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Flame and Fortune in the American WestUrban Development, Environmental Change, and the Great Oakland Hills Fire$
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Gregory L. Simon

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780520292802

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520292802.001.0001

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The Changing American West

The Changing American West

From “Flammable Landscape” to the “Incendiary”

Chapter:
(p.39) 2 The Changing American West
Source:
Flame and Fortune in the American West
Author(s):

Gregory L. Simon

Publisher:
University of California Press
DOI:10.1525/california/9780520292802.003.0003

This chapter establishes a conceptual justification for the implementation of an affluence-vulnerability interface analytic approach to manage current and prospective suburban landscapes—indeed a major characteristic of the West is the immense amount of land currently still eligible for suburban and exurban conversion. Along with this important land characteristic, it provides a synoptic view of the rapidly transforming West more generally through a discussion of recent suburbanization, climatic, and fire activity trends. Most importantly “the Incendiary” is introduced as a metaphor for treating the suburban West like a troubled patient (an arsonist) with deeply held and engrained behaviors and characteristics. The chapter suggests that engaging the West as merely a flammable landscape is to confront symptoms of the Incendiary, while confronting the Incendiary itself is to treat the essential character and core mechanisms driving growth and social-environmental changes in high fire risk landscapes at the urban fringe.

Keywords:   affluence-vulnerability interface, wildfires, suburban landscape management, fire risk, West, Oakland Hills Tunnel Fire

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