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CASH Courier > 2005 Fall Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Fall 2006 Issue

FIRE MANAGEMENT: AN INCREASINGLY DESTRUCTIVE PRACTICE

TWO CONFLICTING WORLDVIEWS

The second important reason for the advocacy and practice of fire management goes to the heart of our cultural value system. Many Eastern religions (most notably Buddhism and Jainism) advocate the sanctity of life. They contend that the earth is a living organism and that their treatment or mistreatment of it affects them positively or negatively. (Chief Seattle said essentially the same thing in his famous speech in 1854.) Personally, I try to embrace this philosophy, but unfortunately, I sometimes fall short of my own expectations.

The traditional Western worldview holds that Nature exists for human benefit. Humans don’t belong to Nature, Nature belongs to them. Therefore, people have a divine and/or biological right to manipulate it in whatever ways they deem expedient. John A. Livingston, in his book One Cosmic Instant: Man’s Fleeting Supremacy, wrote that “Conscious change toward the environmental ethic will not be easy for it will demand something that is foreign to us - humility.”

The chief difference between the two conflicting worldviews is that “we” value the lives of individual plants and animals, whereas “they” view Nature as a material entity - a collection of species. The utilitarian concept of Nature is inherent in forestry and wildlife science programs at colleges and universities, and reflects the practices of modern science (or pseudo-science) and technology. I am certain that controlled burning is destructive, not because I have been indoctrinated to believe this, but on the basis of available evidence and my own observations of the effects of fire on both pine barrens and woodlands. This was done not with a mechanistic orientation, but with an empathy with Nature.

We should not expect the administrators of Mohonk Preserve to suddenly and miraculously “see the light” and change their policy with regard to controlled burning. For one thing, they have been periodically lengthening deer hunting seasons on the preserve during the past twenty-five years despite powerful evidence that a majority of preserve members oppose this practice. (7) It is my belief, based on experience in other locations, that as time goes on the burns conducted on preserve lands will become increasingly severe. Because of fire management at Mohonk Preserve I felt compelled not to renew my preserve membership in 2006. (Interestingly, the official motto of Mohonk Preserve is “Saving the Land for Life.”)

Go on to TOTALLY RECKLESS AND DESTRUCTIVE

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