Last evening I participated as one of five presenters in a live-audience, multi-media discussion/presentation with a group of foresters, a smoke jumper and State of Montana’s tourism specialist in the Dept. of Commerce. The topic was “Can we manage wildfire; Should we manage wildfire.” As the lone “tree-hugger” on the stage, I tried to probe other panel members for the reasons for their beliefs – most believed in management as a “solution” to our wildfire “problem.” Needless to say, the anthropocentric viewpoint predominated.
Soldiering on, I tried very hard to interject a few self-evident truths about nature and fire’s natural role in the continuous mystery of life in its many forms. When cornered with truth, however, the other participants simply lied to escape reality. I’m sure they believed their lies, but even to the live audience lying seemed obvious, but generally an acceptable answer to a confrontation with an inescapable truth.
Lifelong experience, and faith in the newly emerging “science” of fire ecology provided the cover story “pro-management” advocates needed to reach a quick-and-dirty social consensus, which kept that proper distance between human intuition and generational, subconscious knowledge and modern myths that pass for “fact(s).” Our faith in reason maintains a safe distance between our ego and any real contact with the unconscious part of our own psyche. The pursuit of money and jobs, rote facts, repeated ad nauseum, are part of our conditioning since childhood. Our conditioned response is firmly in charge of most opinions around society’s irrational fear of fire and forests. These natural processes are now foreign to us, generally. We are fully disassociated. Sad, I think. Many of the ideas I presented last night are summarized nicely in three (modified) excerpts from a recent op ed by George Wuerthner:
“When the climate is dry, hot, and windy, Nature defeats our best efforts to control blazes. Major factors in large fires include major drought, high temperatures, low humidity and high winds. Not fuels. The same factors are also responsible for the beetle kill and other natural agents of change. Science says a healthy forest ecosystem is one dominated by occasional large high severity fires, major beetle outbreaks and high mortality from occasional severe drought.”
“Furthermore, dead trees are less flammable than live trees. Most of the acreage burned annually occurs in green forests with resin-soaked fine burnable materials like needles and cones. The bole of trees does not readily burn which is why you have snags left after a fire. So, a forest of dead snags is less combustible than a green, drought-stressed forest.”
“Finally, logging the forests does not restore our forest ecosystems. Forest ecosystems depend on episodic and periodic high mortality from wildfire, bugs, drought and other factors. Many plants and animals depend on the dead logs and down wood for their survival and live in mortal fear of “green” forests.”
I have changed my views on science lately after years relying on peer-reviewed science to win lawsuits against various federal agencies causing great harm to our forests, waterways and public health. That does not mean I will not continue to use science in the courtroom. I will, however, adjust my perspective as more knowledge pushes me further away from overconfidence in what we think we know. We do not need to know everything. I’m really enjoying that thought right now. I’ll close with a quote from Clint Richardson’s (free, online) book: Strawman: The Real Story of Our Artificial Person. p. 77. (unpublished, 2017)
“Science, since people must do it, IS A SOCIALLY EMBEDDED ACTIVITY. It progresses by hunch, vision, and intuition. Much of its change through time DOES NOT RECORD A CLOSER APPROACH TO ABSOLUTE TRUTH, BUT THE ALTERATION OF CULTURAL CONTEXTS THAT INFLUENCE IT SO STRONGLY. Facts are not pure and unsullied bits of information; culture also influences what we see and how we see it. THEORIES, MOREOVER, ARE NOT INEXORABLE INDUCTIONS FROM FACTS. THE MOST CREATIVE THEORIES ARE OFTEN IMAGINATIVE VISIONS IMPOSED UPON FACTS; the source of imagination is also strongly cultural.” —Stephen Jay Gould, introduction to “The Mismeasure of Man” (1981)
And so, when our ego might be subdued enough in order that our spiritual Being is emergent without such constrictions of language and other art forms, we may finally acquire the most important knowledge of all, which is that we know almost nothing of what is Real in the eternity of all Creation as one Unending Being (verb). And while an actor may pretend to know his character and an observer may pretend to know empathetically his subject, this pretended knowledge is of course always false, no matter how experimentally predictable it may be. Scientific knowledge is never a True knowledge of Source, only a mutual acknowledgement (theory) of description and reaction. But a theory is also never the Source, only the best guess as to the Nature of things. The religious belief (love) in, forced syndicalist acceptance of, and subsequent application of this false or theoretical knowledge as legally sanctioned “fact” or “truth” is the cause of virtually all of our collective problems. But what is True Knowledge? Look around… With clear eyes and a Pure heart see what around you is artificial and what is of the Nature and Design of Reality, of that which man has not touched and repurposed to his own desires and imaginations. Are you still able to recognize and distinguish that legal, commercially driven matrix from the Reality it re-presents? Can you still feel what is Real? Can you see the difference between the fictional realm of the nations and God’s Creation of Nature, or do you cling to your nationality (ethnicity) insisting you are some person, some thing you are not in some place that doesn’t actually Exist?”
Go, get outside, wander in the forest before it’s all cut down for money and jobs.