Writing and pimping and your pal, Jim: Apologies to Norman Maclean
I have been writing about the wildfire crisis in our national forests for 30-plus years – long enough to have developed a solid understanding of it underlying causes.
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“Writing and pimping and your pal, Jim” paraphrases “Logging and pimping and your pal, Jim,” a chapter in Norman Maclean’s acclaimed book, A River Runs Through It.
Am I a “tone deaf ambulance chaser?”
I asked myself this question a couple of days ago after commenting on the umpteenth wildfire post on Facebook.
My comment prompted an angry response from someone I did not know who accused me of being “tone deaf” while “pimping” my book.
The book is First, Put Out the Fire! It is a summation of more than 30 years of research and writing that took me to all 50 states. The book has been favorably reviewed by several fire ecologists and at least a dozen Forest Service retirees whose careers were devoted to managing forests and battling wildfires.
The gist of the Facebook post targeting me was that I should not be trying to promote my book on Facebook while western Oregon and Washington and most of California are engulfed in wildfires – many still burning out of control on this Sunday morning, September 13, 2020.
If not now…when?
My immediate reaction was, “If not now, then when?” I have been watching the West’s wildfire seasons grow longer and larger since 1986. That is the year I started the Evergreen Foundation. Public concern always peaks in September – the worst fire month of the year – and it vanishes the moment the smoke gives way to sunny fall skies. Lost lives, homes, and towns are forgotten.
Until next year.
If “pimping” my book while the West is burning to the ground helps break this cycle of forgetfulness and neglect, then so be it. I will happily take the heat, but if there is one thing I am not, it is “tone deaf.” I have been writing about the wildfire crisis in our national forests for 30-plus years – long enough to have developed a solid understanding of it underlying causes.
To my pleasant surprise, the hundreds of Facebook posts I have read over the last month reveal that rural westerners also understand what is happening and why. The most immediate causes are a 10 to 100-fold increase in tree stand density, accompanying insect and disease infestations, knee-deep woody debris and inevitable wildfire. All made worse by long years of drought.
Yes, the climate is changing, Google “Tree Ring Research” at the University of Arizona and you will learn that the West’s climate fluctuates through warming and cooling cycles every 175 to 350-year cycles. This has been going on for at least 2,000 years and probably much longer.
Somewhere between 90 and 110 million acres of federal forestland in the West are in what fire ecologists call Condition Class 3 [ready to burn] or Condition Class 2 [soon will be ready to burn].
It’s not like we didn’t know
I wish the Forest Service was more forthcoming about its jaw-dropping computer fire models, including a colossus that starts in the Sierras in California, runs north up both sides of the Oregon Cascades, then turns east toward Idaho and Montana. It burns itself out in central Montana. Sound familiar?
You can watch this crisis unfold day after day on FEMA briefing maps depicting fire locations and smoke cover. I have no idea how many fires crews are battling but it must be in the hundreds. We simply do not have the workforce capacity needed to deal with what we are facing. Worse are the misdirected and failing federal forest policies that Congress has written that make it impossible for the Forest Service to function – much less honor its motto: Caring for the land and serving people.
In hundreds of Facebook posts, the Sierra Club has taken a richly deserved and very public shellacking for its decades-long role in blocking time-tested, science-based management of western national forests.
Don’t be like Sierra Club Doug
In reply to this anger, Doug Karpa posted on Facebook that it “couldn’t happen to more deserving people.”
Doug is a Sierra Club Executive Committee member and Senior Regulatory Analyst for Peninsula Clean Energy. I presume these “people” includes the “deplorables” targeted during the last election, and anyone that does not accept politicized science.
The Sierra Club’s business model relies on exaggeration and outright falsehood. It brings in millions of dollars annually, despite the environmental and economic carnage it has unleashed in the western third of our nation. More than half our nation’s federal forest heritage is dying or dead.
The politicizing of fire
Until the organization’s soft preservationist underbelly is exposed - and miscreants like Mr. Karpa are publicly condemned - the public discourse on which Congress so often relies in its decision-making will continue to deteriorate.
Fortunately, most of the Sierra Club’s peers have steered course corrections. Favoring the kind of thinning, prescribed fire and forest restoration work. Work that needs to be done to reduce threats posed by insects, diseases, drought and wildfire.
Sadly, the Club of Doug continues to brandish its long knives in Congress. I have no idea why, but someone should ask. Fact-checking their explanation will be vital because these people are masters of illusion.
The time is now
Here at Evergreen, we intend to stay the course we have been following since 1986. This means that I will continue to write and “pimp” my book on our website and on our Facebook page. The time to address our wildfire pandemic is now - it isn’t going to get any more comfortable.