210 Comments

This is a complaint about the quoted Clare Frank, not about a SB writer,

> By the end of October 2021, the two fires had incinerated over 1.1 million acres, an equivalent to a two-lane highway stretching over 400,000 miles — a drive around the earth’s circumference more than 16 times.

What a stupid, useless, nonsensical invention of units. I hope Frank is aware at how much this behavior (sorry) torches credibility.

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What the end of this makes clear is that we really messed up in 1812 when we failed to successfully invade

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I'm from California. Moved to Virginia this past winter. Was darkly interesting in a way to see easterners get a taste of the West, what we deal with every summer.

As for how to address this, I've long believed that the low and mid elevations of the Sierra Nevada (up to around 5,000 feet, maybe 6,000) need to be divided into ~10 zones, and do a massive controlled burn of one zone each summer for the next 10 years or so. That way we can proactively protect homes and towns, firefighters can be staged in areas known to be at risk in the coming burn and we can throw resources at shaping the burn in the way we want. Unfortunately California makes controlled burns almost impossible due to absurd interpretations of clean air law as well as the usual byzantine permitting BS (and it doesn't help that our grandstanding governor, and much of the state, sees any move toward sane forest management as caving to Republicans), but that's just one more speed bump we will have to overcome. I don't see any other way to overcome 120 years of terrible forest management and out of control undergrowth.

Something like half a million people live in the Sierras. I have been one of them in the past. That same year, a massive wildfire burned down an entire county (and for you easterners, a typical western county is 3-5 times the size of an eastern county - this fire burned nearly a million acres). Something has to change, and fast.

Forgive me for being jaded about this, I spent ~6 weeks a couple summers ago working outdoors, 60 hours a week, in AQI ranging from 200 to 500.

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Just to note that, if the affected cities/states in the US thought it was useful to clear flammable brush material in Canada, they could partner with the Canadians to pay to have that done - perhaps coupled with a low-wage guest-worker program so it could be done more cost-effectively (or whatever the Canadian immigration authorities were willing to go for).

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It seems like by far the most important point of this piece got kinda buried at the bottom, which is that as with so many issues the political right is just nihilist and the political left means well but is doing the wrong thing.

Specifically, as much as climate change is a big deal, this is more of a forest management problem than anything. But I don't see many people saying that or anyone doing anything about it.

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An opportunity for increased sophistication is in describing fine particulates with an understanding of their chemical lifespans, not merely their size.

Most of what we think of as interesting chemistry happens in the liquid and gas phases, where reactants mix freely and "surface area" isn't really a valid concept. PM2.5 particles are in a funny intermediate state where they are very much solid, but their surface area to volume ratio is wildly out of whack by our regular macroscopic standards.

I'm not that kind of doctor, but particles of this size are going to evolve (in reactivity, in mass, in everything) at different timescales than we're used to, just because they have so many free surface sites available for reaction. I'm not so bold as to say that because I don't have this knowledge, that this knowledge does not exist. I am bold enough to say that if we know more about these particles than just their size and frequency, we do not convey that information very well to the general public.

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Tons of trees in california straight up cannot reproduce without moderate levels of fire. Some trees in British columbia do that too, to a lesser extent.

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Jun 12, 2023·edited Jun 12, 2023

The Inflation Reduction Act did dedicate $2.15 billion to improve forest management, to include expanding thinning operations and controlled burns. Semafor recently did a good video[1] talking about the history of forest management and the changes that are being made in the approach going forward.

For my money, I think we need to do more to discourage building permanent structures in forests. There's not going to be a lot of appetite for allowing both controlled burns (which do rarely become uncontrolled) and small accidental fires to progress naturally as long as people are afraid their homes are going to burn down. Maybe we just need to make people pay a huge fire insurance tax?

[1] https://youtu.be/hyMSPJjULQY

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“Appreciation of the deadly nature of particulate pollution is critical to becoming nuclear-pilled because you’ll see that an extremely low-CO2 source of energy is being held to an arbitrarily high safety standard that makes it uneconomical.”

[SCREAMS INCOHERENTLY]

Repeat after me: ALARA is responsible for 10% of cost overruns. ALARA is responsible for 10% of cost overruns.

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Really interesting article, although certainly worth highlighting the role and potential for indigenous fire management in this arena.

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Perhaps a dumb question but does the pollution effects of wild fires remain a big problem after they’ve burnt out? Like if you were on a month long vacation and go back to the northeast in July is the air you’re breathing still going to be notably more polluted?

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Last week did really suck. I am glad I still got a stock of N95s.

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I am dubious that efforts to prevent starting fires will help much in the west. If that 1M acres doesn’t burn this year it’s going to burn sometime in the next 10. If your strategy is ‘not remotely enough controlled burns and limit accidental burns’, you’re just going to get massive accidental burns in a similar volume eventually, regardless of how careful you are

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Dumb question, but would allowing increased grazing and/or logging decrease wild-fire risk? Both would seem plausible as methods to decrease available fuel for wildfires. Since both can be done profitably under some circumstances, would this be a more cost-effective way than hiring large numbers of people to clear brush? I read the linked article that dismisses the idea of logging without addressing grazing, but it seems helpless to just say we can’t do anything aside from preventing ignition.

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As a child living in a steel producing town during the 1960s, I remember the air turned pink on days when one of the Mills charged a blast furnace. Thanks for all the fine particulates Republic Steel. When we visited family near Akron, were drive through there valley of the little Cuyahoga river (the non-flammable part). The tire plants were concentrated there and it stunk. Of course, all those industries are gone now. The Clean Air Act ideas often blamed. Although outdated factories and foreign competition are the real culprits.

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You gotta love the Matt Walsh “I’m so cleverly

owning the libs by engaging in nihilist epistemology assassination!” stunt that turns out to be really, really dumb when you spend two seconds thinking about what he said.

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