12 January 2014

An Idea Forged in Fire

Only you can stop thinking about forest fires in the old way.

Smokey Bear famously encouraged us to prevent forest fires. We took the slogan to heart, but perhaps we overdid it. While it's true that we need to take care not to start them, the idea that all wildfires are completely negative for the environment needs revision.

Recent scientific research, including this study by Oregon State University, has shown that wildfires are yet another important life force in ecosystems. Among other things, fire helps contain invasive species and functions as a starter for new life processes. This means that total fire suppression prevents the natural cycle from playing out.

We had the best of intentions in preventing forest fires, but this idea about the key environmental role of such fires needs to ... well ... catch fire.

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