Forests Are The Air We Breathe

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You can be handsome.

You can be charming.

You can have prospects.

You can have big plans.

But here’s the thing: Five minutes without air and you’ve got nothing at all.

Well, for Rim Country — the forests remain the air that we breathe.

Without a healthy forest, Payson’s just a wide spot on a road leading somewhere else. The forest drew us here — the teachers and the journalists and the old-time ranching families and the second-home owners and the retirees.

All our prospects depend on that same forest — from the lure for the tourists who pay the sales taxes that fund our fire department to the effort to attract new businesses — like a university campus.

So we’re happy that the Payson Ranger District acted with restraint and wisdom to close the forest to people between the highway and the top of the Rim. The closure order also covered Fossil Creek — a precious place dreadfully vulnerable to fire.

However, the closure order did leave open most of the most popular campgrounds, with the exception of Houston Mesa and Houston Mesa Horse campgrounds plus the Upper Tonto Creek campground and the lower Tonto Creek picnic site.

The extreme conditions in the forest left the rangers with little choice. Veteran firefighters battling the 11,000-acre Poco Fire north of Young say they can’t ever recall seeing fuels this dry. This week at one point in Payson the temperature hit 102 degrees, with 4 percent relative humidity.

Clearly, we cannot afford the risk of a careless cigarette, a reckless illegal campfire or even the hot muffler of an off-road vehicle setting off a cataclysm like the one that last summer consumed 600,000 acres in the White Mountains. Still, the Forest Service did it’s best to leave open some of the most popular, best supervised recreation areas — like the bulk of Roosevelt Lake, the lakes on top of the Rim and many popular Rim Country campgrounds south of the highway.

So we hope that Rim Country residents will not only strictly observe the closure order, but also keep an eye open for violators. Anyone who spots someone entering the closure area should immediately contact the Gila County Sheriff’s Office or the Payson Ranger District (928-474-7900).

For a map of the closure area, please look on the back of the A section in today’s paper.

The forest remains the air we breathe here in Rim Country. So take a breath, consider what’s at stake, then help the Forest Service protect this precious place.

Smart critters — dumb ideas

Smart critters — human beings.

Right? Didn’t we invent the scientific method? Didn’t we invent mathematics, penetrate the inside of the atom and figure out ways to determine the age of rocks and dirt and the solar system? Didn’t we invent computers and marvelous mathematical structures that allow us to predict the movements of Venus a century from now — and the likely shifts in climate decades from now?

All true. But still — we also remain fearful, superstitious, stubborn and short-sighted.

Look no further than the peculiar public disconnect about global warming — and the likely impact of human beings on the climate. But so easily bamboozled by the efforts of a handful of climate skeptics to rebut the overwhelming consensus among most climate scientists.

The strange, off-balanced debate demonstrates how uncomfortable most people remain with scientific thinking.

In today’s edition, you’ll find a brief story summarizing some recent studies that suggest the already observed global warming will spark many more frightening, fire-prone Rim Country summers like the one we’re living through right now.

Granted, the planet has gone through warming trends throughout its long history, likely caused by variations in the Earth’s orbit, shifts in the output of the sun and perhaps factors like the positions of the continents. In truth, we can’t fully account for those ancient climate shifts — although it’s certain that humans played no role in them.

So why blame human beings and their heat-trapping pollutants now? Simply put: That’s the explanation that best fits the data — at least for now.

In truth, science constantly forces us to test several theories and settle on the one that best fits the evidence.

So we must weigh the evidence, test the conclusion — then act rationally. We have just passed through the warmest decade since we humans started keeping reliable global temperature records. And last year we human beings released a record 34.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.

Have we proven beyond any shadow of doubt the link between the warming trend and our own activities? No. But then, scientists still refer to the mass of mathematics describing gravity as a “theory,” although it yields predictions accurate to the umpteenth decimal point.

But sure: We’re smart. In theory. But the theory only applies if we use that intelligence, instead of taking counsel of our fears or wallowing in denial.

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