This op-ed by Mitch Daniels on the book “Unsettled,” by Steven E. Koonin, is an interesting viewpoint, though not directly related to forest management or planning: “This climate change contrarian gives us an important reminder about science in general.”
We have never expected much truthfulness or integrity from our politicians, whose self-interest in publicity and campaign dollars too often outweighs any scruples about scientific precision. Nonprofit “public interest” groups raise fortunes on forecasts of doom, often on the flimsiest evidence. The modern news media, chasing the dollars that titillating, click-catching headlines bring, have been, if anything, worse than the political class in discussing climate change. [emphasis added] Koonin serves up multiple examples, with descriptions such as “deliberately misleading” and “blatantly misrepresenting.”
The truth’s last line of defense should be the scientific community, but here Koonin indicts those of his fellows who have discarded a commitment to the truth — the whole truth, and nothing but — in favor of their own view of wise policy. “Distorting science to further a cause is inexcusable,” he says, a violation of scientists’ “overriding ethical obligation.”
A few minutes after reading the essay, I came across a Sacramento Been article with a provocative headline, “‘Self-serving garbage.’ Wildfire experts escalate fight over saving California forests.” It’s essentially Chad Hanson vs. scientists who disagree with his messages and methods. I wouldn’t post this if Hanson didn’t get such an unusually large amount of news coverage (such as “As California burns, some ecologists say it’s time to rethink forest management,” in the LA Times on August 21, $).
An excerpt from the Bee article:
In an extraordinary series of articles published in scientific journals, fire scientists are attacking Hanson’s and his allies’ claims that the woods need to be left alone. These scientists say the activists are misleading the public and bogging down vital work needed to protect wildlife, communities and make California’s forests more resilient to wildfire.
“I and my colleagues are getting really tired of the type of activism that pretends to be science and in fact is just self-serving garbage,” said Crystal Kolden, a professor of wildfire science at UC Merced and co-author of a journal article that rebutted Hanson’s arguments. “If a lot of these environmental groups continue to stand by these antiquated and really counterproductive viewpoints, all we’re going to see is more catastrophic wildfire that destroys the very forests that they pretend to love.”
Hanson’s “counterproductive viewpoints” also have been presented in testimony in Congress, before the House Agriculture Committee last year in September, in a hearing on “The 2020 Wildfire Year: Response And Recovery Efforts.” In written testimony, Hanson and a colleague wrote that:
Vegetation is not driving wildfires: our forests aren’t overstocked. Contrary to the statements made at the hearing, a century of fire suppression has not exacerbated fire risk or intensity in our forests. Our forests are not ‘‘overgrown’’.
Our forests aren’t overstocked? Well, all of our forests, but certainly far too many are overstocked. I reckon few foresters, wildfire managers, or scientists would agree with Hanson.
So why does Hanson continue to be a media darling? Daniels’ line serves here: “The modern news media, chasing the dollars that titillating, click-catching headlines….“