Fires on Science Friday- Stephen Pyne and Chris Topik

A fire team lights a restoration burn on the Dahms Tract, Platte River and Wood River area of Nebraska. The Nature Conservancy hopes to demonstrate that there is economic as well as conservation value in restoring tracts of native grasslands. Photo by Chris Helzer/The Nature Conservancy
A fire team lights a restoration burn on the Dahms Tract, Platte River and Wood River area of Nebraska. The Nature Conservancy hopes to demonstrate that there is economic as well as conservation value in restoring tracts of native grasslands. Photo by Chris Helzer/The Nature Conservancy

Thanks to Marek Smith for sending this in!

Wildfires Consume Funds Flagged for Prevention

This year, the U.S. Forest Service has spent hundreds of millions of dollars fighting wildfires, cutting into funds originally set aside to prevent them. Fire historian Steve Pyne compares the way we manage fires today to how we manage health—focused on emergencies, and not prevention.

Produced by Christopher Intagliata, Senior Producer

Chris Topik
Former staffer, House Appropriations Committee
Director, “Restoring America’s Forests”
The Nature Conservancy
Arlington, Virginia
Steve Pyne
Fire historian
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona

Note: toward the end of the interview, Chris mentions the use of goats to keep firebreaks in the chaparral.

8 thoughts on “Fires on Science Friday- Stephen Pyne and Chris Topik”

  1. Yes, wonderful example of nice news in the service of corporate interests.

    And now for another perspective on NPR’s choices of who gets to speak –The Nature Conservancy(TNC) — to the issue of the direct consequences of climate change — catastrophic wildfires across North America and elsewhere. The issue is simple. Are we dealing with the causes of the problem or are collaborationists getting rich off the effects of the problem? As long as we get our news from NPR, we’ll never really know.

    TNC and NPR itself have a meaningful fiduciary relationship to the preeminent climate change deniers — Shell, ExxonMobil,etc.. Both “nonprofits” receiving large sums of money from “Greenwashing Hypocrite Of The Year: … ExxonMobil”

    Can either NPR or TNC be regarded as free from undue influence or capable of full circumspection of this issue given their conflicts of interest arising from millions of dollars of funding from Shell, ExxonMobil, et al.?

    Of course, Dr. Topik, the Nature Conservancy’s Director of “Restoring America’s Forests,” is rather well-positioned here to speak authoritatively to these issues. Especially, as former staffer of the powerful House Appropriations Committee which has played (and continues to play) a key hand in cutting forests to “save” them while cutting USFS budgets to create free market opportunities.

    It is interesting NPR missed the relevant fact that Dr. Topik also worked for the USFS for 16 years. Seems pertinent to me, unless of course, it would lead to greater understanding of the forces at work leading to catastrophic wildfires.

    Given Dr. Topik’s direct knowledge and hand in the forces at work behind this neoliberal age of “sequestration” we suffer– in which budget cutting sets the stage for the privatization and outsourcing of governmental functions — and the fact that they are increasingly being handed over to The Nature Conservancy; and,

    Given The Nature Conservancy, as revealed through Congressional investigations such as,

    (“TNC entered into several land transactions with Georgia Pacific or affiliates of the company. The Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Georgia Pacific Corporation was a TNC Board member…”)

    and given many other investigative journalists exposing TNC as the premier collaborationist corporate front group greenwashing “market based solutions” ; and,

    Given the long exposed, fraudulent claims of biomass as a “carbon neutral,” “renewable energy solution” being pushed by the USFS and TNC’s Dr. Topik — which are not solutions at all, but heavily greenwashed half-measures intended to facilitate corporate profiteering of corporate-engineered disasters and then directly interfering with meaningful energy policy responsive to addressing causation and public understanding; and,

    Given TNC’s Executive Committee includes Steven J. McCormick – TNC’s former President and Chief Executive Officer, as well as former Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Georgia-Pacific Corporation; then,

    One has to wonder if the “P” in NPR isn’t more appropriately standing for Propaganda?

    Further fun listening and reading:

    Recent (softball !) NPR Interview of former Chairman of TNC, former Chairman of Goldman Sachs, and former Bush Treasury Secretary, Hank Paulson– on Treasury watch when the poop really hit the fan 07′-08.’

    Naomi Klein: Why aren’t environmental groups divesting from fossil fuels?

    • Hey, Mr. Beebe: name a period in the history of western forests when human manipulation wasn’t taking place then pose some solutions for getting them back there instead of letting your cannon roll loose on the deck.

      No single media outlet gets it right 100% of the time but NPR nailed this particular snapshot in US history.

    • David

      Re: “Given the long exposed, fraudulent claims of biomass as a “carbon neutral,” “renewable energy solution””
      –> Please provide documentation of your claims so that we can shoot them down with established science and expose them for the vacuous environmental martini dinner party talk that they are. You are no better than the worst of the capitalists that you hate and have stereotyped every capitalist as being evil including me who believes that capitalism has much more good to offer than any utopia that a naive dreamer like you has to offer.
      –> Right, Steel and Concrete are much more carbon neutral than wood. NOT!
      –> My heart pumps purple peanut butter for you, I am so sorry that the world just won’t get out of the way and let you run things. NOT!
      –> If it is so easy to establish a conspiracy and you are so wise, why don’t you establish your own conspiracy to take over the government and set things right?
      –> I can’t understand you complaining about ‘the “P” in NPR standing for Propaganda’ when you are spreading plenty of fertilizer yourself. Seems like there is a word for that, let me think … hmmm, oh yea, its hypocrite.

      I thought that there was some hope that you would be reasonable and open minded but, you just burst my bubble.

  2. Dear Mr. Kurtz,
    I take no issue with NPR’s coverage of the EFFECTS of the problem as presented by Topik and Pyne. I take issue with the failure of NPR to address the CAUSES of the problem and the fact that Dr. Topik’s career was immersed in the full spectrum of causations of the problem, from DC appropriations staffer, to the captured agency known as the USFS, and finally to TNC.

    I encourage you to actually read the several links which form the chain of truth securing my cannons on deck. TNC’s war chest on the other hand, consists of several billion dollars in assets (a most peculiar “environmental nonprofit”), not to mention its elevated place in the corporate media machine which NPR inhabits. TNC is surely the battleship Bismarck of the “Wrong Kind of Green.”

    Your glorification of “this particular snapshot in US History,” in my view, deserves a far wider understanding than what NPR feels obligated to provide the public. That was my point. The “P” of NPR is supposed to be “Public” — not “Private” (“Private,” as in furthering the pursuits of private foundations and their privatization agendas.)

    Again, my point was a “greater understanding of the forces at work leading to catastrophic wildfires” in the first place.

    That is a far more publicly useful and publicly important element of journalism than NPR’s fawning, feel good, “snapshot” implying the corporate battleship Bismarck is somehow coming to rescue our ship of state and our collective fates.

    That is as likely as a snowball’s chance in hell.

    • Would a “captured Agency” impose diameter limits on itself?!?! Would they voluntarily eliminate clearcutting in all of the Sierra Nevada?!?!? Would they set aside VAST areas for many rare species? You cannot take Tongass problems and apply them to California, David.

      • Larry,
        A captured agency would take such actions when that agency faces two convergent crises:

        1) Implosion of the US “free market” (outsourced) economy driven by cheap foreign labor and cheap foreign timber acquired through lawless resource extraction in Canada and “developing countries.” (These accomplished through international free trade agreements as the end game of neoliberalism kicks in.) and,

        2) Species viability issues resulting from large scale agency mismanagement which accelerates climate change and further erodes the capacity to maintain resilient populations in the face of climate change. This is why US environmental laws such as NFMA, NEPA and ESA are the prime targets of restructured land management plans of the New “Planning Rule.”

        While I reserve the hope you might be a whistle blower one day Larry, as PEER reports today,

        your efforts to speak your conscience to a captured agency would face a snowball’s chance in hell of succeeding:


        Paying the Price of Disclosure

        By Robert J. McCarthy

        Federal law requires government employees to report fraud, waste, and abuse while promising to protect them from retaliation. Sadly, 30 years after whistleblower legislation was first adopted, it has neither curbed government malfeasance nor kept workers who act on the false promise of protection safe from reprisal. As a result, Americans often learn too late, if at all, about tragic government abuses such as false rationalizations for illegal wars. Meanwhile, many conscientious government employees are shocked to find
        their careers destroyed and lives thrown into crisis.

        This is what a captured agency looks like Larry.

        Not Pretty, and not just on the Tongass.


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