A week or so ago, the president met with the governor of California and with state and federal officials to talk about the record setting wildfires slamming the west coast of the US. Millions of acres of land have been burned, thousands of people have been forced from their homes, and dozens of people have been killed. The forest fires are the worst on record, and temperatures are at an all-time high.
One of the experts who participated was Wade Crowfoot, the California Natural Resources Agency secretary. He urged the president to recognize the changing climate and what it means to the forests. “If we ignore the science and sort of put our head in the sand and think it’s all about vegetation management, we’re not going to succeed,” he said. The president’s response was, “It will start getting cooler, just you watch.” When Crowfoot told him that the science did not agree with the president, the response from the president was, “I don’t think science knows, actually.” Such statements are emblematic of the disdain that the president has consistently voiced about science, academic, and technical expertise. He assures us that he has a remarkable brain and is usually the smartest guy in the room.
The president went on to place the blame for the wildfires on democratic leaders and their failure to rake leaves and clear dead timber from forest floors. In the past, wildfire experts and forest managers have concluded that raking leaves makes no sense in the hundreds of millions of acres of US wilderness and forests. I’m guessing that if we had problems with personal protective equipment during the Coronavirus epidemic, we would experience similar acute rake and leaf bag shortages. We better stock up now!
Last week, Rachel and I visited Anastasia State Park in St. Augustine, Florida. This sign was posted along one of the hiking trails. It looked like it had been there for a few years. It was written to describe to hikers like us, the reasons that park staff do not rake leaves in the state forest. It turns out that decomposing leaves are good for the soil, plants, trees, and the entire ecosystem. Who would’ve thought? Perhaps we’ll send a copy of the photo to the Whitehouse. I’m sure it could change a few minds!