You may recall when Al Gore claimed that he invented the Internet and everyone giggled. It became a punchline, and Gore was branded a liar.
Except that he hadn’t made the claim and, besides, he genuinely had been a significant sponsor of legislation to advance its development.
And Vice President Dan Quayle, on a classroom visit, was handed a set of cards with spelling words, so prompted a kid to spell “potato” the way the teacher apparently wanted it spelled. But the teacher had it wrong, and Quayle took the hit.
Now Donald Trump is being mocked for saying that control of fuel loading is a significant part of wildfire suppression.
Which it is. Which doesn’t matter.
I want to start with Clay Bennett‘s cartoon, which seems off-topic, except that anything said in defense of sensible, standard forestry here will be interpreted as support of every stupid remark Trump’s ever made and every fascist policy he’s ever promoted.
I ain’t a fan.
Bennett summarizes the problem with having Donald Trump in the White House. Every politician is, to some extent, a peacock in need of praise, but Trump is a pathological narcissist.
One day, when the dust has settled and historians are trying to sort out what the hell happened, the fact that he was the only one of his siblings that their parents gave up on and shipped off to military school will be a factor, as will whatever family dynamics drove his older brother to the alcoholism that shortened his life.
Until then, I side with Dr. Johnson, who long ago said, “If a madman were to come into this room with a stick in his hand, no doubt we should pity the state of his mind; but our primary consideration would be to take care of ourselves. We should knock him down first, and pity him afterwards.”
And it’s not just that he’s sociopathically self-centered, but he is also a bit of a dullard, and, if he tells you it’s raining, he may be lying or he may just be yapping without thinking, but you’d better look out the window anyway.
All that said, he’s right about underbrush, fallen branches and seedlings, even if he’s only parroting half-understood comments by the President of Finland.
And even though Finland isn’t California.
In fact, perhaps even moreso because Finland isn’t California.
Jack Ohman knows a peavy from a bucksaw, as well as a burro from a burrow, though this cartoon does not directly address the forest management/fuel loading issue.
His graphic memoir sent me to Wikipedia to find his exact age, and, as I suspected, when he was 9, I was 19 and visiting a girlfriend in Newfoundland whose older sister and brother-in-law were doing forest service work there, in the early days of fire tankers.
By which I mean they had orangey-pink stains on their hands from the stuff mixed in the water, and they told me that Newfoundland was so sparsely settled and so heavily forested that many, perhaps most, fires were monitored but not fought.
This was part of a shift from Old School Smokey Bear attitude in which every fire is evil, to a model in which, well, every fire is different.
But, still, as Ohman’s father wisely noted, building communities in forests carries a predictable risk.
This doesn’t make the people who live in these places evil or stupid, any more than people are evil or stupid for living in New Orleans or along the coast of the Carolinas.
Still, when you have a predictable risk, you have to take precautions.
Like not building factory farms with sewage lagoons in flood areas. Whoops.
And knowing that, if you live on the edge of a forest, your cat did not get lost. It got found, by a coyote or a fox or an owl.
And that you might encounter a mountain lion while jogging through his, not your, habitat.
And, in some areas, wildfires happen (which up-to-date building codes now acknowledge.)
But, no, California is not Finland, Finland is not Newfoundland, and Newfoundland is not the Adirondacks, where I grew up.
We rarely had crown fires, because our forest was well-mixed with deciduous trees and is very moist, and the only “forest fires” I was ever dragooned to help fight were really just brush fires.
In fact, we had a blowdown in 1995 and people were worried that the resulting mess of branches and trees would be kindling for something awful, but we were told to leave it alone and, by golly, our particular climate and ecological mix means that the stuff has pretty much returned unto the earth whence it came.
But I got a laff from this morning’s Arctic Circle, because it reminded me of “camping” when I was at Camp Lord O’ The Flies and they’d load us up for a venture to some campground in the wild and woolly Berkshires.
You didn’t have to rake the forest floor there because it was picked clean of anything in the least flammable, while any branches that might lift a fire to the crown had been broken off for S’more sticks.
Also the trees were in straight rows, which I assume means they had been carefully planted back in the days when every fire was an evil fire and “forest management” was a lot more aggressive than currently practiced.
Again, I’m not in love with Dear Leader, and I wish he would listen better, and more closely, and, more than that, I wish he would listen to the people Phil Hands listens to, because this wildfire thing is only a symptom.
Climate Change is the disease and we all need to smarten up.
Still, sensible management of fuel build-up is a major part of responsible forest management in areas near settlements.
That’s not Donald Trump or even Sauli Niinistö. It’s the US Forest Service.
Which the Big Idiot refuses to properly fund, and which his Cabinet works to undermine.
Please plan wisely. “Mixed use” is about time as well as space