The magic of youth is not in the superficial, but in the unfettered expression of the authentic self. The beauty of age is the wisdom to rediscover the same, if the courage can be found to recognize and accept fallibility.
The difficulty many adults have with rediscovering their authentic selves partially explains why some cling to old, outdated paradigms. It also helps explain why change usually comes through the actions of the young.
So it should be no mystery why we gathered a handful of youthful explorers to help us collect the information we needed to put to rest, once and for all, the incorrect notion that chaparral can “burn several times in a dozen years” and recover just fine. Younger explorers are more willing to question, everything, including the investigator-in-chief. They also see things that older investigators have been staring at for years, but never noticed.
Holden Caulfield was on to something when he said (in JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye), “People never notice anything.”
Background: The Sweetwater River Canyon below the Alpine Overlook on Interstate Highway 8 in San Diego County provides a unique opportunity to measure how chaparral recovers from frequent fire. The area had been burned three times, the first in 1970, with one fire overlapping another. Some have claimed the chaparral burned in 2001 and 2003 is recovering without a problem. We descended into the canyon twice to collect biodiversity data to quantify what has actually been happening. For details about our first trip on April 29, please see our earlier post. For a full explanation about why this research project began, please see our original story, Denying the Threat of High Fire Frequency in the Chaparral.