Lorax Lesson Unlearned: The GOP Wildfire Strategy Will Destroy Our Great Western Forests

I testified last Friday at a House hearing on the ever-growing crisis of bark beetles, drought, and wildfires. The full C-Span video is here.

My written testimony is here. I decided to practice what I preach in my forthcoming book and use the figures of speech to make my points in the oral testimony (which you can see here, with transcript).

Congressman Ed Markey, a man who understands the figures, especially metaphors, had a great chart on the explosion of players hitting more than 40 home runs during the steroid era. He and I talk about that chart in the clip below.

I also discussed the GOP strategy of dealing with our Western wild fires and droughts and bark beetles solely through thinning, while reject climate science and climate solutions. Apparently, the GOP missed the day in school when they read the Lorax (see “The Lorax Speaks For The Trees — Get Over It Conservatives”).


Here’s the video (and a partial transcript follows):

Joe Romm: We know that carbon dioxide from burning fossil fuels traps heat. We know they call them greenhouse gasses for a reason. They didn’t, you know, make up the term ‘greenhouse gasses’ because the gasses don’t act like a green house, they do. And if there were no greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, the planet would be 60 degrees Fahrenheit colder and there would be no civilization as we know it.

I’d just like to make a point, I’ve learned a great deal at this hearing, I’m not an expert on short-term forest management, I’m kind of an expert on the medium and long-term. There’s no question that trees compete for water and there’s no question that drought is a big problem for trees — and it also exacerbates the bark beetle problem because trees kill bark beetle by releasing sap. But I’ve now heard this theory that the solution to the drought problem is that we thin forests so that trees don’t compete so much.

The problem is that we’re on a track where your districts are going to see levels of soil moisture in the coming decades that are worse than the Dust Bowl, which was a minus-3 on the Palmer Drought Severity Index, which means that you’re going to thin, there’s going to be more drought and wildfire and some other congressmen from your district will come in 20 years and say ‘we gotta thin some more.’ And then 20 years after that, we’ll thin until there is nothing left. The thinning to deal with drought is not a sustainable solution; it’s the end of all trees in all of your districts. And as someone who has skied in your district [Rep. Tipton (R-CO)] and lived in your district, and hiked in your district, I must say, I love your district.

Representative Ed Markey: Mr. Romm, I thank you. And in the same way we knew that the utility infielders and substitute outfielders who went from 13 home runs to 50 home runs, somehow that we knew they weren’t Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays and something must be wrong and that the extra weight lifting that they were doing wasn’t making them Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. I think most people know that there’s something wrong and we are contributing to it and as soon as we admit it, I think, and I mean the beef industry and every other industry I think, we’ll get to the heart of the solutions we have to put in place. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Where’s the Lorax when we need him?

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