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David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: it doesn't exist (- and never did) on 07/13/2013 15:10:00 MDT Print View

>"One thing is absolutely certain, the people who lived here before us took MUCH better care of this environment than we did, species diversity was higher, sustainability was higher, what we have damaged severely in only about 300 years or so, 400 maybe, they had occupied for between 15,000 and 40,000, and it was in EXCELLENT condition when we arrived"

I had bought into this idea as well until I looked at the history and pre-history of more cultures.

Those iconic heads on Easter Island? Moved around using logs from the island's forests - which no longer exist. The society collapsed due to the ecological damage they themselves had caused.

I'm forgetting the island society, but their middens (garbage heaps) showed that they ate ALL the tasty pigeon-like birds, and then ate ALL of the next-most tasty bird before finally eating all of the less tasty sea birds.

And what happened to the Anasazi of southwestern North America (environmental damage and climate change).

"Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed", 2005, Jared M. Diamond (professor of geography and physiology at University of California, Los Angeles and author of "Guns, Germs & Steel") is a great book on the topic - he also gives some examples that worked like Japanese forestry management practices.

He lists eight environmental problems that have contributed to the collapse of past societies:
Deforestation and habitat destruction
Soil problems (erosion, salinization, and soil fertility losses)
Water management problems
Overhunting
Overfishing
Effects of introduced species on native species
Overpopulation
Increased per-capita impact of people

Further, he says four new factors may contribute to the weakening and collapse of present and future societies:
Anthropogenic climate change
Buildup of toxins in the environment
Energy shortages
Full human utilization of the Earth’s photosynthetic capacity

Straddling the two lists, I would add, broadly, "hunting technology". Your focus seems to be on North America and despite surviving 24 prior inter-glacial warming periods, most of the mega fauna (mammoths, American camels, aurochs, horse, giant sloth, etc) died out exactly when the bipeds showed up with their Clovis points. Guns took out the passenger pigeon. Over-fishing of ground fish has some sea lion populations endangered right now.

When Europeans showed up in the Americas, the indigenous people had already killed all the species their hunting technology could. (and, of course, European weapons and diseases killed of most of the indigenous people).

Diamond counters the argument that, "What Easter Islander would be stupid enough to cut down the last of species of tree?" by pointing out that by that time, the last one was a seedling or sapling and someone was focused on feeding his family and warming his hut. As much as commercial and sports fishermen and hunters complain about game laws, it really is a fundamentally different approach to harvesting animals - one that is imperfect but works FAR better.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Re: it doesn't exist (- and never did) on 07/13/2013 17:27:39 MDT Print View

Good points, David, as usual. It's a romantic notion that before the coming of the white man the America's hadn't suffered from significant negative impacts by man.

As you pointed out, it seems more than a coincidence that many large, edible game animals disappeared as man moved in. It's clear in your example that on Easter Island the native ecosystem was largely destroyed. There's good evidence that some city peoples of Mesoamerica had huge negative impacts on their environment and did much to destroy their own societies: "The Maya are often depicted as people who lived in complete harmony with their environment,' says PhD student Robert Griffin. "But like many other cultures before and after them, they ended up deforesting and destroying their landscape in efforts to eke out a living in hard times." http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2009/06oct_maya/

I really enjoyed the book 1491. One thing it concluded was that the natives peoples had been altering the environment for thousands of years, largely with fire. Why? To benefit themselves. When ecosystems are changed dramatically by man, there are winning species, and there are losing species. I read an interesting book on bison, and the author made the point that those enormous herds of bison the first white man saw were a fairly recent anomaly. With the plains horse culture, buffalo were the primary game animal. Fire meant grass and more buffalo. So the plains tribes burned more and more. Presumably that released countless tons of greenhouse gasses, and it certainly had an enormous impact on the natural ecosystems. There is no doubt that Native Americans drove many species to extinction.

So are we harming the natural environment at a faster pace now? Certainly. If we fight fire we will effect the ecosystem. Controlled burns will also have an effect. No fighting of fire will result in other but different affects. What's the target? No change from the way things are now? The way they were in 1491? The way they were before the first person crossed the Bering land bridge? One thing is certain, the Americas would be dramatically different now even if no human had ever lived. As Ken said, change is the only constant.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: Re: it doesn't exist (- and never did) on 07/13/2013 17:32:46 MDT Print View

David, here's another tome which chronicles the environmental changes "primitive" peoples accomplished in the precolumbian Americas: Imperfect Balance, David L. Lentz, ed., 2000.

My own experience of living and working with First Nations folk in northern Canada indicates that while they are more sensitive to what's happening in the local environment, they are much more human use (not corporate use) oriented than dity environmentalists are.

Example:; I was walking a snare line with an older couple when we came across a bunch of fast food garbage spread out over about 100 square feet. My internal response was, "Yuck! What low lifes didn't clean up their trash?!" The couples verbal response was, "Oh, remember that picnic we had with all the grandkids? Wasn't that a fun time?"

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: re: Re: it doesn't exist (- and never did) on 07/13/2013 17:52:58 MDT Print View

Buck: You're the second person to recommend 1491 to me THIS WEEK!. I'll look for it.

Stephen: One man's garbage heap is another man's resource. There are no end of non-functioning vehicles all over town. They are abandoned and would be defended vigorously with gunfire by the owner because a '78 F-150 that "only" needs an engine rebuild, a tranny, glass all around, body work and the electrical system reworked is imagined to be possible to restore.

Another twist on garbage is that when my parents met a California archeology site, they knew they were digging through 1000 year old trash.

Stephen: Any sense that they are "more sensitive to what's happening in the local environment" in the way that I am aware of the sale items at Safeway, when the shipment of produce comes in, and whether Go-lite is having a sale?

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
re: Re: re: Re: it doesn't exist (- and never did) on 07/13/2013 19:08:53 MDT Print View

"Any sense that they are "more sensitive to what's happening in the local environment" in the way that I am aware of the sale items at Safeway, when the shipment of produce comes in, and whether Go-lite is having a sale?"

Exactly! What fish are running where, where a build up of snowshoe hares are, etc. Just like sales at the local grocery store!

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: it doesn't exist (-and never did) on 07/13/2013 19:44:23 MDT Print View

So the plains tribes burned more and more. Presumably that released countless tons of greenhouse gasses

Indeed ... I'm thinking that would be largely CO2.

Consider the life history of that carbon ... almost all of that would be carbon removed from the atmosphere during recent years, certainly within the lifetimes of the people starting the fire. Compare that with my motor vehicle burning petroleum products that contain carbon likely removed from the atmosphere before the first bipeds walked the earth.

Big difference.

Edited by jcolten on 07/13/2013 19:45:34 MDT.

Dan Durston
(dandydan)

Locale: Cascadia
Ecology on 07/14/2013 20:52:47 MDT Print View

Rewilding North America by Dave Foreman is a good read on the damage native and modern peoples have had, and a possible way forward.

I wish Canada still had the woolly rhinoceros.

Christopher Chupka
(FatTexan)

Locale: NTX
Has it's own Beauty on 07/15/2013 11:29:07 MDT Print View

Pics from last week from the Sawtooths in Idaho. Up Lake Trail:

Fire 1

Fire Sign

Fire and Growth

More Fire

Edited by FatTexan on 07/15/2013 11:32:47 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Ecology on 07/15/2013 12:39:25 MDT Print View

Dan: "I wish Canada still had the woolly rhinoceros." It would quickly put all these grizzly-gun-vs-spray arguments into perspective!

Christopher: Some of my most interesting trips have been to sections of Yellowstone and Yosemite shortly after and then years after a large fire. One of your shots makes it clear why the pinkish-purple flowered plants are called Fireweed!

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Re: Ecology on 07/15/2013 12:53:24 MDT Print View

"One of your shots makes it clear why the pinkish-purple flowered plants are called Fireweed!"

David, you ought to get some Fireweed started in Alaska.

--B.G.--

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: Re: Re: Ecology on 07/15/2013 13:05:44 MDT Print View

>"David, you ought to get some Fireweed started in Alaska."

LOL

SAT analogy question:

Fireweed is to Alaska like

A) Chevys are to Detroit
B) Nipple rings are to San Francisco
C) Kids are to Disneyland
D) Corn is to Iowa

Harald Hope
(hhope)

Locale: East Bay
I said here, not there on 07/22/2013 11:49:20 MDT Print View

"Those iconic heads on Easter Island?"

Jared diamond does a lot of selective cherry picking of data, and relies way too much on his own experience in basically south pacific type island cultures, relying on these cultures to try to prove his point, and fringe ecological cultures, like greenland.

This type of fairly major misreading is interesting in a sense, both Diamond's and here, I said 'here', I did not mean by 'here' an island culture that was at the very edge of the Polynesian expansion, so far off their traderoutes, and in a basically different ecological niche from most other polynesian cultures. Island cultures prove basically nothing in any larger sense because they are too ecologically limited. Do the same stuff in Venezuela and 5 years later the jungles have returned, with a vengeance, because it's a different ecological system.

Here means where we live, the Northern United States/Canada.

I have grown so disgusted with Diamond's agenda that I won't any more of his trash, reading Guns,Germs,Steel was the last straw for me, one of the most intellectually biased pieces of work I've ever come across. However, there's a lot of great work being done now, 1491 has been mentioned, and rightly so, that's an excellent piece of work, that highlights just how well the ecosystem was maintained in most areas, focusing on various forms of permaculture practiced here, and in South America in many locations. When we arrived here we didn't find what we have now, I realize this is a hard point to accept, because it suggests that maybe, just maybe, we are ourselves at fault, as is our way of life and consumption / production patterns, which are directly altering the very fabric of our global climate system, which leads to worsening fire issues. You'll note that everyone who deals directly with these issues is fully aware of cause of the increased fire, the only people who pretend it's a question are fans of various rightwing formats that push industry agendas that have nothing to do with science or firefighting issues.

Again, this is not a complicated point, we are destroying our ecosystem, in the very short time span of about 400 years or so, major increases going right along with tranformation of complex ecologies to monoculture agriculture, fueled by fossil fuel burning. The more people this new food creates and enables, the more quickly the process occurs, that's why they are getting increasingly worried in the more rational sectors of our culture, including those that have to pay some of the costs, the insurance industry. The people who lived here before us lived here for possibly up to 40,000 years, up to 100 times longer than us, that is, and when we got here, the planet was fine, give or take, still. Now it is not fine. I understand that it's difficult to actually accept that your way of life is crushing the planet's systems, rapidly, but 20 to 40,000 years vs what will probably end up to be around 500 years for us before the failures grown totally out of control, is just not that complicated to grasp. That's the difference between cherry picked Easter Island, which was I believe occupied for only about 500 years as well, and a vibrant complex and diverse continental ecosystem, which can easily recover from basic attacks on it over time as long as they aren't occurring at the scale we do them.

By the way, one way, if you read critically and pay attention, that you can see how badly Diamond cherry picks and excludes data is his attempt to suggest that large mammals were made extinct by human hunting practices when we arrived here 10-12k years ago, when in fact, and as 1491, and other newer research, show that we clearly were here much longer, which means Diamond's attempt to exclude the data that suggested he was wrong to suggest that all humans hunt out all large game quickly when they arrive in a new ecosystem. For those interested in science, latest research suggests the large mammals here, like the mammoth, actually went extinct because of climate change some 10-12k years ago, not because of human hunting.

This is worth considering, because when the question grows to be: how can humans live sustainably, it's useful to look at people who did just that, for a long, long, long time. For what it's worth, neanderthals occupied the planet for about 250k years or so and also did no real damage, they were stronger than us and had larger brains, which I find very interesting, but it's a different topic.

Edited by hhope on 07/22/2013 12:08:35 MDT.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: MidAtlantic
Re: Re: Re: Re: Ecology on 07/22/2013 11:56:31 MDT Print View

"Fireweed is to Alaska like "

Hank Williams is to Neil Armstrong.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Re: My forest is burning! on 07/22/2013 12:56:53 MDT Print View

As is everybody's in the inner West. Join the crowd.

A good friend of mine just returned from a family trip to Vermont. It's rumored they have green things out there called "trees" ..

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
My forest is burning! on 07/22/2013 13:15:35 MDT Print View

Trees?

I sorta' remember those...

Sespe Tree Skeleton
Post 2006 Day Fire in the Sespe Wilderness

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: My forest is burning! on 07/22/2013 15:37:58 MDT Print View

About three weeks before I left for Torres del Paine last year the entire park was closed down because of a nasty fire they couldn't control (some idiot trying to burn TP in a place with flush toilets all over the place). They were able to open the place literally days before we left on our trek, but they kept telling us to watch for burns cropping up while you walked and at the entrance they gave us a little tutorial on how to put them out. It was crazy!!
Tdp
Fire

And looking down the Valle Francais you can see the stark lines between green and brown...the fire even jumped across the lakes!!!Burned

Edited by Jenmitol on 07/22/2013 15:41:38 MDT.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
95% coontained as of 6/25/'13 on 07/25/2013 12:22:18 MDT Print View

The fire near 'Vegas is now 95% contained. There is talk by USFS of doing underbrush removal in the rest of the forest. Hope it happens.

As for American Indians "taking much better care of the land" than we do I say HA! Mainly the hunting,fishing, gathering N. American Indian cultures COULD NOT abuse the land too much because they didn't have the means to do so.
And, yes, Indians did Kaingin farming ("slash and burn") all over the east coast.

C'mon, really now, archaeology has shown over and over that as civilizations became settled they ABUSED the land over time.
To wit:

-> Mesopotamian salinization of the fields around city states. (desertification through over irrigation)
-> Levant area deforestation in the neolithic and bronze ages for charcoal.
-> Roman extinction od African elephants and lions in N. Africa for their circuses.
-> Meso-American cities and pyramid temples abandoned due to over use of the land for corn crops.
-> British Isles largely deforested by the beginning of the Middle Ages.
-> European lions extincted during the Bronze Age.

And on and on...

The more technology man has developed the more man "develops the natural world.

"We have met the enemy and he is us." (Pogo the possum)

Edited by Danepacker on 07/25/2013 12:24:28 MDT.