Reddit and 4Chan have been the source for many conspiracy  theories. Most of the time, we sit and laughing, noting how “there’s no possible chance that someone in the dark depths of the internet” could get any of these theories correct. There are times though, where 4Chan and Reddit see something before anyone else, and they turn out to be right all along. This may be another one of those times.

A half dozen fires have touched nearly 200,000 acres since last week and destroyed approximately 792 structures. As firefighters faced their largest trouble fire, (nicknamed Thomas. What, they’re naming fires now?) the Governor shook his head, and offered only a negative outlook. “This is kind of the new normal.With climate change, some scientists are saying that Southern California is literally burning up. So we have to have the resources to combat the fires and we also have to invest in managing the vegetation and forests … in a place that’s getting hotter.” He added that fires in this extreme capacity will happen for generations to come.

But what if “climate change” is actually not a key factor? What if it’s the trees? Recently, Reddit shared a post from 4Chan titled; The Great Australian Shitpost, 100 years in the making       In this picture, the post describes how California felt it necessary to purchase an abundance of eucalyptus trees. When they realized that it took a long time for the trees to grow, investors were frustrated and felt that they had been cheated. Now, nearly 100 years later, the trees have grown to their full capacity and are probably the main cause behind the California fires.

They are actually pretty accurate about this. Following its spread throughout Europe, and several other nations, settlers in California turned their attention towards the eucalyptus. It wasn’t just because they thought they were pretty, which they did, but the California Gold Rush of the mid 1800’s saw a growing need for a lot more wood. Deforestation became a legitimate concern, so the state passed a “California Tree Culture Act of 1868”. People then began to plant more trees, with the focus being along the roads. By the early 1900’s, people saw how successfully the trees profited, so they took it upon themselves to plant numerous acres of them. Apparently, there were over 100 companies involved in the eucalyptus industry during this period, and California began to form into the landscape scene we all know today. When they realized that Australia neglected to mention that the trees would take at least 75 years to grow, businesses slowed down, with some closing all together.

They also failed to mention that eucalyptus trees are highly flammable. These trees are not native, and it changes soil composition where it grows. In many cases, other forms of life such as actual native plans and sadly, animals, are also effected by these trees. Gardening Know how reminds us that:

“These hardy plants have delightfully scented, volatile oil in all parts of the plant. The tree sheds bark and dead leaves, which make a perfect pile of tinder under the tree too. When the oils in the tree heat up, the plant releases flammable gas, which ignites into a fireball. This accelerates the eucalyptus fire hazards in a region and discourages firefighting efforts. On hot days, eucalyptus oil vaporizes in the heat. The oil leaves a smoggy miasma hanging over the eucalyptus groves. This gas is extremely flammable and the cause of many wild fires.”

But Australian Newspaper Techly was quick to defend themselves, of course not willing to take the blame for any of this. “The second claim is that eucalyptus trees take 100 years to mature. This is totally untrue. The main reason that Californian farmers liked the trees was because they grew fast and could quickly provide a large and local supply of timber. The blue gum, the type of eucalyptus tree grown in California, can grow as high as 18 metres (Meters in America) in six years.” Where is this reporter getting his facts from?  This tree, unless you get one that’s already grown, takes 75-100 years to grow.

So what’s actually causing the fires? He asked. He answered his own question by going right back to what the Governor of California said; “The main factors are wind, global warming and human activity. Human activity makes matters worse by heating up the region through carbon emissions. Plus, developers have been building communities closer to potential wildfire regions. While the eucalyptus trees burning in the Californian fires are not helping the situation, they are certainly not to blame for it. Meme debunked, folks.”

 Yes. The human activity of purchasing highly flammable trees, not realizing that they’re a problem, and leaving them there to catch everything on fire. It looks like 4Chan got this one right; until California accepts that this is a problem and does something about it, these tragic fires will continue to devastate the land.

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