Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Burning Man

How can we sleep
When our beds are burning?
     - Midnight Oil

I'm only happy
when it rains

         First I'd like to give a shout out to the Deumling family, and congratulate them on the nice piece in the Willamette Valley Life about Zena Forest Products.  Way to go!. 
         And speaking of trees,, how about those wildfires?   It's pretty easy to ignore what's going on over the mountains.  Until the wind shifts!   That smoke brought it home to the valley. Seems like everything is on fire
        In case you are keeping score, 2015 is on track to break the record for the number of acres burned by wildfire   Of course Alaska accounts for the majority of those fires.   NASA is treating Alaska as the test case for what's to come for the rest of us..
      Here's a good place to see the latest state by state.  Wunderground
     I know a guy who has a bumper sticker that says " Trees are the answer"  .   I've never asked what the question is. :>)   Currently, of course,  forests are a carbon sink.  This may change in the near future, as increased wild fires may turn forests such as the northern boreal forest into a carbon source     But trees are very helpful.  For instance ,living near them is good for your health.   And trees are responsible for a good chunk of the air we breath.  They are the lungs (as well as the heart) of the planet.  So let's give a little credit there!
      Unfortunately, its not just fire that is having an impact on the trees.  The drought is having its own effects .  ( I'm sure Sarah and Ben can point to many stressed trees here in the valley).  Here's an interesting story about the giant sequoias down in California.
    "Some of the trees in Sequoia National Park were a thousand years old when Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. Last year, Stephenson spent a few days crawling around the forest floor examining sequoia seedlings, convinced they'd be affected by the heat and the drought.
"They all looked really happy," he says. "I sat back, scratched my head and looked up, and there was a huge adult giant sequoia that had a lot of foliage die-back in it. That really got us interested, and we figured the drought was probably the cause of that. And that created a cascade of studies."
They found that a significant number of older trees that had shrugged off the Dust Bowl in the 1930s were losing as much as half of their leaves.
"Ten per cent of the trees had 25 to 50 per cent die-back," says Koren Nydick of the U.S. National Park Service. "This is the first time that this kind of foliage die-back has been observed since this has been a national park."
       According to this report, the effects of drought remain for four to five years after the drought is over..  
        So, what's all this got to do with Burning Man?    That alternative arts festival, takes place in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada, a very remote location.  Some 60,000 fellow citizens converge there from all over the earth.  It even has its own temporary airport!  If you are really cool, like Mark Zuckerberg, you can drop in by helicopter. .   People dress up in interesting costumes, and celebrate , by burning a huge wooden man.  Very symbolic, if you ask me.  Estimates vary, but it probable is responsible for 49,000 tons of greenhouse gases.   Somewhat ironically, the Burning Mam credo is "Leave no trace"
         But, really, why pick on Burning Man?   Its probably less harmful than the Olympics, or the Super Bowl, or Mardi Gras.  Or how about the mass exodus to the coast for the Labor Day weekend?    Really, we are all Burning (Wo)Men.     And we are begnning to feel the heat.
         William Catton suggested a new name for the new species of human, that had so many "energy slaves" it could have 30 times the impacts of a normal "pre-industrial" human.    He called it "Homo Colossus"   Perhaps another name  might be  "Homo Torrens" - Burning Man

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