Smokechasing

Overview


"Painting, architecture, politics, even gardening and golf—all have their critics and commentators," observes Stephen Pyne. "Fire does not." Aside from news reports on fire disasters, most writing about fire appears in government reports and scientific papers—and in journalism that has more in common with the sports page than the editorial page. Smokechasing presents commentaries by one of America's leading fire scholars, who analyzes fire the way another might an election campaign or a literary work. ...
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Overview


"Painting, architecture, politics, even gardening and golf—all have their critics and commentators," observes Stephen Pyne. "Fire does not." Aside from news reports on fire disasters, most writing about fire appears in government reports and scientific papers—and in journalism that has more in common with the sports page than the editorial page. Smokechasing presents commentaries by one of America's leading fire scholars, who analyzes fire the way another might an election campaign or a literary work. "Smokechasing" is an American coinage describing the practice of sending firefighters into the wild to track down the source of reported smoke. Now a self-described "friendly fire critic" tracks down more of the history and lore of fire in a collection that focuses on wildland fire and its management. Building on and complementing a previous anthology, World Fire, this new collection features thirty-two original articles and substantial revisions of works that have previously appeared in print. Pyne addresses many issues that have sparked public concern in the wake of disastrous wildfires in the West, such as fire ecology, federal fire management, and questions relating to fire suppression. He observes that the mistake in fire policy has been not that wildfires are suppressed but that controlled fires are no longer ignited; yet the attempted forced reintroduction of fire through prescribed burning has proved difficult, and sometimes damaging. There are, Pyne argues, many fire problems; some have technical solutions, some not. But there is no evading humanity's unique power and responsibility: what we don't do may be as ecologically powerful as what we do. Throughout the collection, Pyne makes it clear that humans and fire interact at particular places and times to profoundly shape the world, and that understanding the contexts in which fire occurs can tell us much about the world's natural and cultural landscapes. Fire's context gives it its meaning, and Smokechasing not only helps illuminate those contexts but also shows us how to devise new contexts for tomorrow's fires.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"With another likely summer of fire on America's dry western horizon, this timely volume of essays stirs the embers of an unfinished national debate about how to live with wildfire. . . .Timely and provocative, Smokechasing should be required reading for all on the front lines of the USA's continuing fight over wildfire - especially members of Congress, federal land managers, and the growing millions who live in the perilous 'intermix' zone where suburban development and fire-prone wild lands meet." —USA Today"Recognized as the foremost authority on the ecology and history of fire, prolific author Pyne offers . . . a unique and thoughtful examination of the development of wildfire policy and how it continues to evolve." —Library Journal"In a departure from his more lengthy historical narratives, Pyne directs his efforts toward 'a more robust literary inquiry,' in an attempt ' to analyze fire as [he] would an art moderne house, an election campaign, or a rereading of Ulysses.' The result is as remarkable as it is varied. Some of the best essays exhibit Pyne's sharp and astute analyses of how different fire-based systems and practices are used by various cultures. . . . Overall, these sharply written essays argue convincingly for Pyne's core belief that 'fire practices are, ultimately, a moral matter, relating to who we are and how we should behave.' " —Publishers Weekly"Pyne remains on message, always returning to his point that good public fire policy must strike a balance between total suppression and uncontrolled burning, and urging that such a policy be set locally, to meet local needs. Whether or not you've heard this all before, it's rewarding to hear it again, if only for the pleasure of a prose style that slices through tangled thickets like a bulldozer clearing a fire line, and lights up the darkness like a blazing fire." —Natural History"This is not a book touting restorative wildland fire; it's a kind of bible about natural law." —Eastern Oregonian"Pyne has added another rung to his ladder of successful books on wildland fire. . . . His analysis of current fire suppression and prescribed burning approaches, where the ability to impose changes on natural ecosystems can be related to what is not done as much as to what is done, is especially poignant. . . . Highly recommended." —Choice"Fans of Pyne's work will recognize his signature observations—startling in their freshness—which have risen to the level of near maxims in the canon of fire literature. But Smokechasing also offers new ways of thinking about fire that are tantalizing in their implications." -—Orion"Pyne neither panders to the greens by proclaiming fire itself a cure for sick forests, nor does he reduce fire to a blunt instrument. . . . No matter what aspect of fire you are most interested in, Smokechasing will probably satisfy. It's not slash and burn writing, but it does smolder with accumulated wisdom." —Restoring Connections"Perhaps the most important of Stephen Pyne's 15 previously published books . . . Anyone with an interest in fire, professionally or from mere curiosity, will discover that this book reveals as much about our culture and the times and which we live as it does about wildfire." —American Forests
Publishers Weekly
Through more than a dozen major works, Pyne (Fire: A Brief History) has shown himself to be both a nature writer and a cultural historian of the first order. Using wildfire as the lens through which he focuses on human interactions with the environment, these 32 essays (a successor to his earlier anthology World Fire: The Culture of Fire and Earth) deepen and extend Pyne's long-time interest in how "fire, for humanity, is more than a process: it is a relationship." But here, in a departure from his more lengthy historical narratives, Pyne directs his efforts toward "a more robust literary inquiry," in an attempt "to analyze fire as [he] would an art moderne house, an election campaign, or a rereading of Ulysses." The result is as remarkable as it is varied. Some of the best essays exhibit Pyne's sharp and astute analyses of how different fire-based systems and practices are used by various cultures in Africa, Australia, Mexico and New Zealand, and show how, "as a dialectic between humans and nature, fire regimes express the values, institutions and beliefs of their sustaining societies." Overall, these sharply written essays argue convincingly for Pyne's core belief that "fire practices are, ultimately, a moral matter, relating to who we are and how we should behave." (Mar.) Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Recognized as the foremost authority on the ecology and history of fire, prolific author Pyne (Arizona State Univ.) offers a collection of original articles and updated revisions of previously published work (especially from World Fire: The Culture of Fire on Earth). Touted as "a volume of commentaries by a friendly fire critic," this work covers a broad range of fire-related topics, from worldwide historical/cultural attitudes toward wildfire to (briefly) his own experiences as a wildfire fighter on the north rim of the Grand Canyon. Other topics examined include the use of controlled burning versus suppression in the United States. Although loosely gathered into like topics, the book seems a bit disjointed at times. It does, however, provide a unique and thoughtful examination of the development of wildfire policy and how it continues to evolve, and it goes well beyond the rash of recent firefighting memoirs in scope; for academic and specialty collections.-Tim Markus, Evergreen State Coll. Lib., Olympia, WA Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780816522859
  • Publisher: University of Arizona Press
  • Publication date: 3/1/2003
  • Pages: 260
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author


Stephen J. Pyne has written extensively on fire in such books as Fire in America: A Cultural History of Wildland and Rural Fire and most recently Year of the Fires: The Story of the Great Fires of 1910. He is a professor in Arizona State University's Biology & Society Program, in which he teaches courses on the history of fire, exploration, and environmental history.
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Table of Contents

Why Smokechasing: An Author's Note
Standard orders
The Element That Isn't 5
Buy This Book, Save the Planet 13
Bearings, corrected and otherwise
Hominid Hearth 19
Fire's Jucky Country 26
Old Fire, New Fire 38
Place of Power 50
Strange Fire: The European Encounter with Fire 52
A Land Between 72
Ecological Imperialism, and Its Retreat 89
Extended attack
The Source 101
America's War on Fire 113
The Two Cultures of Fire 117
Waterdogs 121
A Dumb Problem to Have 127
When the Mountains Roared, Again 131
Burning off
Burning Deserts 141
A Story to Tell 146
Compassing About with Sparks 149
An Incident at Praxis 160
Doc Smith's History Lesson 165
Back at the cache
Smokechasing: The Search for a Usable Place 181
Almost Lost 196
An Exchange for All Things? 198
Proscribed Burning 2 212
Firebug 219
Fire's New New Thing 224
Paperwork
The Literature of Forest Fires, If There Is Such a Literature 231
A Privileged Phenomenon Which Can Explain Anything 237
The Old Man and the Fire 244
Green Skies of Montana 253
Debriefing
Why I Do It 259
Acknowledgments 261
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