Cal Fires May have Killed *Hundreds* More Sequoias

October 8, 2021

NPR:

LOS ANGELES — Northern California wildfires may have killed hundreds of giant sequoias as they swept through groves of the majestic monarchs in the Sierra Nevada, an official said Wednesday.

“It’s heartbreaking,” said Christy Brigham, head of resource management and science for Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

The lightning-caused KNP Complex that erupted on Sept. 9 has burned into 15 giant sequoia groves in the park, Brigham said.

More than 2,000 firefighters were battling the blaze in sometimes treacherous terrain. On Wednesday afternoon, four people working on the fire were injured when a tree fell on them, the National Park Service reported.

The four were airlifted to hospitals and “while the injuries are serious, they are in stable condition,” the report said. It didn’t provide other details.

The KNP Complex was only 11% contained after burning 134 square miles (347 square kilometers) of forest. Cooler weather has helped slow the flames and the area could see some slight rain on Friday, forecasters said.

The fire’s impact on giant sequoia groves was mixed. Most saw low- to medium-intensity fire behavior that the sequoias have evolved to survive, Brigham said.

However, it appeared that two groves — including one with 5,000 trees — were seared by high-intensity fire that can send up 100-foot (30-meter) flames capable of burning the canopies of the towering trees.

That leaves the monarchs at risk of going up “like a horrible Roman candle,” Brigham said.

Two burned trees fell in Giant Forest, which is home to about 2,000 sequoias, including the General Sherman Tree, which is considered the world’s largest by volume. However, the most notable trees survived and Brigham said the grove appeared to be mostly intact.

Firefighters have taken extraordinary measures to protect the sequoias by wrapping fire-resistant material around the bases of some giants, raking and clearing vegetation around them, installing sprinklers and dousing some with water or fire retardant gel.

However, the full extent of the damage won’t be known for months, Brigham said. Firefighters are still occupied protecting trees, homes and lives or can’t safely reach steep, remote groves that lack roads or even trails, she said.

8 Responses to “Cal Fires May have Killed *Hundreds* More Sequoias”

  1. jimbills Says:

    It’s pretty clear the path we are on as a civilization. The following article link goes into the gigantic elephant in the room few discuss and practically none will seriously contemplate. I agree with most of it, and even I think it’s so unlikely to happen (at least in a sooner-than-later preventative way) it’s barely worth mentioning anymore. Still, for the hundredth time, growth is THE problem (and no, socialism isn’t the answer, either):
    Salon: Solving the climate crisis requires the end of capitalism.
    https://www.salon.com/2021/10/09/solving-the-climate-requires-the-end-of-capitalism/

    • redskylite Says:

      “In short, capitalism can cause – inequality, market failure, damage to the environment, short-termism, excess materialism and boom and bust economic cycles.”

      Indeed it can and does, problem is Earth scientists and activists have been trying to tear down (and partly succeeded) indifference, denial and vested opposition to the need for Climate Change action for decades now. Trying to tear down the Capitalist system, would be much more difficult, and would only cover part of the world. Gene Roddenberry could offer a kinder replacement (Trekonomics), and we could study our closest relatives, chimpanzee society, for tips.

    • Brent Jensen-Schmidt Says:

      The most efficient form of government is Guided Democracy. Intelligent and conscientious autocrats are more common than pigs with wings. Do not enumerate the potential problems with this solution. You will just clutter up the site.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      What do you mean by growth?

      AIUI growth in the economic sense means increase in value. That doesn’t necessarily need to be greater consumption of physical resources.

      We can grow the economy by making things more efficient. I remember life before SKUs (product barcodes) and supermarket scanners. Stockers had to use price sticker guns to mark every can, box and bottle on the shelves, and cashiers had to read the stickers and physically punch in the price. Someone had to go back to the shelves and count items to see what to re-order

      ICE engines have gotten a lot more efficient over the last century.
      Cars last much longer than they did in the 1970s.
      Plant genetics work can produce greater yield, variety, resilience, etc. while consuming fewer resources.
      Seen any whale oil lamps lately?

      Capitalism is about more than just mining and logging and drilling: It’s wind turbines and pacemakers and paint and bus fleets and textiles and toothbrushes.

      The problem isn’t modern capital markets, but allowing companies to externalize (or “socialize”) costs while privatizing profits. Take away all the legal capital market activity and you’d still have pirates and raiders and slave labor. Instead, we should make the bad aspects illegal or clean them up. (Bear in mind that one of the first things that pops up after war/disaster hits many places is a black market. It’s primal.)

      If the growth you mean is worsening overpopulation, then go after the patriarchal tribes/religions that only value women as unschooled baby-makers. (Note that societies with educated, liberated women inevitably fall below the replacement rate of reproduction.)

      • jimbills Says:

        “growth in the economic sense means increase in value”

        Not exactly. If you’re going by the textbook, it’s the increase in value of the total economy over time. Essentially, a rise in GDP. While some measurements, such as carbon emissions per GDP dollar, have lowered, they aren’t zero, and that is largely a matter of things like computer software and pharmaceuticals, which have significantly lower resource use as timber and food, being added to our modern economies.

        In the meantime, total carbon emissions rise, as do many other resources:
        https://www.statista.com/statistics/589945/iron-ore-production-gross-weight-worldwide/

        Growth is the suburbs expanding and expanding, with farmland being paved over. It’s the impetus for talk about mining the sea floor, or the Arctic, or the Salton Sea.

        Efficiency has, in the past, always led to greater total resource use (Jevons). On the micro level, it adds dollars to someone’s pocket, which then gets used in some new way to increase the total use of whatever resource had been made more efficient (increasing GDP).

        We do improve efficiencies in technologically complex ways, though. Our total resource use is much lower than it would be if we were still using the means and methods of a century ago today. But, and it’s a big one, and this is the difference, our total resource is still much higher than it was a century ago.

        That’s growth in reality. Will it continue in the future? I’m not so sold on Jevons as to say it’s a definite. We may increase efficiencies to such a high level that it overwhelms that mechanism’s ability to keep up. However, it’s a bit of a utopian leap of faith to automatically believe it will.

        Wind turbines are mining. So are all the other things you listed.

        Externalities are a built-in feature of our capitalist economy from its very beginnings. We’ve always taken more from nature than their true cost. We do so at unbelievable levels today. We pay far less than we should for practically everything.

        IF the economy was made to truly reflect the costs of taking away from future generations the material and biological resources that we currently do (and really it’s only speculative, as there’s no way we have the political will, or even the economic ability, to do so), THEN the system could reflect a somewhat sustainable balance long-term. But, we’re so far away from doing that currently, it’s not really worth discussing.

        I take population as a driver of growth – not necessarily as growth itself. It’s true that modern societies lower population growth – but this is the result of increased GDP in that society. The total ‘growth’ in that society inevitably ends up being much greater than those poor and undeveloped societies.

        And, I generally believe our modern economies cannot allow populations to start to drop. We have to have at least some population growth to maintain the stability of our debts and social systems.

        BTW:
        https://qz.com/1125805/the-reason-the-richest-women-in-the-us-are-the-ones-having-the-most-kids/

        • jimbills Says:

          (I do think carbon emissions will drop at some point – due to things like turbines replacing fossil fuels – with continued growth. That part is good – I’m all for that. But, at the same time, I also think we’ll be degrading the Earth’s biosystems further and further and so reducing future generation’s ability to exist as easily as we have had while this is taking place. Additionally, I think growth will prevent a rapid replacement of fossil fuels. One needs to look no further than what is happening right now to see why):

          https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2021-10-12/u-s-coal-use-rebounds-under-biden-as-energy-crisis-drives-fossil-fuel-demand

          https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-58897805

        • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

          Parenthood is so much easier when you have servants to raise the kids.

          • jimbills Says:

            Yep.

            But, I find it interesting. It tends to show that people ‘want’ more children, but in a modern and developed economy it’s really economic factors (the fact that children cost so much these days), as well as the time needed for them when many parents are also employed, that prevents them from having more children. Take away the economic constraints, though, and the wealthy tend to have more children – money can also buy time.

            One thing I didn’t mention. There’s a lot of talk amongst the techno-utopians about vastly increased lifespans. But, if that happens, do the math – fewer deaths plus more reproductive time allowed for births.

            All of it is to say I’m not completely sold on the ‘inevitability’ of populations declining or leveling out, given a stable and technologically advanced civilization, in the future.


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