Destructive hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes and wildfires are seen as tragedies by the human race. We watch in horror as they take lives, homes and businesses, and we brace ourselves for the worst when we end up in their paths. The Colorado wildfire is the most recent of these natural disasters. But the use of language like “tragedy” and “disaster” when discussing these events shows the modern world’s delusions about nature. We see a wildfire as a disaster. Nature sees the absence of a wildfire as a disaster. These purgative fires are business as usual in the Colorado region and others like it. Old growth must be cleared away to make room for new growth.
It seems as though advancements in technology and increasing detachment from the natural world have led to unrealistic expectations. We expect nature to provide beautiful scenery where we can build our homes and enjoy outdoor recreation. Conversely, we expect it to stop behaving as it has for millions of years if that behavior interferes with our lives. If nature decides to rebel and a wildfire spreads, we will fight it virulently with our helicopters and fire lines. Controlled burns are just a halfway compromise between nature and humanity. They do not satiate the natural process. These expansive forests are still innately ignitable and have no cognizance of the fact that a home was built in the middle of them. Stay out of their way or accept the risk you take by living there.
At the time of writing this, the cause of the wildfires has not been determined. I would not be surprised if it ends up being a lightning strike. If the catalyst is determined to have been a human error, it will still demonstrate the inevitability of fires like these. One spark, one burning leaf or one smoldering cigarette sets off a chain reaction, giving the entire ecosystem a fresh start and long term health.
It is undeniably saddening that hundreds of people have lost their homes. But the unfortunate aspects of this event should be a reality check. We depend on nature, but we are also at the mercy of it.