Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Backcountry Cookfires: Overview and Techniques for Cooking Over an Open Flame


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Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Absolutism? on 03/22/2008 16:49:15 MDT Print View

"Anyone who says that burning wood is no more carbon neutral than burning propane needs to do a little reading."

So I did a little reading:

To quote from the very first article I googled: "There are numerous sites incorrectly making the unqualified statement that burning wood is carbon neutral."

http://www.seacoastnrg.org/2007/01/30/is-burning-wood-really-carbon-neutral/

And if burning wood is carbon neutral, does that mean it's OK to burn the Amazon? Or the forests in South-East Asia?

"Alcohol is NOT carbon neutral. All the studies show almost no improvement over fossil fuels, because it takes so much fossil fuels to grow the source vegetation (fertilizer, tractor fuel, seed trucks, etc.), move it to the processing center, move the alcohol to the stores where you buy it, etc."

I'd need to see more info on that - a lot of the arguments advanced in Australia against methanol use as car fuel is based on the sitution in the US where you're converting corn to methanol which is (apparently) very expensive and resource-intensive - but Australia, like Brazil, has large areas of sugar-cane, and you can pretty much brew sugar into methanol in your back-yard. Traditionally the sugar cane mills here were small, located very close to the cane-fields and used small, local trainlines to shift the sugar cane to the mills, so the same "food miles" also argument doesn't hold. And Queensland's a lot closer to Melbourne than Saudi Arabia.

"Thank you, Malthus."

Yes, well I'm old enought to remember the Club of Rome - according to them we were all supposed to be eating each other, like in Soylent Green, some 25 years ago. According to Malthus we were supposed to be eating each other around 1913.

In any case, in the spirit of of lighting a small candle etc, etc we are about to convert our house to solar passive/solar cells/solar hot water/sun lizard/grid interactive/all rainwater use/recycled greywater and possibly storm water re-use through ground infiltration tanks - and all of the architects and green consultants we've been speaking to are rushed off their feet ... well, in my part of town anyway. I ride, walk or tram it to work and we have one car. Our new car (growing family) will be LPG, diesel or hybrid. Hybrid LPG would be ideal, but isn't available at the moment.

Edited by Arapiles on 03/22/2008 17:30:41 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Riposte on 03/23/2008 08:24:56 MDT Print View

Yes the first article up when you google "wood carbon neutral" is the one you cited. The next FOUR, however, all expound upon the carbon-neutrality of burning wood. Your google-based argument, then, is rendered void.

This is all moot, however. I said "more carbon neutral," exactly as you quoted me. "More." Honestly I don't know if burning wood is totally carbon neutral, but I am sure that it is MORE carbon neutral than burning fossil fuels.

Did you even read the article I linked?

For that matter, did you even read the article YOU linked? It nearly verbatim states that burning wood IS carbon neutral in theory, but isn't in practice when we burn wood faster than trees grow back. So no, burning the Amazon is not ok. I'm sorry I had to be the one answer your condescending rhetorical question. And just to keep you from asking I will state now: No, I do not advocate the whole-scale burning of our forests to heat our cities. Any more extreme examples you'd like to make?

(Some text voluntarily edited out, for being a little rude.)

Sorry, Sir, but I make no apologies for my tiny campfires during my trip in the middle of the Alaskan nowhere. I have no issues with making campfires the way they are done in the vast majority of public campsites- i.e. there is a firepit or ring, but you haul the firewood in. Do I burn wood as my default hikinkg power source? No, of course not, that would be silly. Almost as silly as dismissing the option unilaterally and out of hand.

I do apologize for a generalization I made regarding the carbon neutrality of alcohol. I was, in fact, talking about North America and Europe. As the greatest consumers of fossil fuels and any possible alternatives to fossil fuels I had limited my discussion to those markets, but failed to specify that. Mea culpa. In my defense I DID acknowledge this by mentioning that Brazil does it much better than, say, the US does. If it makes you feel better to quote that Australia does it better too, then go ahead. But it STILL isn't NEARLY carbon neutral. How does Australia fertilize those fields? What's nice about cane is that you can burn the cane to help power the boilers when turning it into ethanol, but even Brazil still has to augment with some fossil fuels.

I maintain that at the end-user scale burning a few twigs remains more carbon-neutral than burning alcohol, unless you are an organic farmer running on all alternative power sources and fermenting your own white lightning.

Kudos to you, since you seem to be well on the way to that standard, judging from the domestic setup that you described.

For the record, my favored stove is alcohol fueled.

Also for the record, corn and cane get fermented into ethanol, not methanol. The waste that's left over can be made into methanol, but it is usually burned to fire the boilers.

Edited by acrosome on 03/23/2008 08:32:14 MDT.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Carbon Neutral on 03/23/2008 08:41:30 MDT Print View

I have gone to a cook-less diet while on the trail and carry no stove or fuel of any kind and build no fires (the only time I carry and use a stove is during winter trips where a stove is required to melt snow for drinking water). But even going cook-less I can't claim to be carbon neutral. The food I eat is harvested and processed somewhere using some form of energy. I have no moral issue with choosing to build a small fire for cooking, for warmth or for the simple pleasure of sitting near. The adage of leave no trace, whatever ones selected method of cooking, is what we all should strive to follow.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
LNT on 03/23/2008 09:23:49 MDT Print View

But that's sort of what we're discussing here: what is "leave no trace"?

Is it better to use that propane-fired stove that contributes to global warming, or is it the lesser of two evils to burn a few twigs and pine cones in something like the Bushbuddy?

I think the propane's contribution is trivial, and equivalent to the carbon footprint that you would leave by not going out hiking and eat at home instead. Thus I think all this talk about which is carbon-neutral and which isn't is pointless, frankly.

But, I also think that some LNT zealots go too far, as well. And they are a little hypocritical, too, because they are contributing to soil erosion, scaring the critters, etc., etc. The only true LNT policy is to stay home, isn't it? And none of us are willing to do that.

As I said, I have searched my heart and decided not to burn wood in anything approaching a high-use area. But the remote back-country isn't going to miss a few pine cones, and I dare anyone to try and identify one of my campsites three days after I've been there. Even then, I'm probably using alcohol. I reserve wood for truly remote places where my impact is trivial, like the Tongass.

WILD TANGENT

Oh, and someone asked me for a reference about the carbon neutrality of ethanol. Here is a quote from a Wikipeia article, which I will admit is not the best of sources, covering several general environmental problems with ethanol:

"It takes 1.2 gallons of fossil fuel to produce 1 gallon of ethanol from corn. This total includes the use of fossil fuels used for fertilizer, tractor fuel, ethanol plant operation, etc. Research has shown that 1 gallon of fossil fuel can produce over 5 gallons of ethanol from prairie grasses, according to Terry Riley, President of Policy at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. The United States Department of Energy concludes that corn-based ethanol provides 26 percent more energy than it requires for production, while cellulosic ethanol provides 80 percent more energy.[41] Cellulosic ethanol yields 80 percent more energy than is required to grow and convert it.[46] The process of turning corn into ethanol requires about 1,700 gallons of water for every 1 gallon of ethanol produced. Additionally, each gallon of ethanol leaves behind 12 gallons of waste that must be disposed.[47] Grain ethanol uses only the edible portion of the plant. Expansion of corn acres for the production of ethanol poses threats to biodiversity. Corn lacks a strong root system, therefore, when produced, it causes soil erosion. This has a direct effect on soil particles, along with excess fertilizers and other chemicals, washing into local waterways, damaging water quality and harming aquatic life. Planting riparian areas can serve as a buffer to waterways, and decrease runoff."

And, yes, sugar cane does a little better, and cellulosic sources like sawgrass or switchgrass do better still. But they aren't NEUTRAL.

Also, this from an environmental website:

http://www.grist.org/news/maindish/2006/12/04/montenegro/index.html

They reserve their harshest criticism for corn-based ethanol, calling it "fool's gold" if I recall correctly.

If you want hard data, here is a paper from the Wilson Institute:

http://www.wilsoncenter.org/news/docs/ethanol%20as%20a%20fuel.pdf

They discuss the carbon balance of US Corn and Brazilian cane ethanol in excruciating detail.

So you can expound all you like about the POTENTIAL carbon-neutrality of alcohol, but RIGHT NOW it isn't, not by a long shot, and won't be in my lifetime.

Look, I don't claim to be the expert, but this is the information that I've read. If you do, in fact, have better data please show it to me.

Edited by acrosome on 03/23/2008 10:23:25 MDT.

Roman Dial
(romandial) - F - M

Locale: packrafting NZ
a little farther on 03/24/2008 00:41:28 MDT Print View

Overall, the LNT principle strikes me as a cultural principle, an ethical extension of the don't litter idea, which emerged in the US during the 1960's. Some of us remember the ol' B&W TV ad of the crying Indian, the pig hanging out of the car window, etc.

The real struggle for me is this: how do we get more people to value wilderness and wildlands without bringing them there? It seems we need to bring them there (kids, impressionable adults) to encounter it and make contact, like Thoreau did if only in the local woods, or like Muir did in the West and Alaska.

So even if you get them (kids, impressionable adults) out there, how do you get them to come back? Cold camps and cold food will not seem very appealing. To be honest, I struggle with second/vacation home owners, ORV and ATV and motor boat drivers, downhill skiers, game hunters (i.e trophy) and fishers, sport climbers and day hikers who drive to their spots -- Ok now I quit, because the next level of consumerism will include what I like to do!

What I struggle with is: are we being dollar-stupid and penny-wise when we antagonize and ostracize user groups who don't do things our way?

I mean, because even more of the non-developed world is consumed every day, instead of fighting other lovers of the outdoors for the scraps that are left ("No motors! NO fires! No guns! NO bikes! No horses! No feet! This wilderness is mine to imagine empty!"), just because they enjoy it differently, shouldn't we work with them to slow the pace of development?

I used to be into mtn biking in a big way and was riding with some Marin County hard-cores when I said why not work to get the trails they loved to ride made into legal rides, and they said, no, then the trails would be too crowded and they wanted them for themselves. So, some are willing to be outlaws so they can have their cake ("yes, I like the no fire rule so there's always firewood for me").

I was Google-Earthing the Everglades, 'cause I was thinking of doing a packraft-style trek across it, and I saw all kinds of ORV trails as well as encroachment on the glades from the east and north by housing developments.

I tried to find out what was going on with the ORV trails when I read that BOTH the hunters/ORV/jet boat crowd and the imagine-the-wilderness-full-of-critters-but-don't-visit-it-crowd wanted the glades without draining and new housing developments but rather than unite to stop draining & development they fought over the scraps that were left: the environmentalists wanted a wild/untouched glades and the ORVers wanted access to keep visiting and they bad mouthed and alienated each other.

This happens again and again.....when we run out of a resource, competitors don't unite to find more resources, but rather fight to the bitter end of what's left, to take the last scrap.

Rather than alienate, don't we need to work together?.....(this is starting to sound like an Obama speech)..... in the context of this discussion, I'd like to see more areas opened up to bush buddy stoves, areas that currently allow only "stoves".

Edited by romandial on 03/24/2008 00:47:12 MDT.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Riposte on 03/24/2008 07:10:55 MDT Print View

"Yes the first article up when you google "wood carbon neutral" is the one you cited. The next FOUR, however, all expound upon the carbon-neutrality of burning wood. Your google-based argument, then, is rendered void."

It was the content of the article I was interested in, not so much the fact that it came up first. The article - which I did read - debunks the unqualified argument that burning wood is carbon neutral. And it specifically refers to a couple of the articles that come up in the google search. And I couldn't help but notice that one of those articles was by a company that sells wood power generation technology.

I also appreciate that you said "more" carbon neutral but I was responding to Roman's comment that fires are carbon neutral:

"I make a fire every chance I get. It's carbon neutral and at least I see the impact I have on the environment, unlike the hidden costs of petroleum based fuel."

I actually think that there's a flaw in the article I referenced - they seem to presume that a growing tree takes up CO2 as quickly as it's released by burning another tree, as if it's a one-for-one swap, hence the references to forest sustainability are references to planting as many trees as you cut down. But if a tree takes 20 years to sequester X grams of CO2, it will presumably take another tree 20 years to sequester the same amount of CO2 released in one hit by burning the first tree. So if you want to avoid a spike in CO2 now you need 20 new trees growing to reduce the CO2 released by burning that one tree.

Edited by Arapiles on 03/24/2008 07:44:15 MDT.

Cornelius Austin
(nealaustin) - F

Locale: Minnesota
Using a bushbuddy on 03/24/2008 20:18:51 MDT Print View

I love the open fire aspect and I will continue to to use my bushbuddy. It's the best thing since sliced bread. I would go as far as to say one could use it on grass without leaving a mark. I'm not sure if it would be good for the live plants as the bottom is only warm to the touch. When I use it on sand, rocks etc. I certainly can't tell afterwards. The amount of fuel that it uses is miniscule vs an open fire in a fire pit or in a liquid fire stove.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Carbon neutrality on 03/25/2008 01:37:12 MDT Print View

Arapiles,

Woops. Sorry about confusing your comment to Roman. I got a little touchy there...

Regarding:

"I actually think that there's a flaw in the article I referenced - they seem to presume that a growing tree takes up CO2 as quickly as it's released by burning another tree ... But if a tree takes 20 years to sequester X grams of CO2, it will presumably take another tree 20 years to sequester the same amount of CO2 released in one hit by burning the first tree."

Yes, that's exactly how I read it, too. That's what I meant by 'in theory' versus 'in practice' though I didn't go into the detail that you did. I don't, however, think that the author overlooked the growing time of trees. He mentions exactly the same thing you just said, and it is sort of the entire basis for his argument against wood as a 'carbon-neutral' alternative fuel source. He wrote:

"But what happens when trees are cut and burned faster than they are replenished? If a forest is being harvested for fuel at a rate of 1000 trees (or cords, or tons, or acres, pick your unit) per year, but less than 1000 units per year are regnerated via regrowth, then carbon is being dumped into the atmosphere faster (by burning) than is being removed (by tree growth)."

I would agree, certainly human society should not change to wood en-mass, since we'd strip the planet bare in about thirty seconds.

Though I agree with the article you cited (I had better, since it actually supports MY position) a big point against its validity is this: it isn't a scientific paper, any more than the other four articles that I googled are. It is a post on a forum, just like this thing that I am typing now. Who is this guy? What are his credentials? (He may have good ones, but I can't find them.) I agree with what he is saying but I'm just a layman, too, albeit a highly educated one. This is a basic problem with the internet as an information source: any idiot can post whatever he wants (me included) and it is difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. You have to actually read it all with a critical eye. This is what I meant by saying that google-based arguments are void, because by that standard wood fuel is the solution to all our problems, since 4 out of 5 google articles say so.

The Wilson Center paper on ethanol use that I cited, on the other hand, is a rigorous scientific paper published in a peer-reviewed journal. I haven't found a similar paper about wood fuels, but I'll keep my eye out.

Anyway, the exact same argument that your article makes against wood can be made against alcohol, since you have to wait for the plants that the alcohol is made from to grow back, too. Of course plants like corn, sugar cane, and switchgrass all grow back in one season or less. But the fossil fuels currently used to produce, process, and ship alcohol still makes it more of a losing proposition (carbon-wise) than wood used on a SMALL scale. (In all honesty, the twigs and pine cones that I burn in my Kelly Kettle grow back in one season, too, and no-one burned fossil fuels to produce them.)

Consider, again, the post you cited:

"An interesting sidebar to this question is that the cycle time plays a key role in the analysis. If the fuel to be harvested matures quickly (hay or bamboo are good examples), then the cycle time can be measured in a few months or a couple of years, rather than in decades. The fuel can be harvested and burned faster, but the fuel’s energy density, in terms of BTUs per acre of harvest, is much lower. It seems likely that there is some optimal combination of energy density, carbon density and cycle time among the available renewable fuels."

Indeed some of the responses on that forum disagree with the author (though I think all the arguments against him were puerile). The author also, in a response on the forum, admits that a well-managed woodlot used as a source of wood fuel WOULD be carbon-neutral.

Certainly more carbon-neutral than burning oil and releasing the CO2 that used to make the entire Earth a boiling hothouse before the Azolla event. (See my reference a few posts ago. It's actually very interesting.)

But I will admit that my net take is this: I think the difference between alcohol and wood on the small scale that we campers use is trivial, and in fact the difference between alcohol and gas is trivial, too, on that small scale. One isopropane canister is a drop in the bucket compared to all the other carbon an individual generates. So, ignoring the weight savings, we should all have no real problem with using gas stoves.

(Some stuff edited out because this is too long already.)

By the way, I honestly thought that Brazil was the only country with a truly dedicated ethanol infrastructure, yet you described distillation points very close to the cane fields in Australia. Are you sure those aren't just the boilers for reducing the cane to syrup? Or did Australia build these facilities recently? Or are they just very small-scale? Or am I just ignorant? (Which wouldn't be surprising, since I am an American...)

Edited by acrosome on 03/25/2008 02:46:28 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Carbon-neutrality on 03/25/2008 02:56:29 MDT Print View

Actually, if we're being truly rigorous about our carbon-neutrality we should all be using wind/solar/geothermal power to crack water into hydrogen and oxygen, and burn THAT. Thus, we should all strive to use stoves powered by rocket fuel! Anything less isn't green! :)

Rocket Stove

Edited by acrosome on 03/25/2008 05:42:27 MDT.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Carbon neutrality on 03/25/2008 04:04:20 MDT Print View

"By the way, I honestly thought that Brazil was the only country with a truly dedicated ethanol infrastructure, yet you described distillation points very close to the cane fields in Australia. Are you sure those aren't just the boilers for reducing the cane to syrup? Or did Australia build these facilities recently? Or are they just very small-scale? Or am I just ignorant? (Which wouldn't be surprising, since I am an American...)"

You're correct, they are the boiler mills for sugar but there is some ethanol being produced here now (I'll have to check where - you can get 10% petrol/ethanol mixes at some petrol stations) and the same mills used to brew rum in the past, so presumably a small step to producing ethanol for fuel. Not quite the same eco issues as appear to be around the use of maize. The problem is that the greens here are using the same arguments for maize instead of looking at the situation for Australia using sugar cane.

And I'm sure no-one would think you were ignorant because you're American - but you should try being Australian in England ....

Ron D
(dillonr) - MLife

Locale: Colorado
Carbon Fanatics on 03/25/2008 04:12:57 MDT Print View

Is there any chance you can take this entire Carbon argument out of the forum and beat each other up privately.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Duel on 03/25/2008 05:08:12 MDT Print View

"Is there any chance you can take this entire Carbon argument out of the forum and beat each other up privately."

Sure thing.

What do you say, Arapiles? Should we meet at high noon in the Maldives? (That seems to be midway between Oz and Europe.) Fire-axes at two paces?

<---- Before you accept, you should note my excellent form.

"you should try being Australian in England ...."

Which is ridiculous, since Australians publish more scientific papers per capita than any other nation (including the UK).

Anyway, I'll shut up now.

Edited by acrosome on 03/25/2008 05:45:14 MDT.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Duel - OK, subject to amount of carbon produced on 03/25/2008 06:18:56 MDT Print View

"What do you say, Arapiles? Should we meet at high noon in the Maldives? (That seems to be midway between Oz and Europe.) Fire-axes at two paces?"

OK, but I've given up air-travel due to the greenhouse gasses that are produced by flying so I'll have to paddle there. Problem is I can't work out the carbon effect of paddling to the Maldives from here - would the carbon produced in providing enough food for the trip be about the same as produced by an air-flight?

Ronald, do you have any views on this conundrum?

And I think a better weapon would be rolled up reports on carbon neutrality.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Duel - OK, subject to carbon use on 03/25/2008 06:18:56 MDT Print View

Double post - bloody Telstra

Edited by Arapiles on 03/25/2008 06:22:08 MDT.

Joshua Mitchell
(jdmitch) - F

Locale: Kansas
Re: Carbon neutrality on 03/25/2008 07:54:21 MDT Print View

Aye Dean, that's the gist of it. Burning twigs and leaves and pinecones (aka NOT cutting down trees to burn) is about as carbon neutral as you can get. They regrow in a season. Also, ethanol from plant stock cannot be considered carbon neutral UNLESS all the power used to produce the ethanol was also derived from carbon neutral sources.

Fact is even with the relatively poor yields you get in the US ethanol has about a 25% energy increase during production (aka if 100kW of power [gas, diesel, hydro, and whatever driving the vehicles and running the processing plant] is used to produce the ethanol you get a usuable energy content of ~125kW of ethanol). Using sugar cane like in Brazil gets like 100% increase. Realize, though, that initial production energy has to come from someplace. In the US it's from petroleum (aka non-carbon neutral) sources, so ethanol is far from a carbon neutral fuel for cooking. Now, when the US infrastructure switches so that all the vehicles and processing plants are running on biomass... then it will become carbon neutral or even carbon negative but NOT until then.

As a contrast, burning already fallen twigs, and pinecones, and leaves, and moosedroppings... the only energy used to create that fuel source is the sun and your legs in walking around and picking it up. Add anything that allows your cook fire to burn more efficiently (bush buddy, tri-ti, zip stove with a solar recharger) is just icing on the cake.

Griff Danheim
(texasghost) - F
Backcountry Cookfires on 03/25/2008 08:17:37 MDT Print View

Nice article on the benefit of backcountry fires. I agree that fires can really have a positive effect on our mood and outdoor experience. It creates some concern in my mind of all the new black rocks and piles of ashes that will be found in our shrinking wilderness. When used in line with LNT principles (which I would assum BPL supports) impact would be minimal. Great information at LNT.org on this.

Monty Montana
(TarasBulba) - MLife

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Re:Backcountry Cookfires on 03/25/2008 12:16:30 MDT Print View

I've been following this discussion for a few days and just now had the time to put down my thoughts.

* The techniques described and pictured in the article are pretty much those advocated in my Boy Scouts of America handbook circa 1950s. Those were pretty much abandoned by minimal impact (LNT) decades ago.

* The worlds population has pretty much tripled since I was a kid growing up in Montana learning woodlore and woodscraft, the places that I frequented are sadly closed to the burgeoning public because of disreguard of best practices.

* I have worked with at-risk adolescents, and if they were emotionally disregulated for several days, then something was terribly lacking with staff's training. Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) would have turned things around more effectively than a fire.

* I haven't had a fire for years and I respect the no campfires restrictions for wilderness areas. This has allowed me to enjoy, appreciate, and explore previously unknown aspects of the wilderness experience such as being in the moment of twilight turning to night, having bats flit mere feet away as they catch mosquitoes, and becoming aware of other nocturnal creatures going about their business.

* When the ambiance (by the way, omviance is not a word) of a fire is desired, a candle lantern works just fine.
Happy Trails!

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: At least with a fire, like hunting or farming for your food, you see your impact on 03/27/2008 13:17:52 MDT Print View

Wood, like propane, like alcohol, is captured carbon. If you burn it, you are releasing carbon. We have an excess of atmospheric carbon right now that's said to be heating up our planet, and we are all supposed to release as little "extra" as we can. Burning wood does not qualify as "not releasing carbon"! Propane is just longer-term storage; either way releasing it from storage is bad.

Ultimately you are debating 1% of 1% of 1% of your lifetime carbon footprint: the carbon impact of propane stoves vs. wood fires vs. alcohol is irrelevant. You have to release carbon to heat your dinner, on the trail or at home.

Further, you have to burn thousands of tonnes of fossil fuels to mine the earth and smelt the ore and build the vehicle that got you there. And you have to do the same to build the machines that made the nylon that's over your head. All of which would have been unnecessary had you not gone camping, and instead just lived near your work and taken your bicycle to the store. But you didn't, and you don't, so you aren't Carbon Neutral and your camping fuel will not change that fact!

Roman: I'm the only one who mentioned the Arctic 1000, so I assume your first post was directed at me. I definitely did not call it an "attempt." It was an amazing feat of human endurance and technology. My point was that despite being on one of the most difficult backpacking trips on the planet, Ryan still felt able to bring a BushBuddy. By extension, the *majority* of hikers should be able to add those extra few ounces to their packs and not have to have campfires.

Is my concern aesthetic? YES!! The wilderness is an environment that we experience visually more than with any other sense. If it becomes scarred and pocked and stripped by the thousands who have gone before you, it's not really wild anymore and the experience is substantially degraded. That's why standing in an alpine meadow feels different from standing in a farmer's field or on a golf course. It's also why walking off-trail feels so much cooler than walking on-trail.

We would all agree that it's wrong to use fallen trees to build shelters and camp furniture, right? Well I would argue that a thousand people cooking over campfires at a given site is wrong for the same reason. It's not a carbon issue, it's not a sustainability issue, and it's not an issue of zealots trying to control a group for the sake of control. It's an issue of keeping things "as wild and as virgin and as unspoiled as possible" so that we can feel as far from civilization and as close to the natural world as possible.

At least for me.

In the north it's a different experience and a different mentality, which I understand. But this publication is hardly targeted at Alaskan off-trail adventurers.

Edited by bjamesd on 03/27/2008 15:26:03 MDT.

Dean F.
(acrosome) - MLife

Locale: Back in the Front Range
Carbon, AGAIN on 03/28/2008 04:52:39 MDT Print View

"Burning wood does not qualify as "not releasing carbon"! Propane is just longer-term storage; either way releasing it from storage is bad."

Incorrect. We just discussed this. There is a difference between releasing carbon from fossil fuels and releasing carbon that is participating in the current active carbon cycle, at least on a small scale. Nonetheless it is still impractical to use wood for power on a large (i.e. civilization) scale, so perhaps you are sort-of-correct, if that's what you were talking about. Or, if you were talking about how any wood you burn is no longer available as leaf litter for a period, etc., then that's correct, too, though trivial.

"Ultimately you are debating 1% of 1% of 1% of your lifetime carbon footprint: the carbon impact of propane stoves vs. wood fires vs. alcohol is irrelevant."

I totally agree with you. That's what I said.

But, I really don't want to get yelled at after I said I would shut up about this topic. Please email me and we can talk about the carbon cycle thing offline, if you are interested. Or, better yet, start another topic! I'll be there!

Edited by acrosome on 03/28/2008 04:54:46 MDT.

Arapiles .
(Arapiles) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Re: Carbon, AGAIN on 03/28/2008 06:37:40 MDT Print View

"But, I really don't want to get yelled at after I said I would shut up about this topic. Please email me and we can talk about the carbon cycle thing offline, if you are interested. "

Dean

I don't think that there's any reason why you or I or anyone else should shut up about this topic or take it offline. If so, what's the point of these forums? I tried to respond with humour to the post you're referring to (the one telling us to shut up)but the reality is that if someone doesn't want to discuss this issue then they're free to go read a different thread. These are important issues and they are directly relevant to an article that advocated a leave-as-much-trace as possible approach.

I think there is a broader issue here - clearly a lot of the posters who responded to the article simply see the outdoors as a place to use for their own egotistical fun, and bugger the consequencees. Big campfire? Cool. Ring of fire-darkened rocks? Rad. Every bit of timber in range burnt for a bit of aesthetic pleasure? Right on. What is lacking is any sense of stewardship or responsibility. Generally I'm relaxed about twig burning in a bushbuddy but that's not what was being advocated in the article. Which raises another question - does that article reflect BLP's own ethics? Maximum impact so long as we can wax lyrical about it?