warm. For a detailed explanation of how climate change is worsening California’s drought, check out Joe Romm’s piece over on Climate Progress.

Hotter temperatures and drier conditions can drive the increased occurrence of wildfires too, and that matters to people in regions like Santa Barbara that are already prone to such events.

Readings, discussions, and films about wildfires and public lands are fueling this year’s Santa Barbara Reads program, the annual event that in partnership with UCSB Reads encourages the community to read and discuss a particular book together. This year’s book is The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, by Timothy Egan, about the huge wildfires of 1910 and the establishment of the national forests, parks, and other protected wildlands.

A series of films related to the current Santa Barbara Reads program will be screened on Tuesdays in February at 5:30 pm at the Faulkner Gallery of the Santa Barbara Public Library System’s Central Library, 40 E. Anapamu St., Santa Barbara.

The series starts on Tuesday, February 4 with Ordeal by Fire. Filmmaker George Sibley brings to life the period of the 1910 Big Burn wildfires in the northwest, when people were learning to live with the ancient natural cycles of a harsh yet beautiful land. The fires were also the first big test of one of American’s most profound political ideas: could, and should, the federal government manage and protect America’s natural resources?

On Tuesday, February 11, local filmmaker Jennie Reinish will introduce her film, Behind the Lines: Fighting a Wildland Fire. Filmed during the 2007-2008 Zaca and Gap fires in Santa Barbara County, Behind the Lines gives a look at what goes into fighting a large-scale wildfire. This film screened at the 2010 Santa Barbara International Film Festival.

The following Tuesday, February 18, The Greatest Good tells the story of the U.S. Forest Service and the public lands the agency manages. This documentary weaves historic footage and still photographs with interviews with historians, timber industry and environmental leaders, and Forest Service employees to illuminate the past one hundred years of accomplishments and controversies experienced while managing 191 million acres of America’s land. Los Padres National Forest ranger will answer questions after the film.

The final film, on Tuesday, February 25, will be the Green Fire: Aldo Leopold and a Land Ethic for Our Time.  Produced in partnership between the Aldo Leopold Foundation, the Center for Humans and Nature, and the US Forest Service Green Fire highlights legendary environmentalist Aldo Leopold’s extraordinary career, tracing how he shaped and influenced the modern environmental movement. He is considered the father of the national wilderness system, and a key figure in developing the fields of wildlife management, restoration ecology and sustainable agriculture. A Los Padres National Forest ranger will be on hand to discuss the film.

Other Santa Barbara Reads and UCSB Reads highlights are panel discussions featuring UCSB professors discussing The Big Burn, on Wednesday, February 12 at 6:00 p.m. at the Montecito Library, 1469 East Valley Rd.; and Thursday, February 20 at 6:00 p.m. at the Central Library. The Los Padres National Forest will bring special children’s presentation to the branch libraries during February, with a visit from Smokey Bear. More information is available at the Santa Barbara Public Library web site, SBPLibrary.org. All library programs are free and open to the public.

 

Emily DeMarco

Emily DeMarco holds a master of environmental science and management from the Bren School at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she specialized in strategic environmental communication and water resources management.
Emily DeMarco

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