Scary Fire Season Already Upon Us

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Buckle up: The fire season has flared already. Granted, the minor fires that briefly closed Highway 87 this week didn’t amount to much — most likely cigarettes tossed from speeding cars that charred brush and grass along the roadway.

But two fires in southeast Arizona have already burned more than 60,000 acres and a fire just over the border in New Mexico has charred 90,000.

In the good old days — like three years ago — we usually didn’t have to worry about mega fires until June. That’s after the spring rains faded away, but before the summer monsoons brought renewed relief.

But we’ve had just half the normal rain tally so far this year — and the normally wet March and April turned bone dry.

Some climate models suggest that given the rise in average global temperatures already measured in the past half century, we can expect far more dry springs and an earlier start to the fire season.

Unfortunately, climate models that project the trend into the future suggest that even the reliable summer monsoons that normally deliver half of Arizona’s rainfall may falter in coming decades.

The Tonto National Forest has already banned almost all fire-causing activities outside of certain developed campgrounds. Please observe all those restrictions strictly — not just to avoid the $5,000 fine but to safeguard our communities.

Moreover, we must all become the nose and ears of the sheriff’s office and the U.S. Forest Service, as flatlanders flee the Valley and occupy our campgrounds, picnic areas and trailheads.

If you see someone violating the restrictions with campfires, firecrackers, cigarettes or other fire-causing activities, politely tell them about the restrictions — and the conditions.

If they persist or such an intervention seems risky —then call the sheriff’s office or the Forest Service. The number of the Payson Ranger Station is (928) 474-7900.

It looks like it’s going to be a rough ride this summer. So best learn the rules of the road — and don’t cross over the double yellow line.

Graduates ponder key to happiness

Suddenly, the ceremony ends. Graduation. You’re done. Now what? In truth, graduation remains a muffled milestone. It marks the end of a great passage in life — whether it’s high school or college or community college. It demonstrates discipline and determination, which is why employers pay so much attention to the degree.

But will it make you happy?

What, in fact, makes humans happy?

Money?

Well, not really.

In fact, happiness flows from purpose — that feeling your life has meaning and contributes to some larger good.

That’s not just a graduation speech cliché: They’ve got evidence.

For instance, one study analyzed generations of college students between 1938 and 2007. Curiously, as Americans have achieved more and more material comfort, wealth and security — happiness has declined.

Another study found that on average, happiness builds steadily into middle age, then declines as we become less engaged.

Those who reported the greatest sense of purpose in their lives reported the highest levels of happiness, regardless of income. Moreover, those with the greatest sense of purpose lived longer and had fewer health problems, including heart problems, Alzheimer’s and other diseases.

Another study involving 450,000 Americans between 2008 and 2009 published by the National Academy of Sciences found that self-professed happiness does rise with wealth — but only up to an annual income of about $75,000.

So what’s the moral of the story for graduates clutching their diploma and pondering their next step?

Chase the money if you want — give up time, love, relationships. Make money your goal — and choose accordingly. But don’t expect those choices will make you happy.

If you would be happy, then devote yourself to a greater purpose. Make your life count. Measure your value in the good you do. Devote yourself to helping the people you love — and to the strangers you meet.

The ceremony has ended.

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