It’s been kind of eerie living in the Bay Area the last few days, a pall of smoke from various wild fires has settled over the region, and the light from the sun has a subtle reddish cast. It’s not smoky enough to be annoying, and none of the fires are any local danger…so it’s like being in a science fiction story. A shame about the fires, but more of a shame humans put them out for a century. Now the state has huge areas of overgrown scrub and deadwood that burn like gangbusters when they do start to burn, doing far more damage than they would have had they been allowed to burn normally.
Fires are like rain, they are a natural part of the ecosystem in most parts of the world, and the plants and animals are perfectly evolved to live with them. In fact regular fires do all sorts of beneficial things, and are crucial for the health of many native plants and animals. The fact that humans viewed fires as “bad” and thought they were “fixing” nature by religiously putting them out neatly illustrates how humans have way too high an opinion of themselves.
From dams to levees to seawalls humans thought that nature was something to be tamed, and in many cases we have unwittingly interfered with perfectly functional natural systems in ways that ultimately will cost us far more than we ever imagined. A good example is rivers flooding river bottom lands in the spring, this was a wonderful way for nature to distribute staggering amounts of fertilizer (crushed rock dust) washed down from the mountains, and build up low laying coastal areas and islands. Now the fertilizer piles up uselessly in reservoirs or is washed out to sea, and places like New Orleans are below sea level and continuing to drop. What, we are just going to keep building higher walls around new Orleans forever?
Sometimes I think the 21st century is mostly going to be spent undoing the damage we unwittingly did to the planet in the 20th century. That’s my fond hope at least, but of course the more I study history the more I just laugh at the thought. Especially the study of warfare. Dear God, thousands of wars have been fought throughout history, few (none?) of them accomplished anything besides killing a lot of innocent people, destroying a lot of property…all to advance a few political careers? If wars solved problems, we’d be living in paradise.
The other thing I have learnt from studying history is just how little we can rely on what we read. Or more accurately, what really happened? A lovely little example is the recent event where a B-52 bomber mistakenly strapped nuclear cruise missiles to its wings and flew across the US. The Air Force claimed it was a mistake, and in fact a commander has been fired. The investigation continues. Could something like this really have been just a stupid blunder, could Air Force personnel be that stupid or out of it? Anyone who has ever been in the military could easily confirm that yes, it most certainly is possible. Heck, stuff like this happens far more often than ever makes the news.
However, there are other possibilities. On the one hand, since the base where this happened is a staging area for shipments to the Middle East could this indicate that the US is actually in the process of loading up nukes for use in Iran, and the Air Force inadvertently showed its cards so to speak? You betcha, and open source intelligence analysts (open source intelligence is studying public information about an enemy, as opposed to spying or photo reconnaissance) in Iran and elsewhere are at this very moment reading everything they can about this incident to see what information they can glean. Maybe some of them are reading this blog right now? (cue Twilight Zone music.)
Another possibility is that this was deliberately staged to show Iran that we are serious about using nuclear weapons. Combinations are possible too, maybe it was an accident but now our diplomats will secretly imply that it was staged so that our enemies are kept guessing. I could go on, but I believe that I have made my point…we must be very careful interpreting the news and watch out for the tendency to interpret things in accordance with what we want to believe. Or as my Missouri Granny put it: “Don’t believe anything you hear and only believe half of what you see.”
Speaking of grannies, and as a bit of good news, a 76 year old women who had been lost in the Oregon woods for nearly two weeks has been found alive! Heck, she was found just in time to attend her own memorial service. Now the friends and family can have a party instead. Have a great weekend everyone!
(The above image is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. It is not being used for profit, it is central to illustrating the post, it is only a tiny section of the original image, and it is properly attributed. Credit: Chronicle/Paul Chinn)