Photo credit: squeaks2569 via Flickr/CC BY
Let Us Count the Ways Humans Are Killing Forests ...
There's a lot to discuss in this great New York Times video about the toll human impact has levied on Arizona's forests: There's the fact that human-caused climate change is causing an already dry region to become ever more vulnerable to wildfires. There's the fact that well-intentioned but shortsighted policies intended to prevent forest fires have instead made severe burns more likely. There's logging, but in the scale of things, that barely factors in here. There's the fact that we're losing forests like these around the world, and losing valuable carbon sinks in the process. And then there's the fact that loggers and environmentalists, traditionally nemesi, are working together to address these problems.
Like I said. There's a lot of valuable stuff in here. Watch:
Some of the conditions that make the above problems especially acute -- the natural aridity and wildfire-friendly climate -- are particularly endemic to regions like the American Southwest. But the threat posed by more and more deadly wildfires in the face of advancing progressing climate change applies to forests around the world. So it's useful to view the plight depicted in the video (and elaborated upon in this great NY Times feature story) as a microcosm of what's transpiring in dry, forested regions everywhere.
As such, it should offer some hint at the enormity of the task of saving those forests. Previously protected forests must be 'thinned' to prevent crown blazes -- it turns out that even when we were trying to save forests by stamping out all forests fires, we were killing them in the long run by failing to allow them to develop a resiliency to natural ones. And, of course, we must continue to try to mitigate climate change, to prevent the worst impacts and hottest temperatures.
The anecdote about the loggers and environmentalists banding together to salvage Arizona's forests offers hope. There are stories like this everywhere -- unlikely alliances between disparate groups of people working to find ways to preserve our natural world in the face of what Bill McKibben calls the "end of nature". We've altered the order of the natural world by harvesting it for resources, polluting it, and attempting to manage it to suit our needs. And now, of course, we have to try to jerry-rig a way to save it altogether.