Friday, January 29, 2010

Our environment: Do some folks even have the slightest clue?

As mentioned in an earlier post, I am a conservationist. The dictionary defines that as "one that practices or advocates conservation, especially of natural resources." Conservation is defined as "the act of conserving; prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss. The protection, preservation, management, or restoration of wildlife and of natural resources such as forests, soil, and water." I would add that conservation is the science that practices the wise use of natural resources. 

As a state forest fire warden, I supervise a wildland fire fighting crew and conduct fire prevention programs. I have been a wildland firefighter for well over twenty six years and I find it to be a very exciting and challenging activity. It happens to be the perfect blend of my career as a Ranger, my love of the outdoors and the satisfaction gained from participating in a heart pounding adventure.

Unfortunately however, I believe that our national forest fire suppression policies are seriously misguided. Fire is a natural occurrence and a necessary part of forest regeneration . . . however we've done such a good job in controlling wildland fires that we've painted ourselves in to a corner, much to the detriment of forest health.

Why do we have catastrophic fires every year in the western states? It's because we haven't allowed nature to do what it should do by removing the fuels by fire that have built up over the years. Those of us involved in the fire service are charged with protecting life and property. "We serve to save". A noble and worthy cause certainly, but we do so, surrounded by morons that build their million dollar palaces in densely forested locations and do nothing to fireproof their homes. They become outraged when they lose their worldly possessions due to a devastating wild fire. Most frustrating are the politicians who may be critical of tactics but cut the funding for or legislate against mitigation programs  . . . ignorant of the fact that while we may save a few homes, we've sentenced a larger area to an eventual conflagration.

Our forest fire policies are arguably the least of the problems that we have facing our environment in how we manage, use and protect our natural resources.This old earth is estimated at being ninety six billion years old. How sad is it that in less than three hundred years, modern man has been able to totally screw it up. How insane is it that in the U.S. we have elected officials, some of the most powerful people in the free world who ignore the evidence and doubt that global warming is a real threat? These same "leaders" bow to the whim of outside political influences, interested only in monetary gain, in determining what is best for our natural areas. Ironically, these geniuses, these captains of industry, seem to be completely oblivious as to the effect that their doctrines and practices have on the environment. Then again, maybe they actually do understand the negative ramifications of their policies. That would then certainly be criminal as it would serve to demonstrate that they just don't give a damn. Politicians, big business and conservative greed have resulted in policies and practices which have lead to an incredible amount of damage to our environment . . . our world.

The cost we all have to pay is high for our environmental mis-management and every citizen of this planet should be outraged at the arrogance and abject ignorance of shortsighted and greedy politicians. I was overcome with disbelief and anger when I heard a Republican governor's rebuttal of the 2010 Presidential State of the Union address, who called upon the country to use ALL of our natural resources. If I thought that he meant
use but not abuse them, I might have been more comfortable with his statement. However, his delivery of those words seemed to be almost threatening. Scary indeed. Conservatives will claim that using our vast resources is the mark of progress for a civilized, industrial society, designed to improve the quality of life. I would say that is in fact true . . . especially for the special interest groups that line their pockets and support their re-election.

Do the ends justify the means?

I think not . . .

Sunday, January 17, 2010

It's an Alaskan Malamute, NOT a Husky !

I wish I had a nickel for every time I had to explain that my dog is not a husky. The comment when someone first sees my 120lb, four legged buddy is usually "WOW!! That's the biggest Siberian Husky I've ever seen". Then I have to go in to my routine explanation which gently corrects their error and describes the difference between the two breeds. Without a doubt, there are very strong similarities and your average sled dog aficionado can tell the difference immediately, but it does get a bit frustrating. While both breeds are highly intelligent, Mals are almost twice the size of a husky and much stockier, easier to train, and much, much more affectionate . . . Alaskans also NEVER, EVER have blue eyes. Having owned both Huskies and Malamutes, I can tell you that I am a 14kt gold, card carrying, die hard fan of the Alaskan Malamute.

Alaskan Malamutes are a brawny freighting sled dog of Alaska's native Inuit people, bred for endurance rather than speed. Wolf like in appearance, it excels as an adaptable, and highly intelligent canine companion. A heavy boned dog with a bulky muzzle, a broad head, wide set ears, and a thickly furred tail carried plume like over the back, the Malamute is one of the most beautiful dogs on earth and, pound for pound, almost certainly the strongest. Of all of the various and sundry dog breeds found today in the United States, the Alaskan Malamute is the only pure, true native canine from North America.

The breed is blessed with a sunny disposition. Happiest when treated as an intelligent partner, the Mal is highly cooperative but never slavish or fawning. He works and lives with you, not for you. The typical Malamute is almost universally friendly to any human being. As the dogs of a peaceful, nomadic people, they do not necessarily guard property and virtually always extend a tail wagging, face licking welcome to strangers; although any aggressive behavior by a stranger directed towards the Mals owner will undoubtedly elicit an immediate, protective reaction. When asked if he is a good watch dog I answer with an emphatic "YES!" "He'd watch someone steal the TV, watch someone take all of the jewelry and valuables . . . " Let's face it, they love people and their size and their previously mentioned wolf like appearance is probably their only intimidating features. Malamutes will develop a deep, complex attachment to their owners, although they are not necessarily one person dogs. They are certainly pack animals and within the human family unit, the Malamute considers himself to be one of the group.

This versatile northen dog is happy to pull a sled, but is equally glad to accompany the backpacker or the casual walker. In cold weather, the Mal makes an ideal running partner. Large and powerful yet remarkably agile, Malamutes sometimes enjoy retrieving tennis balls and Frisbees although they can get bored very easily. Some malamutes love to swim; others have a marked aversion to water. Most enjoy car rides; the breed is not prone to motion sickness. Virtually all Malamutes find their greatest joy in human companionship and are perfectly content to join their owners in almost any activity . . . especially those that might feature something to eat. Malamutes take an alert interest in their surroundings and are excellent company.

Now, not surprisingly, I also get asked plenty of other questions about the Mal . . . after all this is a very exotic looking creature. The next, single most frequently asked question is "does he shed much?". The fact that my yard is loaded with dog hair tumbleweeds and that virtually every bird's nest is lined with Malamute fur might be an indication . . . but I'll delve in to more of that subject at some other time.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Don't Confuse Weather with Climate

The recent spate of Arctic cold that swept the nation has many questioning whether global warming is nothing more than a myth. It's almost comical for me to hear these rationalizations that the sub zero temperatures are proof positive that global warming is nothing more than a liberal strategy to generate unnecessary concern and anxiety in to the hearts of every patriotic, God fearing, hard working, and loyal American. It's equally amazing to me that these same folks can be so narrow minded as to ignore the scientific data that is available. They also apparently do not know the difference between "weather" and "climate".

Weather is short-term changes in the atmosphere: fluctuations in temperature, humidity, precipitation, cloudiness, brightness, visibility, wind, and barometric pressure. It can change from minute-to-minute, hour-to-hour, and day-to-day. Climate, on the other hand, is the average of weather over an extended period of time; it's the description of the long-term pattern of weather in a particular area. Climate is what you expect (like a hot summer), and weather is what you get.

So why was the Northeast so bitterly cold in December '09 and early January of 2010? How can they justify the theory of global warming, given the unusual sub zero temperatures? Some believe it was due to the normal changes in cyclical patterns like El Nino. I imagine that is possible, but with that, we still shouldn't ignore the fact that scientists have shown that the polar ice caps are melting.

One interesting theory that supports the argument of global warming and offers a possible explanation for the recent frigid temperatures is that as the sea ice melts, they dump cold, fresh water in to the oceans (much like adding an ice cube to a hot cup of tea). The ocean currents that carry the warmer air aloft along the east cost and on to Europe are rapidly cooling down. As a result, it's allowing for more intense cold and winter storms in areas typically tempered by what were warmer currents.

I love the winter, the cold weather and lots of snow. I'd move to Alaska tomorrow if I could . . . the problem is, that at the rate we're going, Alaska could soon have palm trees. Okay . . . so I'm being a bit facetious, but I've lived in the unbearably hot, humid "Sunshine State" for twelve years. I sincerely miss my good friends there, but one of the happiest days in my life was the day I saw the sign that said "You are now leaving the state of Florida". I have no interest in ever living in that kind of climate again.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Why "Seven" Dog Winter?

I've been asked why is this blog called "SEVEN" dog winter.

Well it's actually pretty simple.

SEVEN is generally considered to be a lucky number for gamblers . . . although if you break a mirror it is SEVEN years of bad luck.

Pythagoras called it the perfect number: three and four, the triangle and the square - the perfect figures.

Creationists believe that all things were created in six days and God rested on day SEVEN.

There are SEVEN lucky rings . . . each ring stands for something different:
life, love, longevity, friendship, health, wealth and happiness.

The moon changes it's phase approximately every SEVEN days.

Special powers are given to the SEVENTH son of the SEVENTH son.

In baseball, there is the SEVENTH inning stretch.

Remember Snow White and the SEVEN dwarfs?

There are SEVEN days in a week.

There are SEVEN deadly sins, SEVEN seas and SEVEN Wonders of the World.

A local phone number has SEVEN digits.

There were SEVEN ancient planets (Sun, Moon, Mercury, Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Saturn).

In Chinese culture, day SEVEN of the first moon of lunar new year is called "Humans Day", to be celebrated as the universal birthday of all human beings.

Ancient Japan was founded around SEVEN districts. In Japanese folklore their are SEVEN treasures and SEVEN deities.

In music, the diatonic scale has SEVEN pitches. There are five whole tones and two half tones.

But the REAL reason is . . .

On a sled dog team, you would have two wheel dogs, two swing dogs, two point dogs and a lead dog.

What more could anyone ask for?

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Twenty Ten or Two Thousand Ten?

Repubicans, Tea Baggers and people without a sense of humor should NOT read this . . . .

Two days in to the new year and we already have a national calamity on our hands: How do we refer to this new year? Is it "twenty ten" or "two thousand ten"?

The factions supporting either possibility are passionately debating the subject. My personal preference would be for "twenty ten". It saves having to type six whole extra letters (including spaces) and takes .0004 seconds less time to say. So the choice seems obvious to any rational thinking individual. Even the National Association for Good Grammar agrees. By all indications, this appears to be the hot button issue for twenty ten/two thousand ten/2010.

I can see that you are skeptical about this. You really don't believe that we have anything better to do than focus on what many believe to be an extremely crucial issue. I'll bet that you also probably don't believe in global warming and you're undoubtedly still convinced that one day we will find those weapons of mass destruction that the Iraqis had so skillfully hidden! I'm here to tell you that this topic has universal ramifications that could alter the course of human history. This most critical controversy and hotly contested subject has reached a boiling point. Still not convinced??? Look here:

Remember, if you've read it on the web, then it must be true.
I've read too that conservatives and the religious right believe that we should refer to this year in Roman numerals: MMX. The fundamentalists believe it is more god-like. The Republicans are touting it as a program which could help stem the tide of global warming (although they doubt that there really is such a thing) and put the economy back on its' feet . . . think of all of the energy, ink and the millions of dollars it would save by not having to type 2010! The windfall surplus of funds could then be put back in to areas that would help stimulate job growth in businesses like big oil, Wall Street banking and military contractors. Alas, this issue will undoubtedly end up in some Washington think tank where the intellectuals of our society will finally, once and for all, let us know what is the moral and ethical way to refer to 2010.

All of this is far too cerebral for me. Heck, I'm still wrestling with which end of the egg is the politically correct part that is supposed to be cracked open !