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Climate Activism: Stopping a Planned Controlled Fire at a Local Nature Reserve

As an avid photographer of my local nature reserve, Fleet Pond, I have had several occasions to notice huge smoke plumes and fires around the area. A week ago, when I noticed this, I called the fire department. They checked into it and informed me that it was a “controlled fire” set in accordance with management of the Fleet Pond area.

Today, a week later, I noticed a group of people from the Fleet Pond Society cutting an area of brush. I asked them if they were planning to burn it. They were. Imminently. I asked them, why, given that the burning will emit CO2, contributing to the warming of the planet? The response was that “it would cost a fortune to remove it.” I offered to pay for the removal. They said it would have to be done by the Hart District Council, that I needed to send an email, and it would “take months” to change the policy. On the spot, I looked up the phone number on my cell phone, called, obtained the email address, wrote, and called again. Luckily, I reached the Ecology and Countryside Manager, Adam Green. He agreed that the burning policy needed to be reviewed in light of environmental considerations, asked to speak to the ranger supervising the burn, and stopped it from going forward.

Needless to say, there was a lot of scowling and grumbling from among the group, with comments like, “What about China?” I responded, “Never mind about China. This country is our responsibility, and we are responsible to reduce our own CO2 emissions.” I did not think the time was right to remind her about how much technology and other goods we buy from China, so we shoulder some of the responsibility for its emissions as well.

It was not easy to intervene, particularly as I know one of the leader participants who was very keen to start the fire before I could stop it. I left rather shaken. But I also left knowing that it is possible to be an “activist” and actually stop CO2 emissions at a local level. I hope that by sharing this, others will follow suit when they see such activities in their local nature reserves.

Here is a review paper about the consequences of “prescribed fire.”

Liza K. Tóth

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