The California wildfires have given the conspiracy minded folks something to talk about. Images like the one above show houses burned to a crisp while nearby pine trees survived. Since pine trees are flammable, what happened? Did an alien microwave death ray smite the houses while leaving the trees?
A more likely explanation is that modern houses are made out of flammable crap. A typical house today consists of OSB walls covered with vinyl siding under an asphalt roof. In other words wood chips covered by petrochemicals–what could possibly go wrong?
A more interesting question is what kind of society would choose to build houses like this? There was a time when the more affluent would build houses out of brick or stone. Horrific fires in the mid 1800’s nearly leveled cities like St. Louis and Chicago. A trend toward building housing which would potentially last for hundreds of years existed, and then this trend was abandoned.
Of course we live in a consumer society in which people think short term. Preaching that we should think of our posterity seems pointless. A more useful inquiry is an analysis of the incentives which have brought about such a consumer society.
The loss of community is a primary source of the problem. An individual who buys a house in suburban Atlanta may enjoy twenty years of appreciation on that property before diversity threatens the property value. There is no point in buying a house which is built to last 300 years when the neighborhood is gone in thirty. You will not be leaving your house to your heirs.
The FIRE (Finance, Insurance, Real Estate) drives much of the political system in the USA. A creditor does not care about the house once the loan is paid, and a typical house mortgage lasts thirty years. All of the political and business incentives are to build and destroy everything about every thirty to forty years.