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Earth Science

The Yosemite Inferno In the Context of Forest Policy, Ecology and Climate Change 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the since-the-world's-been-turning dept.
Lasrick writes "Andrew Revkin at DotEarthblog posts an assessment of the drivers of wildfire trends in the American West. He shows a graph of fire activity for the past 400 years in the Yosemite-Mariposa area, and a rather surreal time-lapse video of the current Rim Fire now burning in and around Yosemite."
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The Yosemite Inferno In the Context of Forest Policy, Ecology and Climate Change

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  • by alen (225700)

    no way

    no one is going to believe it though since you need something simple for people to blame everything on

    • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:10PM (#44731587) Homepage Journal

      It's a combination of factors, of which warming is one. Probably the best summation from TFA:

      "When you look at the long record, you see fire and climate moving together over decades, over centuries, over thousands of years," said pyrogeographer Jennifer Marlon of Yale University, who earlier this year co-authored a study of long-term fire patterns in the American West.

      "Then, when you look at the last century, you see the climate getting warmer and drier, but until the last couple decades the amount of fire was really low. We've pushed fire in the opposite direction you'd expect from climate," Marlon said.

      The fire debt is finally coming due.

      This is pretty much what you'd expect. Leaving aside the question of the human contribution to warming and what we can do about it, the fact of global warming is established to all but the shrieking denialists; it's also a fact that under normal circumstances, ecosystems adapt to any change in climate--sometimes better than others, but they do adapt. Our fire suppression policies for the last century or so have prevented what would have been the normal adaptation from taking place. So now we're getting it all at once.

      • by PPH (736903)

        But think of all that carbon which was sequestered in those forests now being released. You can argue all you want about whether anthropic climate change is real or not. But it has been used to promote some pretty wacko policy decisions. Primarily that forests sequester carbon. They don't. They have been burning down (and rotting) for hundreds of millions of years. Ever since there was enough atmospheric oxygen to support combustion/decomposition. Trees, over their life span, may sequester carbon. But fores

        • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:43PM (#44731717) Homepage Journal

          Trees, over their life span, may sequester carbon. But forests do not. They are carbon neutral.

          This is true over the very long term--in the extreme case of Carboniferous forests, 300 million years or so; we're only now getting around to releasing their carbon back into the atmosphere by burning coal. Obviously in most cases dead trees rot and release their carbon faster than that, but "fast" is relative, and it's still a very slow process by human standards. And most of the carbon from a dead tree doesn't go straight back into the atmosphere; it's taken up by other organisms, and ultimately goes back into the soil as part of the organic waste that makes forest floors into fertile ground for the next generation of trees. Rotted wood, bits of smaller plants, bug poop ... it all looks like a buffet to a sapling.

          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            This is true over the very long term--in the extreme case of Carboniferous forests, 300 million years or so; we're only now getting around to releasing their carbon back into the atmosphere by burning coal.

            A lot of the Middle East's oil reserves are sourced from marine-derived organic matter laid down into mudrocks and limestones in the Cambrian, 500+ million years ago. So, burning that today, as we do, is returning carbon to the cycle after a half-billion year hiatus. (As Michael Caine would put it, "Not a

        • by taiwanjohn (103839) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:04PM (#44731817)

          Yes, it's ironic (and frustrating) that apparently "green" policies can often lead to undesirable results. Thus, it's nice when somebody comes up with an idea that solves the problem without them.

          For example, Allan Savory [wikipedia.org] has a proven idea that, if adopted by even 50% of the industry, could sequester all the CO2 emitted since the industrial revolution in less than a decade. [youtube.com] And, by the way, it has potential to mitigate the problem of brush fires too. [youtube.com]

          Another example: Amory Lovins, [wikipedia.org] who has a plan to wean us off oil within the next 40 years, led by business, driven by profit. [youtube.com]

          There are lots of hopeful things happening. It would be nice if we would get past the left/right rhetoric and focus on the things we can all agree on. Unfortunately, "agreement" doesn't have enough "drama" to attract eyeballs to TV screens. Thus we end up with a spoon-feeding of "breaking news" every day with only a tenuous relationship to reality.

          [sigh!] Have another soma...

          • by bosef1 (208943)

            While I'm as much [citations needed] as the next guy; you could, you know, go through the trouble of explaining what this world-fixing solution that "industry / the green lobby / the government doesn't want me to see" instead of forcing me to wade through the YouTube videos. When you do it this way it looks like the worst kind of shyster "at home infinite electricity" solutions.

            • That's why I included Wikipedia links too. You can get a pretty good precis in text form from there.

        • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:45PM (#44732019) Homepage Journal

          Parent post is using some very incorrect assumptions.

          Rotting vegetation does not release all the carbon that was sequestered during growth into the atmosphere. Much of it is transformed into other living things: termites and other insects, nematodes, fungus, etc. A log in contact with dirt becomes more soil; it does not evaporate into gases. The carbon is sequestered for as long as the ecosystem remains healthy and growing.

          In a forest fire, a large amount of CO2 is released, but also a large amount remains in unburned wood (especially in the root systems) and in charcoal. The roots rot, as described above: that carbon is sequestered. The unburned wood above ground eventually rots as well; more sequestering. The char weathers into small bits over time and eventually enters the soil as biochar. That carbon is not only sequestered, but has become an important substrate to an enriched ecosystem. [One gram of biochar has an active surface area the size of a tennis court, which captures micro nutrients for slow release as the ecosystem can absorb them, and filters out heavy metals and other pollutants.]

          In a forest fire, the ratio of carbon that remains sequestered to carbon that goes atmospheric as CO2 is somewhere between 1:4 and 1:2. Not all of the carbon in a forest is burned in a fire; somewhere between 25% and 33% is retained, basically forever, in the ecosystem as it recovers.

          • by PPH (736903)

            A log in contact with dirt becomes more soil;

            Then I should be able to measure the thickness of that soil, its carbon content and deduce its age. But I can't. I can take a shovel into an old growth forest that has been here since the last ice age and dig through a few feet of organics until I hit rock. And it looks pretty much like newer forests. Some that have repopulated human habitats a hundred years ago or less. Forget the shovel. I can do that with the toe of my hiking boot in many places.

            Trees and other organisms consume the organic matter lying

            • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:41PM (#44732367) Homepage Journal

              Then I should be able to measure the thickness of that soil, its carbon content and deduce its age. But I can't.

              Of course you can't. You are not a pedologist or edaphologist or other soil scientist; you are not an ecologist, or biologist; you are probably not any kind of scientist. You are not even well-read about the subject you write about. So no one with any sense would expect you to be able to do any kind useful soil measurements.

              You are entitled to your opinion, which you have expressed in a manner which makes it very clear how broadly it is based in fact. Which is not very broadly at all; it is so narrow that it topples under its own instabilities. Nevertheless, it is a valid opinion that you are most certainly entitled to express. And which can be used by anyone to assess the value of your contributions to these discussions.

              • by PPH (736903)

                You are not a pedologist or edaphologist or other soil scientist;

                Not a member of the high priests of ecology then, right? Not privy to the secret knowledge of the inner circles? I can only wonder about how many goats get slaughtered at the monthly coven meetings.

                So no one with any sense would expect you to be able to do any kind useful soil measurements.

                But I can operate a backhoe and a measuring tape. And I know what rock ledge and other non organic geological formations look like.

                • by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @06:00PM (#44733313) Homepage Journal

                  Protip: when you have been thoroughly pwned, all you accomplish by whining about it is to embarrass yourself and everyone else around you.

                  • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

                    by PPH (736903)

                    You embarrassed? I'm not.

                    You can't answer my question either: Why does a 10K year old old growth forest not contain 10x the carbon of a 1K year old one?

                    • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @07:52PM (#44734053) Homepage Journal

                      Why does a 10K year old old growth forest not contain 10x the carbon of a 1K year old one?

                      Well, shoot. That's easy. The owls and the wolves and the raccoons and all the other critters carry the carbon away, to neighboring ecosystems.

                      None of this stuff is compartmentalized. The only compartments in ecology are in your head.

                    • by RockDoctor (15477)

                      You can't answer my question either: Why does a 10K year old old growth forest not contain 10x the carbon of a 1K year old one?

                      Your question contains major unstated assumptions which are not correct, and some which you're probably not aware of.

                      Firstly, you're assuming that carbon sequestration is linear with the age of a forest ; it's not. The absorbtion profile is complex and variable with time as well as species (mix) and climate. Initially, as a forest gets established, a lot of carbon is absorbed as sa

                    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

                      by PPH (736903)

                      Flippant answer: You still can't come up with an explanation.

                    • Flippant, but true. Do you hunt? Every deer I have ever taken has gotten its carbon mostly from trees. Maybe a little from munching on grasses and forbes, but mostly from browsing trees.

                      The forest sequesters carbon, and exports some of it as living things. Or sometimes as venison. Yum.

                • by sjames (1099)

                  You forgot that soil can erode and even end up at the bottom of the ocean. You apparently also didn't know that a significant portion of wood ash is calcium CARBONate. When calcium carbonate crystallizes (such as by the action of rain water), it becomes limeSTONE. The word stone there is not a coincidence.

                  The ability to operate a backhoe and a tape measure are useful skills, but it seems you also needed a bit more knowledge of chemistry and mineralogy to put all the pieces together.

                  • by RockDoctor (15477)

                    You apparently also didn't know that a significant portion of wood ash is calcium CARBONate.

                    Wellllll ... actually potassium / sodium carbonate. But that throws down calcium carbonate when it meets a source of calcium ions, which is likely to happen pretty soon in most natural environments.

                • by RockDoctor (15477)

                  You are not a pedologist or edaphologist or other soil scientist;

                  Not a member of the high priests of ecology then, right? Not privy to the secret knowledge of the inner circles?

                  Well, you certainly don't sound like anyone who's done any study of either ecology (what you're complaining about) or soil science (what the GP was talking about), if you're getting the two subjects confused.

                  I suppose if your life consists of hitting things with a JCB (American : backhoe, though how you relate an anal prostitute to

          • A log in contact with dirt becomes more soil;

            Well, some of it does, but how much depends on lot of factors such as temperature, humidity, insolation, shade, etc.. And some of it will also get oxidized into CO2.

            • by Will.Woodhull (1038600) <wwoodhull@gmail.com> on Sunday September 01, 2013 @04:02PM (#44732509) Homepage Journal

              Yes, a good bit of the carbon in rotting vegetation ends up as CO2 eventually. But not all of it; much of it moves from part of one living thing to a part of another. Trees are predominantly made of cellulose, which is polymer of a simple sugar. Much of a rotting log is literally being eaten by bacteria and animals that can consume cellulose: this feeds the ecosystem at its base level.

              Temperature, humidity, and other factors affect the speed with which rot occurs, but do not affect the process or its eventual results. Some fraction of what was once a log becomes free CO2, but a much greater portion moves into the region's ecology.

              The conifer forests are sometimes described as "primary soil builders". Partly because their roots begin to break up the bedrock of mountains, but also because when they die, their products of decomposition feed the nascent soils.

          • by Guppy (12314)

            Rotting vegetation does not release all the carbon that was sequestered during growth into the atmosphere. Much of it is transformed into other living things: termites and other insects, nematodes, fungus, etc. A log in contact with dirt becomes more soil; it does not evaporate into gases. The carbon is sequestered for as long as the ecosystem remains healthy and growing.

            A rule of thumb is that roughly 10% of total energy acquired by an organism is transferred to the next trophic level, when that organism is consumed. While energy and fixed carbon aren't entirely synonymous entities, they are connected, and I would expect to see a similar order-of-magnitude effect in this case.

            • A rule of thumb is that roughly 10% of total energy acquired by an organism is transferred to the next trophic level, when that organism is consumed.

              Whose thumb is that? I'm not just being clever, I'd like a pointer to that discussion. It looks like I might learn something. In other words, citation needed!

              On a related note, it is important to recognize that the conversion of dead trees to other lifeforms in an ecosystem is not a one-time thing, but a continuous process. A ten percent rate of return is not a spectacular ROI for a speculator, but is quite good for the long term investor. In a climax forest, it probably represents the fishes, birds, and

              • by Guppy (12314)

                Whose thumb is that? I'm not just being clever, I'd like a pointer to that discussion. It looks like I might learn something. In other words, citation needed!

                Hmm... well, a good start might be http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Food_web#Energy_flow_and_biomass [wikipedia.org]

                It is the case that the biomass of each trophic level decreases from the base of the chain to the top. This is because energy is lost to the environment with each transfer as entropy increases. About eighty to ninety percent of the energy is expended for the organism’s life processes or is lost as heat or waste. Only about ten to twenty percent of the organism’s energy is generally passed to the next organism. The amount can be less than one percent in animals consuming less digestible plants, and it can be as high as forty percent in zooplankton consuming phytoplankton. Graphic representations of the biomass or productivity at each tropic level are called ecological pyramids or trophic pyramids. The transfer of energy from primary producers to top consumers can also be characterized by energy flow diagrams.

                • Thanks! I have some reading to do now.

                • I have done some further reading on food web, etc. While this thread is old, I thought it worthwhile to put my findings on it.

                  While the biomass energy of each trophic level decreases to roughly 10% of the level it predominantly feeds upon, carbon sequestration is not coupled with this. If it were, there would be no carrion, crap, or bird droppings in the forest. Only the carbon exhaled as CO2 escapes the ecosystem; the rest is recycled through bacteria, fungi, and other saprophytes and effectively stays s

                  • by Guppy (12314)

                    While the biomass energy of each trophic level decreases to roughly 10% of the level it predominantly feeds upon, carbon sequestration is not coupled with this. If it were, there would be no carrion, crap, or bird droppings in the forest. Only the carbon exhaled as CO2 escapes the ecosystem; the rest is recycled through bacteria, fungi, and other saprophytes and effectively stays sequestered.

                    You are correct that the relationship between energy transfer and carbon transfer is not directly proportional, but it is definitely related in a way that might be easier to understand if I explain it in an alternate fashion. Think of it this way -- Primary photosynthetic producers must capture and inject energy into H2O and CO2 substrates, to produce useful molecules which have higher energy (less stable) C-C and H-C bonds (and yes, many other types of bonds eventually, but this is where the initial captu

          • by Shavano (2541114)
            Over a long period (hundreds of years) the forest is CLOSE to carbon neutral. Over a very long time, it's not, unless you count the fact that every billion years or so, some species will come along and burn all the coal.
        • Translation: until everyone adopts my political ideology you can all go fuck yourselves, and me too!!!!

        • by Genda (560240)
          So the majority of forest isn't burned, and hasn't burned in the past, every bit of cellulose sequesters atmospheric carbon. Yon can release all of that by burning down the entire forest, but immediately, new growth will take up where the old growth left off. What part of that is unclear?
        • by sjames (1099)

          No, they actually do store carbon. They just have a limited capacity like everything else and the storage is dynamic. When the forest grows larger or denser, there is more carbon sunk into it. When it gets smaller or thinner, carbon is released. A particular plant stores carbon for a limited time, then decays. The carbon it releases is taken up by the plants that grow in it's place.

          If you burn down a forest and prevent it from regrowing, the carbon remains in the atmosphere. If you allow it to expand again

        • by haruchai (17472)

          "Wealth transfer to 3rd world countries" ??

          I'd say the West did a great job of transferring in the OPPOSITE direction for a long time - and still do.

      • by Impy the Impiuos Imp (442658) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:57PM (#44731785) Journal

        Outside of suggesting increased dryness, they take a great deal of pain to point out how fire suppression is leading to vast increases in fuel, i.e. smaller trees, pines, brush, and other buildup, that used to get cleared out every few years by lesser fires.

        Although in the 1970s, they started doing small controlled burns, they're still burning less per decade than used to be burned per year naturally. This is all from tree ring and other data.

        • by TheLink (130905)

          But why do controlled burns? Why not do controlled logging of the forest instead?

          If people are willing to consider that controlled burns are OK, why not controlled logging? Against "Enviro-Religion"?

          Either way trees and wildlife will die. But with controlled logging you can more exactly determine which trees and where, and perhaps ensure a higher percentage of the wildlife will get survive. And depending on how you use the wood the carbon could stay locked up for a lot longer than if you burned forests.

          Some

          • by Elbows (208758)

            Fire burns up undergrowth and dead branches on the forest floor, but the larger trees mostly survive. Logging removes the large trees and allows brush to grow up in its place.

            So logging has a totally different ecological impact, and probably increases the risk of fire.

          • by alen (225700)

            native americans used to do controlled burns

            issue is not the wood, but the smaller plants that catch on fire first in case of lightning or arson and allow the fire to grow. the trees are the last to catch on fire

            but some of the crazy greenies sue the idea of controlled burns out of existence and its now illegal

          • I strongly suggest you read the article because it will explain all your questions, and more.
          • by RockDoctor (15477)

            But why do controlled burns? Why not do controlled logging of the forest instead? If people are willing to consider that controlled burns are OK, why not controlled logging?

            Because controlled logging implies bringing lumber out of the forest, which also means logging roads, and getting non-target trees / bushes / ground litter and ground-level plants either removed or severely damaged. Which then greatly increases the likelihood of destructive soil erosion.

            Enough reasons?

        • by Mashiki (184564)

          Although in the 1970s, they started doing small controlled burns, they're still burning less per decade than used to be burned per year naturally. This is all from tree ring and other data.

          Well if you want to see what type of disaster that's going to cause us, you don't even need to look at Yosemite. Just look at all the dead forest area caused by pine beetles. I drove through part of the NW and Alberta and BC 2 years ago, and it was mile after mile, after mile of dead trees in ripe tinder dry conditions.

      • by khallow (566160)

        the fact of global warming is established to all but the shrieking denialists

        I'd take AGW arguments more seriously if they weren't so dependent on rhetorical fallacies. Ad hominem attacks such as the above ("shrieking denialists") and appeals to authority ("97% of scientists") are ridiculously common.

        • I'd take AGW arguments more seriously if they weren't so dependent on rhetorical fallacies.

          You've already amply demonstrated that no amount of evidence will ever make you take a scientific analysis of climate change seriously.

          Ad hominem attacks such as the above ("shrieking denialists") and appeals to authority ("97% of scientists") are ridiculously common.

          "Ridiculously common" is an apt description of the denalist tendency to shriek "ad hominem!" every time somewhat accurately identifies them, and their constant pretense that appeal to authority is at the basis of scientifically based climatological arguments.

          • by khallow (566160)

            You've already amply demonstrated that no amount of evidence will ever make you take a scientific analysis of climate change seriously.

            That argument hasn't been tried yet. The AGW side keeps overstating its case. The scientific analysis isn't as good as claimed.

            "Ridiculously common" is an apt description of the denalist tendency to shriek "ad hominem!" every time somewhat accurately identifies them, and their constant pretense that appeal to authority is at the basis of scientifically based climatological arguments.

            But then it doesn't materially matter to this discussion whether "denialists" (a blatantly ad hominem term right there) are "shrieking" or not via a keyboard. That's irrelevant to the "denialist" argument and hence, why it is an ad hominem attack.


            Here, once again, the considerable bias in support of AGW in modern research is ignored. It's worth noting once again that a researche

        • So you prefer appeals to non-authorities ("3% of scientists").
          • by khallow (566160)
            Let's see - a loaded question with a false dilemma (there are other choices here) and an ad hominem (scientists who are treated as authorities when they agree with moderate statements of AGW don't suddenly become "non-authorities" when they disagree with moderate statements of AGW). I really honestly am looking for more here than shit arguments that a kid could pull apart.
      • by Genda (560240)
        Not really. Adaptation, at least at the level forests take millions of years, centuries are simply too fast for forests to react to.That's part of the problem. What you get at current rates of change is extinction.
    • The article has several sections suggesting that AGW is at least partly to blame.
    • There are more people lighting more fires than ever before. Of course there are more bloody bush fires. What do you expect? This one was apparently started by illegal weed growers [telegraph.co.uk].
    • by Optali (809880)

      Amen! It's in the Bible!!

      "Thou shalt not believe in Global Warmin and temptations from the IPCC"

      It's all just a scam of the climate scientists who wouldn't have any other thing to do other wise. As it's a generally and obvious matter of fact that climate science is the most useless science on earth. BTW: What's it exactly used for, if I may ask?

  • Decrapified URL (Score:5, Informative)

    by Daniel Dvorkin (106857) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @01:01PM (#44731527) Homepage Journal

    http://dotearth.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/08/29/the-yosemite-rim-fire-in-the-context-of-forest-policy-ecology-and-climate-change/ [nytimes.com]

    Just in case anyone wants to actually, you know, read the article rather than being taken to a login screen.

    • by Solandri (704621)
      Alas the NY Times seems intent on making sure nobody reads the story and has put your link behind a login page too.

      Here's the video at least. Not the down-ressed YouTube version included in the NYT article, but the original HD version posted by the National Park Service.
      http://vimeo.com/73310936 [vimeo.com]
      • by Solandri (704621)
        Here we go [googleusercontent.com]. Google to the rescue.
      • by hawkfish (8978)

        Alas the NY Times seems intent on making sure nobody reads the story and has put your link behind a login page too.

        Why is everyone around here too cheap to pay journalists for the work they do? If what they do is so easy, why don't you do it for free in your spare time instead of stealing their livelihood? That is how labour markets work: competition, not adolescent rationalisations of theft (of their life force, not their "bits".)

    • by Shavano (2541114)
      Yes, but you can't conclude from that alone that using "correlation is not causation" makes people ignorant.
  • Tree killers (Score:4, Informative)

    by jklovanc (1603149) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:40PM (#44731997)

    This is exactly what I said in the last article about this fire.

    If you let fuel build up you create bigger hotter fires that kill trees and cause massive damage. It is evidenced by living trees with burn scars that trees can live through fires. When the fire get hot enough and enough bark is burned the tree dies. Another issue is that most tree trunks are bare a fair way up. This allows low burning fires to move through the forest and burn the brush. If these low burning fire get hot and high enough ther start burning the tree branches which also kills the trees. It also creates a crown fire [forestencyclopedia.net] which can spread rapidly and devastate large areas.

    It is well known that proscribed burns are good for forests. We just are not doing them enough. We don't want to see blackened areas in our parks even though it is necessary to protect them from bigger fires.

    • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

      by PPH (736903)

      We don't want to see blackened areas in our parks even though it is necessary to protect them from bigger fires.

      We don't want some banker's hunting lodge burned down.

    • by whoever57 (658626)

      We don't want to see blackened areas in our parks even though it is necessary to protect them from bigger fires.

      Actually, you have this back to front. In the park, they have been doing proscribed burns and the damage in the park is less than that outside the park.

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Less but not as good as it could be. They do less burning in a decade that happened naturally year by year. They are getting better but there is a long way to go. 90% dead is less than 100% but it is still unacceptable(numbers just for illustrative purposes).

    • by Reziac (43301) *

      Forests evolved to be burned, a sort of regular natural cleanup. It can be simulated by judicious logging. But one or the other needs to happen, or you wind up with destructive fires like in California... where fires have been suppressed and logging is a thing of the past. The current overgrowth is about 5 times what a healthy forest can support, especially in an arid climate... meaning 4 out of 5 trees are dead or dying, and ripe to be fuel.

      I've seen CA wildfires up close... before, during, and after. Clea

      • by jklovanc (1603149)

        Clearcutting is less destructive.

        Agreed. In clearcutting the ground is not baked to a cinder and there is plenty of branches left behind to decompose and enrich the soil. I am not saying clearcutting is great but it is much less harmfull than a hot wildfire.

        • by Reziac (43301) *

          The other downside of an overly hot fire is that what does come back is often mostly weeds and brush, invasive rather than native... and it grows into a mat of fuel.

          Remember that fast-moving brushfire that burned about 700 sq.miles of eastern Oregon, about a year ago? I drove through it both during and right after the fire, and the next spring. Right after, it looked like a blackened moonscape, but come spring the native grass was taking over again and the sagebrush (which is an invasive weed, not native) h

  • Human Arrogance (Score:5, Insightful)

    by billybob_jcv (967047) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @02:52PM (#44732067)
    The arrogance of our species is astounding. Our perceptual timelines are far too short and our reactions are far too erratic. Nature grinds forward - with or without intervention by humans - and with or without the survival of life on this planet. It's not clear to me whether we have the power to remove all life on this planet and make it just another dead, lifeless space rock - I suspect we do not - not as long as the oceans contain micro organisms that can evolve very quickly such that even we can't easily eradicate them. Either way - the universe doesn't give d@mn - and thinking we have the ability to "control" our environment is the height of folly. Our mindset should be to try to survive and live within the current state of the planet - whatever that current state looks like. If the mean temperature of the planet is increasing, fine - then instead of trying to stop the environment's current direction - figure out how to live with the new status quo. Adapt or die - it's as easy as that. Hopefully, the squid will do a better job after we are gone and the squid rise-up to take our niche in the hierarchy.
    • Our mindset should be to try to survive and live within the current state of the planet

      No thanks, I like having a house with four walls. My house changes the environment (especially when combined with billions of other houses), but I'm not giving it up to prove I'm not 'arrogant.'

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Of course we can control our environment. It is trivial. At the small scale just start smoking in bed until your home (environment) catches fire. Big change, man-made. One person can overturn a truck carrying pesticide so that it flows into a river which poisons downstream land and farms.

      Now I know you're talking about very large scale environment. One human doesn't have a lot of power to affect the very large scale environment, but 4 billion humans do. Humans absolutely have destroyed many environmen

      • Of course we can control our environment. It is trivial. At the small scale just start smoking in bed until your home (environment) catches fire. Big change, man-made. One person can overturn a truck carrying pesticide so that it flows into a river which poisons downstream land and farms.

        Now I know you're talking about very large scale environment. One human doesn't have a lot of power to affect the very large scale environment, but 4 billion humans do. Humans absolutely have destroyed many environments already. We've drained marshes and created deserts. Arrival of Europeans to America has caused massive change. Most of Europe used to be one large forest. We created the dustbowl in America in recent history. Humans have cause huge changes in the past and the evidence is very clear that humans are greatly exacerbating the current climate change.

        Yes, we need to adapt. But we need to stop doing the stupid stuff that is encouraging the climate change. You can't just keep using your 10mpg SUV and importing your food from the other side of the globe while shouting out the window "not my fault!"

        Every time I see one of these humans can't change weather cranks, I just hear "Black Blizzard" in my head. Congress actually debated this very issue till one side said "look out the window, and you can see my home state of Kansas blowing by". Some people just refuse to listen to facts and cling to their beliefs until they personally experience just how wrong they are.

  • Even with AGW aside (Score:4, Interesting)

    by estitabarnak (654060) on Sunday September 01, 2013 @03:21PM (#44732241)

    In this discussion, we can completely ignore global climate change and end up with the same general calculus. If you let fuels accumulate (as they always have and always will) by putting out every fire, you will keep kicking the can down the road until there's a fire so big that you can't put it out. Add in budget problems and the situation is ripe in California.

    This isn't a matter of wacky tree-hugging liberals preventing logging from saving our forests either. Use of prescribed burning and selective logging are taught extensively at the UC Berkeley Forestry program. Selective logging is used for various management goals in the Santa Cruz mountains (including revenue maximization). Neither of those places have a history of being particularly conservative.

    This isn't a problem that you can micromanage your way out of. You can't take out a few juicy trees and declare your forest safe from fire. Regular, prescribed burns allow for the kind of patchy diversity and general fuels reduction that prevent these big fires from happening.

    • by PPH (736903)

      This isn't a matter of wacky tree-hugging liberals preventing logging from saving our forests either. Use of prescribed burning and selective logging are taught extensively at the UC Berkeley Forestry program. Selective logging is used for various management goals in the Santa Cruz mountains (including revenue maximization). Neither of those places have a history of being particularly conservative.

      Except that the wacky tree-hugging liberals have been selling the carbon sequestration attributes of forests as an excuse to 'save' them. Another name for this carbon sequestration is 'fuel'. Fire is nature's way of maintaining a balance. And it will happen, either a bit at a time as prescriptive burns and natural burning of the undergrowth. Or it will happen every few decades as big, destructive fires, taking everything down to the ground.

      The modern view of forests as carbon sinks considers them as divers

      • Connecting carbon sequestration with fire-excluded forest is short sited (well, for most forests in the US, anyway). While I'm sure there are folks all across the spectrum who are short sited, the point is that the liberal institutions that people point to aren't supporters. Equally myopic, however, is your view of forest management, history, and ecology in general.

        It's pretty well recognized (including by me above) that a management plan to maximize revenue and productivity is going to include thinning (

  • I'd say this exact same lesson - let small bad things happen at a natural rate according to natural processes - is worth reviewing in terms of the economy in an (allegedly) capitalist society.

    Businesses fail. New businesses are born. That's how it works.
    One cannot protect business from failure, and anything that's supposedly 'too big to fail' is PROBABLY the result of skewed former legislation that allowed it to reach sizes/dominance it otherwise naturally wouldn't have.

    Just like forest fires...trying to

Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed. -- Francis Bacon

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