"There's a sense of accomplishment knowing you've made an impact ...
A devastating one, sure, but an impact nonetheless."
You know what they say: A bird in the hand is worth killing all of the birds in the future. And everything else.
Smokey The Bear Makes Forest Fires Even Worse
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Smokey The Bear relentlessly drilled it into every one of us: "Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires."
Dept. of Agriculture
Everyone else was off the hook, lucky bastards.
Seems like a pretty harmless message of personal responsibility, but by outlawing everything down to the tiniest, most harmless of conflagrations, the U.S. Forest Service actually paved the way for the gigantic, swirling infernos from Hell that have recently plagued large swaths of the country.
You see, small, localized fires every few years are absolutely essential to a forest's ecosystem in the long-term. For millennia it was completely natural for, say, a lightning strike to spark a fire and burn off all the dense undergrowth, giving the mature trees welcome room to breathe. But then along came humans with their anthropomorphized bears, and suddenly all that undergrowth was allowed to spread unchecked. Follow that path for half a century or so, and suddenly you've arrived at the perfect conditions for the "megafires" that we've seen burning up our news reports over the past few years.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Wildfires are normal. Fires as big as Massachusetts and Connecticut combined? Not so much.
Professor Thomas Swetnam of the University of Arizona has dubbed it The Smokey Bear effect. He's analyzed the growth rings of hundreds-year-old trees and found evidence of periodic fire-scarring right up until the early 20th century -- around the time the Forest Service started their Frankenstein-ian "FIRE BAD!" mantra. The timing directly correlates with the beginning of fires like the monstrous Wallow Fire in Arizona, which started with an abandoned campfire and "burned more than 40,000 acres in the first eight hours," Swetnam said. Maybe now people will finally learn that, even if they happen to be wearing cute hats, bears can never, ever be trusted.
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Also check out 5 Popular Safety Measures That Don't Make You Any Safer and The 5 Most Popular Safety Laws (That Don't Work).