Sunday, January 29, 2017

Setting the World on Fire?

When not on fire, Chile's Mediterranean landscapes resemble California's.
In the last stages of updating Moon Patagonia, I’ve just spent ten days in Puerto Varas, leaving my bedroom/office in a friend’s house mainly to grab lunch or, when possible, enjoy a more leisurely dinner at restaurants like Almendra or Casa Valdés. In the process, I’ve only paid minimal attention to what’s happening in the rest of Chile (and the world), but that’s become unavoidable. As I drove north yesterday, past the city of Chillán on the Panamericana yesterday, the smoke from  Chile’s worst wildlife season ever became a palpable presence.
On the highway north of Chillán, the smoke obscures the landscape
Living in California, whose Mediterranean climate is a mirror image of central Chile’s, I’m more than aware of the wildfire dangers. In October of 1991, the dramatic Oakland firestorm destroyed more than 3,000 homes—some barely a mile from our own rented house—and killed 25 people. That was at the end of a long hot summer.
Red sky at morning: a smoky sunrise at Talca
In Chile, though, summer has barely begun—normally, the warm and dry autumn months of March and April would be the time to worry. It seems, though, that at least some of the fires here are the result of arson. In the meantime, a red sun rose over Talca this morning, and my hosts here tell me that tourist traffic has fallen off in what should be peak season.
A Muslim couple go through routine immigration procedures at Buenos Aires's international airport.

I’ll be in Santiago until Friday night, when I fly back to California to face another disaster: the disgraceful executive order from the occupant of the White House that prohibits Muslims from certain countries—even permanent residents and others with lawful visas—from entering the country. There’s been chaos at US airports and immediate resistance from civil liberties lawyers, who have obtained some injunctions against the measure, but the damage to the country’s credibility will far surpass the fire costs to Chile’s heartland. And the White House fire, we know for certain, is intentional.

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