Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Prevent Forest Fires.

Nature has mechanisms to cope with excesses and imbalances, which though often unpleasant and destructive, tend to be necessary and ultimately beneficial to the long term health of any ecosystem. In the case of forests, where old trees tend to become an obstruction to new growth, fires act as a remedy of sorts, allowing the forest to replenish itself. Call it creative destruction. Nature, however, like its almost infinite creations, isn't perfect, and so one must cope with, so to speak, collateral damage, where fires not only destroy old plant life, but a lot of old (and not so old) animal life as well.

Recently I was pondering the many ways in which mankind has seemed, the operative word being seemed, to skirt naturally occurring corrective processes, and what the consequences are likely to be. The short answer is there are far too many examples outside my understanding to answer my own question. However, an educated guess tells me that if the premise that imbalances in nature, and for that matter, outside of nature, are destined to be corrected, is rock solid, then every sea wall ever built is a goner, perhaps spectacularly so, as in the case of New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. In the realm of economics, a man made phenomenon that intersects with nature, as everything man made ultimately does, it seems apparent to this observer that the powers that be have successfully avoided natural corrective processes in markets through the seemingly endless creation of debt.

Imagine, if you will, a giant, water tank located right next to an enormous forest. The water tank not only has a vast, apparently inexhaustible supply of water, but an elaborate and far reaching sprinkler system with which to douse the forest should even the mere hint of a fire arise. Of course it's all a nonsense, since outside of sunlight, which majestic as it is, is itself not eternal, there can be no inexhaustible source of water. The terrifying upshot is that at some point, who knows when, all the old growth that has been propped up by the elaborate water tower system is going to go up in smoke, almost certainly with more collateral damage than would have been the case had the system been allowed to naturally restore itself. So, while playing with matches, as per Smokey the Bear's warning, is a no no, a bigger no no might be not allowing any conflagration at all.


DED said...

I've read about how the Forest Service's policy of stopping all fires, while in good in the short run, has been quite harmful in the long run. I was skeptical at first, but upon reading further I understood the logic. Even environmental groups like The Nature Conservancy support a return to fire. Controlled burns seem to be the new method. It maintains the fire cycle and will, hopefully, reduce the likelihood of catastrophic wildfires. It's a tough line to walk with the long term drying out of Western states.

Edwardo said...

Hi Ded,

Thanks for you comments.

DED said...

Not at all. They're still free. :)

And I'll mention another anecdote that supports the argument for controlled burns: pestilence.

Apparently Arkansas was suffering from an out of control red oak borer population. They ate through 1.6 million acres of oaks. Their success rate was due to exceptional forest density. Before the devastation, the average tree density was 148 trees per acre. Portions of certain forests were thinned to 52 trees/acre and the red oak borer population crashed. Land managers will be monitoring these thinned sections to ensure that the borers don't rebound.

Edwardo said...

Interesting story indeed about the red oak borer.

Anonymous said...

I am testing many different expert advisors in the Forex but want to find one that really works without risking a lot of time and money. Is there any advice out there? Thank you
[url=]click here[/url]