Racism in Ecology

The topic of racism came up in a private email thread recently, and I share my thoughts on the matter with you.

“Racism” is a hot button word. Its use often inflames passions and thereby clouds the actual point an author/scholar wishes to make. However, there IS such a thing as racism, just as there ARE such things as cultural bigotry, genocide, eugenics, prejudice, and general socio-cultural blindness to various forms of discordant anti-human behaviors throughout history.

Racism is prejudice or animosity against people who belong to other races and the belief that people of some races are inherently superior or inferior. We are all quite familiar with the common cultural usage, which refers to current events and modern social strife. But in my usage of the term, I have meant something more historical and existential and perhaps less overt — a type of insidious racial prejudice ingrained in the science of ecology.

The blindness I refer to is the galloping ignorance displayed almost ubiquitously regarding the historical role of human beings in nature.

Humanity has shaped landscapes, vegetation, and wildlife populations since our emergence from the shadows of some African cave 150,000 years ago. Our forebears created cultural landscapes through fire, hunting, proto-agriculture, and other impacts on every continent most especially over the last 10,000 years (the Anthropocene).

The evidence is overwhelming that people have been shaping nature for umpteen centuries. Please see the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: History of Western Landscapes [here] for landmark studies of historical human influences on the environment.

Those studies are rare. Our collection is special. That is because, for the most part, modern ecology all but denies historical human impacts.

Ecology is, or should be, an historical science. Ecologists seek to understand how animal and plant populations change over time. Popular ecological theories tend to leave humanity out of the equation, despite glaring empirical anomalies that negate and disprove those theories.

It is also clear that those defective theories are a product of Western (European) science and are not shared by traditional ecological schools of thought of non-European cultural origins. It is also a hard lesson of history that Western (European) cultures have profoundly racist roots. The connection (same foundation) between philosophies of science and of socio-politics that emanate from the Western (European) tradition cannot be ignored.

When a branch of science denies the existence and essential humanity of non-European peoples, what should we call that? “Galloping ignorance” is fair but perhaps too forgiving, because the pervasive blindness of ecologists towards historical human influences is rooted in a profoundly racist tradition.

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1 Jun 2010, 12:20pm
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin
1 comment

Anthropogenic Prairies in Olympic National Park

The west side of the Olympic Peninsula is rainforest country, receiving upwards of 150 inches of rainfall per year. Lush forests of Douglas-fir, western red cedar, Sitka spruce and the western hemlock dominate. Yet there are remnant prairies on northwestern coast of the Olympic Peninsula near Ozette, in some of the rainiest reaches.

The Ozette Prairies are being rapidly invaded by conifers today, so we know trees will grow there (and vigorously, too). The question arises: how did the Ozette Prairies come to be there in the first place? Why aren’t they covered by lush rainforests like so much of the region?

The answer to those questions may be found in a wonderful new study, The Ozette Prairies of Olympic National Park: Their Former Indigenous Uses and Management by M. Kat Anderson [here].

Dr. Anderson, of the NRCS National Plant Data Center at U.C. Davis, is the much admired (and cited) author of Tending the Wild: Native American Knowledge and the Management of California’s Natural Resources [here] as well as numerous other works of ethno-ecology. Her forte is the study of native plants, their historical uses, and the methods indigenous residents used to perpetuate those plants. Contrary to some modern myths, Indians planted, tilled, pruned, and especially burned to manage desirable plants and animals.

The Ozette Prairies are bog, fen, and grasslands surrounded by forests of Sitka spruce, western hemlock, and western redcedar. They are 2 to 4 kilometers from the the Pacific Ocean, in the rain and fog belt. Lightning is rare, lightning fires even rarer. Yet the Ozette Prairies have persisted for millennia — at least 2,000 years and perhaps as much as 12,000 — ever since the ice retreated at the end of the Wisconsin Glaciation.

Based on her research of botany, plant ecology, oral histories, and the written record, Dr. Anderson builds a strong case that anthropogenic (human-set) fire was the principal tool used by the Makah people and other tribes to maintain the prairies.

To understand more fully how the Ozette people used fire to maintain the Ozette Prairies, it is necessary to examine their reasons for doing so.

Improve game habitat. Indian burning of the open habitat fostered three inter-related goals related to the hunting of game animals: it facilitated hunting by increasing visibility and access to animals; it lured the animals to the open areas to congregate by encouraging the growth of new lush vegetation; and it maximized the quality and quantity of food available to these animals. …

Enhance productivity of below-ground food plants. Bracken fern rhizomes were a staple in the diet of all the tribes on the Olympic Peninsula, and we know that the Makah and the Ozette people gathered them as well. Bracken fern patches in the Ozette Prairies were burned and cultivated for edible rhizomes, as well as for fiddleheads for food and medicines and fronds for cleaning and serving fish. …

Enhance productivity of above-ground food plants. Some Makah have distinct memories of Ts’oo-yuhs Prairie on the Makah reservation being burned specifically to enhance production of both Indian tea and the many types of berries that grow there (see Appendix 5). According to Melissa Peterson, Makah, “people who owned the marshes burned the marshes for the cranberry for the health of the plant to increase yield and also to keep other invasive plants from taking over” (pers. comm. 2007). Pat Boachup (Makah, pers. comm. 2002) agrees: “People burned in the cranberry marsh [Ts’oo-yuhs] to promote a better crop of cranberries and Indian tea.” …

Keep the wetlands open. Native people on the Olympic Peninsula valued wetlands specifically for their open, treeless nature. As open habitats, wetlands served as corridors for easy travel, offered sites for temporary camps, and created landscape diversity in a land otherwise swathed in forest. The Makah were well aware that these environments would disappear unless they were burned, and consultants have often couched the reasons for burning in terms of maintaining the openness of wetlands. …

As is the case with other works by M. Kat Anderson, The Ozette Prairies of Olympic National Park: Their Former Indigenous Uses and Management is delightful reading. Her writing style is scholarly yet engaging. The oral histories contain story-telling features, the photographs are warm and personal, and an aura of neighborliness pervades the report.

Excellent reports by Linda Kunze, Elizabeth Colson, and Jay Powell in the Appendix add more evidence and analysis in support of Indian stewardship of the prairies.

Using fire to aid restoration of the prairies is discussed. Restoration means more than recovering plant communities, however. It also means restoring the human-nature connections that created and maintained these heritage prairies for thousands of years.

The Ozette Prairies are an example of places where rich biodiversity, beauty, and human use all co-existed for centuries or millennia. The Ozette people belonged to the Ozette Prairies, and so even now, more than 100 years after the establishment of the Ozette and Makah Reservations, the wetlands can help us understand how it is possible for humans to fit within nature.

W.I.S.E. is fortunate, honored, and grateful to be able to bring you this important report hot off the presses. The Ozette Prairies of Olympic National Park: Their Former Indigenous Uses and Management by M. Kat Anderson is [here]. Please enjoy.

Artillery Bombardment, Butterflies, and Anthropogenic Fire

The Tacoma Tribune reports that efforts to restore the Taylor’s checkerspot butterfly in Puget Sound are most successful at the Fort Lewis artillery range.

Does that mean the butterflies are ecologically adapted to artillery bombardment?

‘Just a bug, but a very beautiful bug’

Back from the edge: Checkerspot butterflies thrive in new prairie home

by John Dodge, Tacoma News Tribune, 05/25/10 [here]

Monday was a reluctant moving day for a batch of brightly colored Taylor’s checkerspot butterflies that began life at the Oregon Zoo in Portland and will end it soon on a South Sound prairie preserve near Littlerock.

The release of 60 adult butterflies was the latest chapter in a five-year project to bring the black, reddish-orange and cream-colored insect back from the verge of extinction.

Once found at more than 70 sites from Vancouver Island to the Willamette Valley in Oregon, the only self-supported population is limited to, of all places, the artillery impact zone at Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

The decline, which makes them a candidate for listing under the federal Endangered Species Act, is traced to fragmented and degraded prairie habitat, development and maybe even climate change, according to Hannah Anderson, a rare species program manager for The Nature Conservancy.

But there’s growing evidence that efforts to establish a population at the prairie site near Littlerock is paying dividends, said state Fish and Wildlife biologist Mary Linders. … [more]

Bombs away for butterflies?

Not exactly. Retired DNR forest soil scientist Ken Schlichte (frequent contributor to News From the Salmon Front and other W.I.S.E. subsites) offers a more nuanced explanation:

PRAIRIES: Burning required to maintain habitat

by Ken A. Schlichte, Letter to the Editor, Tacoma News Tribune, 05/25/10 [here]

Re: “‘Just a bug, but a very beautiful bug’” (TNT, 5-25).

The state Department of Fish and Wildlife and others have reported that the prairies of the South Puget Sound area developed by replacing forests during a warm-dry climatic period around 10,000 to 7,000 years ago. Temperatures have been cooler for thousands of years since this warmer period, known as the Holocene Maximum, but these prairies were maintained against naturally advancing forest vegetation by Native American prairie burning.

Native American prairie burning ended in the 1800s, and prairie habitat suitable for the Taylor checkerspot then became more fragmented and degraded as forest vegetation naturally reclaimed these prairies. But the fires escaping from the Joint Base Lewis-McChord artillery impact zone have maintained the surrounding prairie habitat with the only self-supported population of the Taylor checkerspot.

Native American prairie burning and artillery impact fires have maintained the prairie habitat for the Taylor’s checkerspot and other prairie species during the thousands of years of cooler temperatures since the Holocene Maximum. These cooler temperatures require continued prairie burning in order to maintain our remaining prairie habitat against the naturally advancing forest vegetation.

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Clearcuts Don’t Burn

By Derek Weidensee

I’d like to share with readers of W.I.S.E. and SOS Forests several photographs I’ve taken of seven different Montana wildfire burns — of a phenomenon I call “clearcuts don’t burn”!

Unburned area on the right is a 25-year-old regenerated clearcut. Photo by Derek Weidensee. Click for larger image

In fairness, I should say clearcuts seldom burn. The “green islands” in a sea of burned old forest are often “regenerated” clearcuts.

The Rat Creek Fire (2007) Burn west of Wisdom, MT, in 2009. Photo by Derek Weidensee. Click for larger image

This is a hobby of mine. I’ve spent my last four summer vacations going to Montana to study and photograph this phenomenon. I think it’s the best kept secret of forestry.

A 30-year-old regenerated clearcut surrounded by burned forest. Photo by Derek Weidensee. Click for larger image

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Barbed-wire pitch posts preserve forest history

Note: the following excellent essay is reposted with permission of EPTG editor John Cordsen. There is a surprising amount of history recorded in fence posts, of all things. This is our second fence post/history article. The first is Roger Underwood. 2005. The jam post and plain wire fence: An insight into York’s agricultural, ecological and economic history. Barladong (5) 2005: 16-27 [here].

Old fences reveal lessons

By Ron Gosnell, Special to the Estes Park Trail-Gazette, 05/06/2010 [here]

At old ranches and on some remaining farms near the foothills, one can see old barbed-wire-fence “pitch posts.” These relics of a bygone era artistically reveal some Colorado history and provide an interesting forestry lesson.

Pitch posts were cut and split from the dense and heavy wood of live pitchy trees. Pitch is a resin found in evergreen trees and it forms when trees are injured. When the injury is caused by heat from ground-surface, low-intensity forest fires, and the fire has not killed the tree, more sap is made. This resin then concentrates in outer layers of sap-wood.

Long ago, forest fires were started from lightning and often times by indigenous people. Native Americans knew that a flush of new and tender vegetation that sprouts after fire meant well-nourished game and thus better hunting. With no human effort to suppress forest fires, they were frequent, and trees were often injured by fire.

In those conditions, a “relatively young,” 150-year-old tree may have received fire damage three, four, five or more times in its lifetime. A living tree exposed to that many fires accumulates high concentrations of pitch all the way from its heartwood center out to the bark.

Many fire-injured trees had a portion of their lower bark burned off. Exposed and charcoaled wood made inverted V-shaped black areas called “cat faces,” usually on the uphill side. Often, the cat-faced trees healed over the charred surface with new wood, which can be seen in cross-sections of old pitch posts. Fire events can sometimes be dated by annual tree rings of wood that grew over the black fire scar or surround it.

Still other old forest fires left no definitive trace. Very light intensity fires did not scar trees. Other fires simply killed and then totally consumed tracts of young trees. Later, new forest hides old fire evidence. Unquestionably, though, prior to Colorado`s settlement, frequent fire and pitchy trees were parts of the forest environment.

Back then, many forest fires persisted for months. These long-lasting fires took on a variety of day-to-day behavior, depending upon weather, terrain and fuel conditions in their path. Some fires smoldered underground for a long time as root fires, only to be rekindled with a strong, dry wind. Over centuries of time, subsequent fires affected miles and miles of forest, covering a wide range of aspects and elevations.

Then things changed. Colorado settlers took advantage of an abundant supply of pitchy trees. Pitch wood resists rot. Fence posts cut and split from living pitch trees would seemingly last forever. Miners, farmers and ranchers paid a premium for solid, pitchy logs and wood-cutters soon depleted accessible forests of pitchy trees.

Decades later, encouraged by a forceful conservation movement, forests regenerated naturally or were replanted. Many trees grew, but pitchy trees did not. About the only evidence of pitch trees that we still have are “antique” pitch posts.
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Forest Cover Loss Story Full of Holes

A recent journalistic gloss appeared in USA Today that claimed the world lost 3.1 percent of forest cover from 2000 to 2005. That story is a twisted misinterpretation of a single scientific report, and as such is typical of the yellow journalism that infects the alarmist Mainstream Media.

Reaction to USA Today slanted article has been swift. The Society of American Foresters called the story “overgeneralized,” “inaccurate,” and based on false assumptions:

Forest study article raises concerns from foresters nationwide

By David Smith, Siskiyou Daily News, May 03, 2010 [here]

Yreka, Calif. — A recent study report and an article revealing some of its findings sparked reactions from Siskiyou County and across the nation last week as foresters looked to address a message about the status of American forests.

Siskiyou County Natural Resource Policy Specialist Ric Costales stated on Wednesday that he had notified a number of individuals and organizations of a USA Today article titled “U.S. losing trees faster than other heavily forested nations,”an article based on the recently-released results of a study that quantified global gross forest cover loss (GFCL).

The study, conducted by representatives from South Dakota State University and the State University of New York, utilized satellite imagery to assess GFCL on an international scale. According to the study report, the GFCL was quantified by using satellite mapping techniques in the year 2000 and again in 2005 to detect areas where forest cover had been lost.

The issue that has arisen for some in the forestry discipline is the characterization in the news article that forests in the United States are fading. Erica Rhoad, director of forest policy for the Society of American Foresters, sent a letter to the editor of USA Today, which she shared with the Siskiyou Daily News Wednesday.

“The recent article titled ‘Fading Forests’ grossly over-generalized and assumed the state of U.S. forests based on satellite photos. One need not be a forester to realize that many of the assumptions in the article are false,” Rhoad says in her letter, stating that “this study only looks at gross forest loss and disregards offsetting forest gains, giving an inaccurate picture of forest cover.”

Lucky for us, SOS Forest operatives are on top of this story and we can clear up all the confusion here and now.

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Rocks of ages: Tour explores local American Indian art

Note: The following news article refers to Native American cultural reconstruction and revitalization. This is a topic we have discussed before [here].

Restoration means restoring humanity to the landscape, creating anew the ancient connection between people and the land. Some related aspects of forest restoration are preservation of cultural heritage, restoration of cultural landscape patterns, and respect for and reintroduction of traditional ecological knowledge.

At the Native American Ecological Education Symposium last year in Ashland, Bob Tom, Tribal elder of the Siletz and Grand Ronde Tribes, spoke of the need for communication bridges between scientists and traditional practitioners, between old and young, and between cultures.

The article below reports that archaelologist Alan Garfinkle will be leading a class and tours of American Indian rock drawings and rock paintings in Kern County, CA. Dr. Garfinkel has written two research papers that have been included in the W.I.S.E. Colloquia and Library [here, here].

Appreciation of ancient indigenous art is one doorway to true restoration and a much welcomed and needed cultural renaissance for all local residents, regardless of parentage. Heritage is a shared resource.

The Bakersfield Californian, Apr 30 2010 [here]

An upcoming tour offers a rare opportunity to view Kern County’s collection of American Indian rock drawings and rock paintings, one of the richest records in the Western Hemisphere of prehistoric American Indian graphics.

The field trip and a companion workshop and lectures will provide an in-depth understanding of the meaning and religious importance attached to such sites. The rock art tour will view the protected and well-preserved Rocky Hill Yokuts Indian cave paintings.

The lecture and tours are led by two scholars on American Indian rock art, Dr. Alan Garfinkel and Donald Austin.

The Rock Art 101 course teaches attendees respect for the sites and educates them on their age, what the paintings may mean, and how the images functioned in Indian society. Significantly, a number of these rock art sites are still being used today for American Indian rituals and worship.

Garfinkel, an archaeologist, lecturer and tour leader, has been studying Kern County prehistory and Native American lifeways for three decades. In an e-mail to The Californian, Garfinkel wrote:

“These paintings were fashioned by ritualists who painted their visions of the supernatural world,” Garfinkel said. “They are fashioned in vibrant colors of orange, white, red and black and depict dream-trance experiences of the spirit world. They are other-worldly masterpieces that incorporate the fusion of animal forms — mystical and mythical gigantic birds, colorful animal shapes of bear, deer and antelope. Paintings feature depictions of spirit helpers of medicine men and women (shamans) — rattlesnake, eagle, and other supernatural animals. This painted rock art is some of the most elaborate, detailed, and creative in California and is exceptionally fluid and sophisticated in its use of color and complex imagery.”

Austin, retired engineer, rock art replicator and co-founder of the Rock Art 101 program, said via e-mail:

“One rarely has the opportunity to step into a time machine and view the world from the perspective of people who lived a Stone Age life. … To Native Californians the world was and still is full of spirit beings that merge animal and human traits and were active agents in the world. These representations on rocks and even the rocks themselves are often believed to be living beings, alive with power.”

A daylong experience is available to students who attend the multimedia program through www.rockart101.com. Live lectures, PowerPoint presentations, class exercises, television documentary and an evening keynote speaker (Jack Sprague) fill out the weekend’s events. The highlight of the class is an instructor-led field trip to the Rocky Hill Yokuts paintings.

Garfinkel is working with several American Indian groups, including local Indian tribes (Kawaiisu, Yokuts, Tubatulabal and Panamint Shoshone), archaeologists and historians and the interested general public to foster awareness of the cultural resources of local Kern County Indians.

Many American Indians, including members of local tribes with direct ancestry in Kern County, are in the midst of an extended cultural reconstruction and are poised for a new chapter of revitalization. Exemplifying this trend are local groups of Tubatulabal (South Fork Kern River Valley — Lake Isabella), Kawaiisu (Tehachapi Mountains) and Yokuts (Le Moore — Tule River Reservation). Indian people are now teaching their native languages to the old and young, relearning oral traditions, and providing their members with opportunities to harvest and share native foods, acquire traditional medicine, practice native arts (basketry), music and conduct religious ceremonies.

Cost-Plus-Loss, the Tea Fire, and Al Gore

In the previous post [here] we discussed the concept of cost-plus-loss as it relates to wildfire damage assessment. Specifically we noted that a recent GAO report FAILED to consider potential damages from wildfires in its advice to the Wildland Fire Leadership Council (WFLC) “Cohesive Strategy” planning process.

All the GAO cares about, and by inference and extension all that Congress and the WFLC care about, is fire suppression expenses. They wish to minimize the amount spent on firefighting. Among their cost-saving strategies: Let It Burn wildfires and a “Leave Early Or Stay And Defend” policy that calls for homeowners to run for their lives or else defend their own properties from wildfires.

To the Federal Government “cost containment” means reducing fire suppression costs.

But to the real world, the costs of wildfires include the economic damages (losses) of the resources destroyed by the fire.

Allow me to segue for a moment. Hot off the news wire: Al and Tipper have just purchased a home in Montecito, CA.

Al Gore, Tipper Gore snap up Montecito-area villa

by Lauren Beale, Los Angeles Times, April 28, 2010 [here]

Former Vice President Al Gore and his wife, Tipper, have added a Montecito-area property to their real estate holdings, reports the Montecito Journal.

The couple spent $8,875,000 on an ocean-view villa on 1.5 acres with a swimming pool, spa and fountains, a real estate source familiar with the deal confirms. The Italian-style house has six fireplaces, five bedrooms and nine bathrooms.

Sounds swanky, eh?

Montecito just happens to be the site of the Tea Fire [here] in 2008. The Tea Fire burned up a mere 1,940 acres. Suppression costs were $5.7 million. That’s nearly $3,000 per acre, way too steep for the GAO. They’d like suppression costs down around $100 per acre.

The GAO fails to consider resource losses to wildfires, however, which in the case of the Tea Fire were in the $500 million ballpark.

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16 Apr 2010, 9:11am
Climate and Weather Forestry education
by admin
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Did Native Americans Impact the Climate?

Researchers at Ohio University have found evidence that pre-Columbian Indians did a lot of landscape burning. The evidence includes carbon deposited in a stalagmite found in a cave near Buckeye Creek.

Study finds new evidence of pre-colonial land use patterns

Ohio University, Research Communications, Friday April 16, 2010 [here]

ATHENS, Ohio (April 15, 2010) – A new study led by Ohio University scientists suggests that early Native Americans left a bigger carbon footprint than previously thought, providing more evidence that humans impacted global climate long before the modern industrial era.

Chemical analysis of a stalagmite found in the mountainous Buckeye Creek basin of West Virginia suggests that native people contributed a significant level of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere through land use practices. …

One stalagmite does not make the case, but there is plenty of other evidence that human beings have been burning landscapes since we evolved from proto-humans. The Holocene is recent. The record of hominids and fire goes back 2 million years. We also know why our ancestors did all that burning:

The early Native Americans burned trees to actively manage the forests to yield the nuts and fruit that were a large part of their diets.

“They had achieved a pretty sophisticated level of living that I don’t think people have fully appreciated,” said Gregory Springer, an associate professor of geological sciences at Ohio University and lead author of the study, which was published a recent issue of the journal The Holocene. “They were very advanced, and they knew how to get the most out of the forests and landscapes they lived in. This was all across North America, not just a few locations.” …

This evidence suggests that Native Americans significantly altered the local ecosystem by clearing and burning forests, probably to make fields and enhance the growth of nut trees, Springer said.

This picture conflicts with the popular notion that early Native Americans had little impact on North American landscapes. …

The “popular notion” is changing, or has changed. We have called recognition of historical human influences on the environment a “paradigm shift”, so we are equally guilty of broad brush characterizations of the mass consciousness. To be completely fair, quite a few people have known all along that human beings burned landscapes just about everywhere on the planet. The shift from “quite a few” to “general knowledge” is difficult to track, however.

One question that remains controversial is whether setting continents afire every year altered the climate:

“Long before we were burning fossil fuels, we were already pumping greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere. It wasn’t at the same level as today, but it sets the stage,” Springer said.

This long-ago land clearing would have impacted global climate, Springer added. Ongoing clearing and burning of the Amazon rainforest, for example, is one of the world’s largest sources of greenhouse gas emissions. Prehistoric burning by Native Americans was less intense, but a non-trivial source of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, he said.

Now hold on there, Dr. Springer. It can be established that fossil fuel burning is more intense today, but landscape burning is much less intense than in prior centuries and millennia. Prehistoric burning by Native Americans covered vastly more acres per year than are currently burned. The amount of sequestered carbon on the landscape is much greater today than it was 1,000 years ago in both the Americas.

Be that as it may, no causal connection has been established between atmospheric carbon and climate. There appears to be no correlation — as atmospheric carbon has increased during over the last 100 years, global temperatures have fluctuated up and down. Correlation is NOT the same as causation, but if there is no correlation then logically there can be no causation.

It is good to see that recognition of historical human influences is on the increase in the mass consciousness. We should not leap to conclusions, however, about the role of humanity in global warming.

The truth shall make you free

Note: this gem of an essay is reposted from a gem of a blog, JoNova.

JoNova, March 30th, 2010 [here]

Art Robinson is a rare man. He’s transcended and laid bare a creeping failure in the infrastructure of science over the past 50 years. He describes how government has usurped control of the quest for knowledge from private industry and individuals.

At the end of the day, what does being a scientist mean if there is nothing more to it than a certificate? Where is the code of conduct? Where are the professional associations standing up and decrying those who breach fundamental principles? What sense of duty and honor is left in science when high-ranking scientists can make dishonest statements, yet keep their jobs and reputations?

I was struck with Art’s description of the true scientist as someone for whom the most important attribute is honesty, and humility is inevitable, because they understand how little we comprehend, and where “the search for truth” as a lifelong calling, rather than a nine-to-five job.

The 10 page paper How Government Corrupts Science [here] is worth reading in full.

Below are some select parts that especially struck a chord with me.

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Global Warming Is To Blame For Everything

It’s global warming’s fault. No matter what it is, global warming did it. As reported [here]:

Among the items on the list: acne, alligators in Britain’s Thames River, brain-eating amoebas, childhood insomnia, the risk of an asteroid strike, attacks from killer jellyfish, the death of the Loch Ness monster, killer cornflakes, the extinction of salmon, and a change in the tilt of the Earth’s axis.

Also on the list: frogs with extra heads, frostbite, witchcraft executions, traffic jams, UFO sightings, a walrus stampede, an invasion of king crabs, indigestion, short-nosed dogs, and nuclear war.

An outfit called Number Watch has compiled a list of 756 dire outcomes allegedly caused by global warming. But they can’t keep up. Yesterday Science Daily presented #757: Swiss needle cast.

Forests at Risk: Swiss Needle Cast Epidemic in Douglas-Fir Trees Unprecedented, Still Getting Worse

ScienceDaily, Apr. 12, 2010 [here]

The Swiss needle cast epidemic in Douglas-fir forests of the coastal Pacific Northwest is continuing to intensify, appears to be unprecedented over at least the past 100 years, and is probably linked to the extensive planting of Douglas-fir along the coast and a warmer climate, new research concludes.

What warmer climate? The climate in Oregon is the same as it has been for the entire Holocene. If anything, it is COOLER now than it was 6 to 9,000 years ago, albeit by only a degree or two.

Last December we reported [here] that glacial runoff from glaciers along the Gulf of Alaska are enriching near shore marine ecosystems with organic debris. The debris has been carbon-dated and is 2,500 to 7,000 years old.

The evidence strongly suggests that forests existed along the Gulf of Alaska between 2,500 to 7,000 years ago but have been subsequently covered by glaciers. The crushed organic matter from those forests is being expelled by the glaciers there today. From 2,500 to 7,000 years ago the coast of Alaska was warm enough to grow forests. That is not the case today.

Neoglaciation has been occurring for the last 6,000+ years, ever since temperatures started to decline from the Holocene Climatic Optimum, entirely consistent with the decline in solar insolation due to Milankovitch cycles, which peaked ~10,000 years ago.

The Earth has been cooling for 6,000+ years as we head toward another Ice Age, a pattern that has been repeated ~18 times over the last 1.8 million years.

To make matters in Oregon cooler, 2 to 3 years ago the Pacific Decadal Oscillation [here] shifted into its cool phase, bringing cooler water to Oregon’s coast and cooling our weather patterns. Cooler, cooler, cooler cooler.

Hence, therefore, and ergo, it can’t be warmer weather that is causing the Swiss needle cast epidemic, since our weather here is cooler now.

Note: it’s 40 deg F right now. Which is a good thing because it didn’t frost last night on the fruit blossoms. However, we had hard frosts earlier this week and more are expected. Orchardists are smudging from Medford to Hood River.

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3 Apr 2010, 10:54am
Forestry education Saving Forests
by admin
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A Factual History of the Americas for Younger Scholars

A review of:

Charles C. Mann and Rebecca Stefoff. 2009. Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, Simon & Schuster.

Available [here]

This book should be in every school.

The study of historical human influences on the environment is hampered by stubborn adherence to myths and falsehoods developed in childhood. Schools teach that Native Americans were few, savage, and insignificant wandering nomads who lived in a wilderness before Europeans arrived to tame the Americas.

Charles C. Mann’s 2005 bestseller, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus [here], exploded many of those myths. He essayed the new, developing ideas and evidence regarding pre-Columbian America indicating that the Western Hemisphere was populated by millions of people living in civilizations older and more advanced than those of the invading Europeans.

Now Mann and co-author Rebecca Stefoff have adapted 1491 into a book for school children. Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 is a gorgeous “coffee table” book filled with vibrant pictures and a text that is exciting and understandable for younger scholars.

Teachers and parents take note. Don’t let your kids grow up to be ignorant of their roots. The landscapes we live in have been cultural landscapes, shaped by humanity, for thousands of years. The heritage of place is your heritage and that of your children.

Part One of Before Columbus: The Americas of 1491 examines the question “How Old was the New World?” Archaeologists keep pushing the date back, but without a doubt human beings were living throughout the Americas 10,000 years ago (8,000 BC). The first cities may have been along the Peruvian coast. The pyramids at Huaricanga are at least 5,500 years old. The residents there also built irrigation canals to water cotton fields, from which they made nets to harvest fish. Ancient mariners sailed far out into the Pacific to net anchovies, sardines, and other seafood. Their cultural stamp (the distinctive gods carved on gourds) can be seen in rock carvings and temples crafted thousands of years later at Lake Titicaca, the cradle of Incan civilization.

Part Two asks “Why Did Europe Succeed?” and includes four chapters on “The Great Meeting” (Cortez and the Aztecs at Tenochtitlan), “Long, Long Ago” (the first Americans, the PaleoIndians, and Monte Verde in Chile), “Extinction” (the demise of the megafauna, including mammoths), and “Disease-Free Paradise? (the impact of European disease on the Native Americans).”

Part Three examines “Were the Americas really a Wilderness?” It’s chapters include “Amazonia” with discussion of the fruit and nut orchards found across the Amazon Basin and the anthropogenic soils called terra preta. “Land of Fire” discusses the way in which Indians maintained an anthropogenic mosaic of prairies, savannas, and open, park-like forests, principally through the use of controlled burning. In “The Created Wilderness” the authors explain how those human-shaped landscapes were abandoned when the Indian populations nearly disappeared following the introduction of Old World diseases.

We cannot plan for the future if we do not understand the past. Forests cannot be cared for, the desired future conditions cannot be achieved, if we do not have a firm grasp on how our forests developed in the first place.

Mann and Stefoff seek to instruct our youth with the historical truth, so that as adults they can make informed judgments about environmental stewardship.

Buy this book. Better yet, buy a dozen copies and donate them to your local schools. Raise the consciousness about the distant past so that our coming future is guided by knowledge instead of myth.

All this talk of forests as carbon caches just a smokescreen

By Bob Zybach, Guest Viewpoint, Eugene Register Guard, Mar 29, 2010 [here]

Some of the basic ideas presented by Susan Palmer in her March 16 article in The Register-Guard, “A great state of carbon caches,” need to be rebutted — in particular, the concept of managing a forest primarily for carbon storage.

First, however, some basic information.

Wood is not usually considered a “fossil fuel.” Federal forests in the United States total more than 190 million acres (not 19 million). And the Willamette National Forest probably contains about 164 metric tons of carbon per acre (not total).

The article’s errors in logic are less obvious.

Is this even news?

A well-known political advocacy group, the Wilderness Society, compiles a list of “the 10 U.S. national forests with the highest carbon density.” Nine of the 10 are in the Northwest; six are in Oregon, with No. 1 (the Willamette National Forest) being located primarily in Lane County. The Register-Guard prints these assertions on its front page and produces an editorial in support of the listing.


No one in history has ever managed a forest for “carbon density,” for a number of good reasons. What happened to jobs, clean water, wildlife habitat and recreation as socially accepted forest management goals?

A “senior resource analyst” for the Wilderness Society is quoted as saying the Willamette “has always been seen as an especially productive forest,” but somehow its carbon density provides “yet another reason to refrain from cutting” its trees.

Does that even make sense?

A few years ago, local environmentalists were complaining loudly that the Willamette’s managers employed too many roads and clear-cuts, used too many herbicides, planted too many seedlings, suppressed all wildfires and did not do enough prescribed burning. Couldn’t that history be a more logical cause of its current high carbon density?

Why would the Wilderness Society favor the result of all those management actions, and then call for no management now? Is the Wilderness Society simply promoting its list to help justify an agenda to stop logging in all national forests?

The average citizen likely couldn’t care less about the “carbon density” of our local forests, and probably doesn’t even know what that phrase actually means. And for those of us who do know: So what?

Is carbon more valuable than fresh water, jobs, energy production, wildlife or recreational access? The idea of managing a forest for carbon storage makes no sense at all, given the increased likelihood that coniferous forests will burn catastrophically as fuels build over time.

Some people argue that storing carbon is important because it allows people to moderate or control the climate to socially desired conditions.

This idea is becoming less popular as more scientific information becomes available, but many (including some scientists) still subscribe to this concept. Is the Wilderness Society seeking to stop logging in order to (theoretically) control climate?

Then there is the reality that the Willamette National Forest’s “carbon stock” does not even equal two years of the nation’s carbon release due to fossil fuels burning.

Last summer’s Tumblebug Fire [here], the third-largest fire in the history of the Willamette National Forest, spread ash, smoke and carbon dioxide throughout the southern Willamette Valley. Over several weeks’ time it burned nearly 15,000 acres, destroyed about 5,000 acres of old growth spotted owl habitat and killed nearly $100 million worth of timber.

About 20 million tons of dead wood were created by this catastrophic event, oozing massive amounts of carbon dioxide into the environment for years as the timber rots, with no plans to salvage any of it.

Wildfires such as the Tumblebug are one consequence of not actively managing our forests. Untended forests predictably are killed by bugs or erupt into catastrophic wildfires.

So what can be done to manage our forests to reduce their carbon outputs, as well as promote their other beneficial uses?

One answer might be to compare the condition of the remains of the Tumblebug Fire with another area of the Willamette: the Jim’s Creek restoration project [here].

On Jim’s Creek, old growth oaks and pine are being released from invasive (and profitable) fir trees. Native species are being encouraged to repopulate the area. And fire is planned to be reintroduced carefully, to maintain and protect these important characteristics.

Local jobs are being created to accomplish these results — to the benefit of local residents and American taxpayers — and the threat of wildfire and dying trees is significantly reduced. Active management produces desired results; passive management produces catastrophic events.

It would be nice to see Oregon’s forests promoted at some point as the U.S. Forest Service’s “best managed” forests. Having an advocacy group promote them as leading candidates to avoid management because they hold so much carbon is something else entirely.

If this development is news at all, it is certainly not good news.

Bob Zybach, a forest scientist with a doctorate in the study of catastrophic wildfires, is program manager for the Oregon Websites and Watersheds Project Inc., which can be found online [here].

26 Mar 2010, 11:03pm
Climate and Weather Forestry education
by admin

Soils, CO2, and Global Warming

On March 24 the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) issued a News Release [here] that proclaimed the soils of the Earth are now giving off more CO2 because the Earth has warmed over the last 20 years.

Even soil feels the heat

Soils release more carbon dioxide as globe warms

Mary Beckman, PNNL, March 24th, 2010

Twenty years of field studies reveal that as the Earth has gotten warmer, plants and microbes in the soil have given off more carbon dioxide. So-called soil respiration has increased about one-tenth of 1 percent per year since 1989, according to an analysis of past studies in today’s issue of Nature.

The scientists also calculated the total amount of carbon dioxide flowing from soils, which is about 10-15 percent higher than previous measurements. That number — about 98 petagrams of carbon a year (or 98 billion metric tons) — will help scientists build a better overall model of how carbon in its many forms cycles throughout the Earth. Understanding soil respiration is central to understanding how the global carbon cycle affects climate.

“There’s a big pulse of carbon dioxide coming off of the surface of the soil everywhere in the world,” said ecologist Ben Bond-Lamberty of the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. “We weren’t sure if we’d be able to measure it going into this analysis, but we did find a response to temperature.” …

The research paper touted in the News Release is: Bond-Lamberty and Thomson, 2010. Temperature-associated increases in the global soil respiration record, Nature March 25, 2009, doi:10.1038/nature08930.

Note: The PNNL is a Richland, WA, Department of Energy Office of Science national laboratory “proudly operated by Battelle”. Battelle Memorial Institute (Battelle) is “a charitable trust organized as a non-profit corporation under the laws of the State of Ohio. Battelle is exempt from federal taxation under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code because it is organized for charitable, scientific, and educational purposes” [here].

In this essay I discuss whether there is any merit to the findings of the research paper.

Meta-Studies and the File Drawer Effect

The PNNL/Battelle/DOE study is a meta-study or meta-analysis. That means that the authors did no soil testing themselves. Instead they examined the studies of others (818 at last count) and “pooled” them.

All meta-analyses have inherent problems including the File Drawer Effect, also known as publication bias. Researcher-authors are more likely to submit for publication positive rather than inconclusive results. Journal editors are more likely to accept articles that report “significant” findings than research which finds no effect. Studies that find no effect are shoved in a file drawer; hence the name.

Publication bias is likely in this area of study especially, given the strong political/funding incentives to find climate change effects.

more »

21 Mar 2010, 4:02pm
Forestry education
by admin

Ecology As Religion

A review of:

Robert H. Nelson. 2010. Ecological Science as a Creation Story. The Independent Review, v. 14, n. 4, Spring 2010.

The full text is available [here]

Selected excerpts may be found in the W.I.S.E. Colloquium: Forest and Fire Sciences [here]

Dr. Robert H. Nelson, Ph.D. is a professor of public policy at the University of Maryland, a senior fellow of the Independent Institute [here], and a senior scholar for the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.


Robert H. Nelson has given us a remarkable examination of the philosophical roots of environmentalism and the environmental sciences. Those roots are less scientific than they are religious. Ecology is founded on a post-Darwinian yearning for spiritual certainty, something Darwin’s theories cast aside.

Nelson cites and deconstructs the teachings of some of the most famous and influential ecologists, including John Muir, Frederic Clements, Aldo Leopold, A. G. Tansley, Eugene Odum, and E. O. Wilson. In the key works of each Nelson discovers quasi-religious themes and structures and more theology than science.

The American environmental movement has deep roots in and still depends heavily on the conviction that a person finds a mirror of God’s thinking in the encounter with wild nature — or, in traditional Christian terms, that a person is in the presence of “the Creation.” Absent this conviction, many of the American environmental movement’s basic beliefs and important parts of its policy agenda would be difficult to explain and defend. …

For many secular environmentalists, the simplest course is to ignore this disconcerting issue — to partake of strong feelings of religious inspiration in the direct presence of “God’s creation” and then to go about their daily lives. Environmental creationism has not come under the same intense public scrutiny and criticism as Christian creationism. There have been fewer social and intellectual pressures for environmental creationists to work out their own precise thinking in this area. …

Indeed, the outward scientific appearance of ecology masks a strong underlying religious content. The powerful religious element is not necessarily a problem in itself, but in the case of ecology, at least, the presentation of religion in the guise of a value-neutral science creates major tensions and even contradictions. Ecological science develops a new creation story that differs in some respects from the original biblical version but also exhibits basic continuities. The result is often both poor science and poor theology, as judged from a rigorously analytical viewpoint based in either area. …

Poor science and poor theology lead to poor policy, and we have suffered many disasters because of it. The Let It Burn movement, responsible for so much destruction, is based on a tenuous philosophy and pseudoscience grounded in religious beliefs, not practical, rational thinking.

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