Forest fires that kill people and destroy communities are bad. Simply and absolutely. What interests me is watching the Trump/California blame game and how it’s covered. In case you haven’t been following this, President Trump said that poor State forest management practices are at least partially to blame. Here’s the argument as depicted by the WaPo:
President Trump has alternated between offering sympathy for displaced people and firefighters, and lashing out at California’s leaders over what he deemed poor forest management.
“With proper Forest Management, we can stop the devastation constantly going on in California. Get Smart!” he tweeted Sunday morning, echoing a refrain that he has frequently leveled at California officials and threatening to withhold federal money.
Officials shot back that increasingly destructive fires are a result of global warming, which dry out vegetation and turn large swaths of grassland into a tinderbox.
A spokesman for Gov. Brown said that more federal forest land has burned than state land, adding that the state has expanded its forestry budget while the Trump administration has cut its budget for forest services.
My question: why respond to/take seriously Trump tweets? All of us know “it’s more complicated than either side depicts.” In fact, are “sides” a function of Trump or a function of media coverage?
Also, I think we need to look at when forest fires are blamed on climate change and what happens when it is framed that way. It sounds like “there’s nothing we can do about it except ideas for decreasing climate change.” Which seems kind of silly since we had wildfires and fuel treatments and prescribed burning way before climate change was an issue. And it’s confusing too because if people want to sue power companies over sparks starting wildfires, or people are in jail for starting wildfires, should they get a pass because it’s really climate change? How best to apportion blame, and what might be the results?
As to climate, I like to do a thought experiment. What if it was 0%, 50%, or 100% caused by humans? Would that matter? Even if it were 100% caused by humans (which we absolutely don’t and can’t know), and we stopped doing all the carbon, land use and so on activities, it would not turn around on a dime. Which means. regardless of our beliefs and/or uncertainties, that we are stuck with the current situation, and we need to work with each other to do what needs to be done to protect communities. Trump isn’t helping, but let’s not feed the dragon.
In my Twitter feed, I ran across a few tweets from this very reasonable sounding Canadian fellow, good for an outside- US perspective. Here’s a link. He has a series of tweets, hope you can read all of them.
Finally, Stephen Pyne has a piece in Slate.. here.. Worth reading, here’s a quote:
“Too often the extremes command attention: the threat of bad fires to cities, the need to restore good fire in wilderness. It’s the intermediate buffer lands that offer an alternative. Here are occasions for active management, not to serve crude commodity production but to enhance ecological goods and services.” I don’t know exactly what he mean by “crude commodity production” perhaps as opposed to “sophisticated commodity production”?
Are fuel treatments to change fire behavior an “ecological good and service” when protecting communities? Or maybe just when protecting species habitat? I guess I can’t see the forest for the abstractions…