Rain and Responsibility

The past couple of evenings I’ve been able to lie awake in my bed and listen to the sound of rain tapping on the metal roof. I’ve always loved this sound but I really enjoy it now because of the metal roof; it truly brings out the sometimes steady and other times not so steady drum of the rain drops. Given the dearth of precipitation this past year the soothing sound of rain drops striking the roof are truly appreciated. But there is even more to love about this sound as it signals an easing of the drought conditions in this area and is assisting the firefighters in their heroic efforts to control the wildfires of Alaska. Although it truly took a while Mother Nature has finally seen fit to bathe this area in some much needed moisture!

Across the past two days I’ve reported 0.94” of rain to CoCoRaHS (Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow network) and while July is the third wettest month of the year in Talkeetna we now have 2.41” of precipitation. Given we’re just 18 days into the month and showing 2.41” we’re 67% of the way to the normal rainfall total with 13 days remaining so with a bit of luck we might make the average rainfall total for July. If this happens it will be the first month in 2015 that we’ve reached or exceeded the monthly rainfall amount.

Sadly this is a bit late for the victims of the fires in June and early July and comes on the heels of more information released about the inexcusable stupidity and utter disregard for safety displayed by the perpetrator of the Sockeye Fire, one Greg Imig, along with Amy Dewitt whom both live in Anchorage. No, they have yet to be arraigned but Imig reportedly confessed to burning trash on that fateful Sunday morning which quickly escaped his control and began what would become the Sockeye Fire. The couple claimed they called 911 when the fire was already out of containment but they gave no location or their names. In addition, they apparently left in huge hurry leaving a chainsaw, gas cans and jack pads for a motorhome behind. Spent fireworks were found at the scene but they are not believed to be the primary source of the fire.

But there is more to this story that provides damning evidence regarding the utter negligence of this duo. Imig was apparently an on-air meteorologist at one time; given the conditions that Sunday morning any rational person would have recognized the utter stupidity of having open fires but a meteorologist should most definitely have known better. There were Red Flag warnings all over the state and any sensible person would have realized the immediate danger of any open flames. Yet this individual decided to ignore common sense and all the warning and burn open brush piles..?!?! Because of this pair’s rank idiocy 55 dwellings were destroyed, many more damaged, an uncounted number of animals threatened and some apparently killed, hundreds of acres of boreal forest incinerated, multiple forced evacuations were implemented and hundreds of firefighters risked their lives spending days fighting a completely unnecessary fire.

Because we are a country of laws, or were before the recent administrations decided they know better than our founders, this must be allowed to play out in our court system. Somehow I have a feeling the real pain for these incomprehensibly stupid people will come in the form of the soon to be filed civil actions. This is how our system works and we need to allow it to take over and proceed. Assuming this pair is to blame, and with Imig’s confession of guilt it seems a given, they should feel the full weight of the legal judgments against them.

All of us wonder why someone would undertake such dangerous actions in the wake of so many warnings; it just seems incomprehensible. Sadly, I fear this is yet another example of the PC driven solipsism that seems to be sweeping the world. So many people are so powerfully inculcated to just live within their own heads and serve only their own interests and needs; we’re becoming a culture that almost refuses to look outside ourselves. In such a scenario if one wanted to ‘enjoy’ burning trash and debris then just do it; such individuals never even consider the potential consequences of their actions except as it might affect themselves. Perhaps if our numbers were just tiny fractions of what they are currently we could get by with such a mindset but this is not the case. Human beings tend to live in groups and as such it becomes necessary to not just think about one’s own needs but to think also about the good of the group. Yes, this does require more effort, at least until one trains one’s self to automatically figure the group’s needs and safety into one’s mental calculus, but it is necessary for people to exist in close proximity and especially in large numbers. Yet paradoxically, as we continue to increase our numbers, a large portion of us put ourselves ahead of all others and continue to be focused upon just our own wants and desires. This trend is not something that is wise yet somehow we have generations of folks who follow its path; often to the detriment of their fellow human beings.

Perhaps we are reaching a tipping point of sorts when we must all sit back, take a deep breath and look into ourselves with as much objectivity as possible and ask; “Am I really concerned about the needs and safety of my fellow human beings?” After all, in the end we are all the same and in this together. Personally I’ve found I have no choice but to accept assistance from others and this only increases as we age. Maybe it is time to really evaluate just how much empathy we have for our fellow human beings? Living in Alaska one of the things I truly admire is what I call ‘the fierce sense of freedom and independence’ so pre-eminent in so many of the people. But along with this comes the undeniable acceptance that at times we all need a hand. Alaskans in general manage to balance this so very well; we cherish our independence and freedoms but we are also among the first to offer assistance to those truly in need. In this sense the lower48 and, indeed, the rest of the world could learn a bit from those of us who call ‘The Great Land’ our home.

Close up of burned Boreal Forest

Close up of burned Boreal Forest

6 thoughts on “Rain and Responsibility

  1. Cathy Crowder

    The person charged with causing the RIM fire did not face but one day in court. They did not charge him until the 364th day after the fire (statute of limitations). Less than 6 months later, all charges were dropped because the supposed only two witnesses to the case became deceased, one due to health issues, the other due to a vehicle accident. 402 square miles burned and no one held accountable. Many locals also suspect the person charged did not have a thing to do with the ignition of the fire which they attributed to controlled burns which were set off in the wrong area of the forest. The truth will never be known except by those who started it and remain hidden.

    • Very sad, Cathy. At least at this point there’s a confirmed confession from Imig along with his property at the locus of the fire. It’s about time we started holding people accountable for their actions and not allowing folks to claim ‘aberrant upbringing’ or social issues as their defense. In this case the idiot knew what he was doing and had to know of the inherent danger in any open fire given the hot, dry and windy conditions…

  2. Very observing. I think we need to go one step further and not think only about our current neighbors but also about the future generations to come, near and far. Wherever I look, I see disregard for mother Earth. We, as a human race, act as if rule the world. I believe dominion is the word. We are part of this world. We come and go with it. I believe right now we do the best to become part of the sixth extinction. It has happened before to species that were top of the food chain, powerful and all that. We are supposed to be intelligent, but we are not acting like it.
    Freedom and independence, they are relative, especially if you live in a society. Alaska may be big with few people, but we are still part of a society and need to consider the big picture. Even far away from freeways and factories, we experience the consequences of change that is linked to human activity. Here I said it.
    Thank you for thoughts. I wish you all the best. Enjoy the sound of rain drops on your roof.

    • Excellent point! Indeed, our legacy will not be a good one if we continue down the path we’re currently on. The issues facing us as a race are huge but not insurmountable; with that said until we can learn to really work together our problems will appear unmanageable. I think we’ve adopted this attitude that ‘the world is here for us to do with what we will’ and extended it to our interpersonal relationships; the only thing that matters is ‘us’ and everything else should be subservient to our needs and wishes. We cannot survive with such a mentality. One thing I loved about relocating up here was the recognition that Nature is ‘in your face’ 24 x 7. It is impossible to ignore and we shouldn’t. But just by observing a bit of what goes on around us we can begin to feel Nature’s rhythms; once one does this it is virtually impossible to not become far more in touch with her ways. This morning I dropped a friend off at work in the Village; as I was turning back onto the road going out to the Spur a lone cow moose wandered into the road. Even though I was maybe 20 feet from the moose I still stopped the car and allowed it to meander down the road maybe another hundred feet before ducking into the forest. I never thought about doing anything else; in this sense I didn’t want to interfere with the natural order, just observe and marvel at its beauty. We all need to adopt such a perspective with our fragile earth; it is a gift we’ve been given and it is our stewardship to protect and nurture this amazing planet and all that call it ‘home’. Thanks for following and especially for the feedback!!

      • I could not agree more.
        As a guide here in Alaska I feel many visitors see nature with different eyes, as on a TV screen, a place to watch for some time and then return to the comfort of their homes in a city, which shelters them from nature. When they see wildlife some try to get their attention, quite the opposite what we are supposed to do. Some are in awe with its rugged wilderness, some ask “Why do you live here?”. I am with you, it takes a while, living in this environment to get a feel and appreciation for its power and its fragility.

  3. Even in mighty Alaska so much is fragile and needs to be revered and respected. The boreal forest is amazing in its diversity and tenacity but so much is balanced on a knife edge. Great example is the almost total absence of mosquitoes this year; because we lacked a sufficient snow pack there was too little ice and snow to leave behind the puddles the mosquitoes lay their eggs within and hence so few mosquitoes. Yet this same lack of snow pack contributed largely to the terrible fire season this year. As with so much in Alaska there is a tenuous balance within Nature; fiddle with just one variable and the effects can be widespread and sweeping in degree. And, this also illustrates a balance in that the dry conditions kept the mosquito population low but set the stage for wildfires – real ‘ying yang’…

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