It may just be a symptom of the inability to think critically, but the tendency for some to polarize every issue and ridicule those with opposing views creates its own set of pathological consequences. Truth gets lost between the shouts and the labels.

Why? Because once the “other side” is identified, anything they believe, true or not, is immediately rejected as worthless. Important values are trashed merely because they are associated with the “liberals,” the “conservatives,” or, as I will be briefly discuss in this article, the “greens.”

As evidenced by numerous editorials and news commentary since the 2007 fires, one of the recurring accusations concerning the cause of the fires was that the “greens” had prevented private land owners and government agencies from clearing the “evil brush.” This lack of “clearing” supposedly allowed unnatural amounts of vegetation to build up, fueling the devastating fires. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Who are the “greens” and what is “brush?” Have you ever met one? At the very least these terms are overly simplistic labels that allow people to emote rather than think. At the worst, they are bigoted characterizations that foster hate toward each other and the environment we depend on. It’s time all San Diegans move away from simplistic labels and demeaning characterizations of nature and those who endeavor to protect it and realize our regional wildlands are worth much more than what can be fit within a 30 second sound bite.

The first step to take is to understand that what is covering San Diego County’s hillsides is not “brush” but chaparral, a dynamic shrubland ecosystem that represents one of California’s most valuable natural resources. Once we take time to appreciate it, the pejorative generalizations disappear and the chaparral’s value becomes self evident. It also becomes clear that the “clear-the-brush” approach to chaparral and forest management must give way to enlightened preservation for current and future generations.

Secondly, instead of pointing fingers and accusing one group or another of causing wildland fires or valuing plants and animals over people, it would be more productive to talk with each other, preferably during a hike this spring in one of the county’s burned areas as it explodes with fire-following wildflowers.

Finally, get educated. Fire is a complex issue. Don’t think you can fully understand it by listening to talk radio.

— RICHARD HALSEY

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