Winter hath begun. We’ve been doing a “fuel reduction” project after the facility closed with the remnants of staff that remain, which entails walking through the woods with handsaws, clippers, and polesaws, and essentially gardening the forest. We gather the branches and dead trees and make piles and burn them. Because the forest is now a dense thicket of white firs and brush set amidst the older junipers, incense cedars, and white pines. Originally, back in the day when the natives came to this region for their summer vacations, forest fires were a cyclical process that cleared, weeded, and returned organic materials to the soil. The pines and cedar trees had ample space to grow. Now forest fires are cataclysmic events, spreading rapidly and destroying whole forests, rather than a small percentage of its undergrowth. All because Smoky the Bear, in his infinite wisdom, decided that fires, all fires, were bad, bad things. So for years the forest service did all it could to prevent all fires from erupting, thus effectively creating a forest dense with fuel. The natives, of course, understood the necessity of natural fires, as they understood many other simple things through observation. The industrial “revolution” and its subsequent detachment of humanity from nature created a mentality of manifest destiny, in which men decided that all of nature lay underneath their jurisdiction, that in fact nature needed to be controlled, regulated, and harnessed. Because they thought the forest couldn’t regulate itself.
Well, so now we seek to emulate what was once completely natural. We must prune the trees, thin the shrubs, collect all the dead materials and burn them. Because if we don’t, all that shit is just waiting to go up, and take our homes, and the entire forest, along with them.
There is always a tendency, in civilized (repressed) societies, to delimit everything to one-dimension, in which it is either totally bad or totally good, black or white. Complexities, subtleties, many faceted aspects of things are destroyed in our obsessive demand for appearance and immediacy. Doesn’t really matter what’s right or wrong, as long as we are reassured that it is right. Polls have demonstrated time and time again that George W. Bush strikes (or used to strike) a key note in the populace due to his “integrity”–meaning that he sticks to a plan of action, even if it is a completely misguided plan of action, even if the original intent behind the plan of action is false, even evil. In other words, we don’t care about true integrity, only the appearance of integrity.
Going back to the subject of forest fires, we painted all fires as “bad,” and so sought, quixotically, to put all forest fires out as soon as they began. And thus created a situation 20 times worse than anything we could have imagined. Through the attempt to control something that was already self-regulatory and natural, we created imbalances that now lead only to greater disaster and destruction.
I had talked earlier about how this misguided idealism, this noble attempt to control all nature and eradicate all bad, is leading to problems in the field of healthcare, such as antibiotics being rendered nearly completely ineffective. This misguided idealism is rampant everywhere in our efforts, whether it is the effort to make pest resistant or drought resistant food crops, or the effort to eradicate crime. We label things, one-dimensionally, as “bad,” and then operate based on these one-dimensional assumptions, while the actual reality grows ever more dire and destructive due to our own destructive, limited perceptions. Because–as any policeman or politician could tell you–things are much more complicated than they appear.
More on this topic later.