When will we learn?
Secretary of State Blinken recently said that “Kabul is manifestly not Saigon.” He is wrong. George Santayana famously wrote: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
We might add, those who work from theory unsupported by fact are doomed to failure. Did we learn anything from removing the elected president of Iran and installing the Shah? No! Did we learn anything from Vietnam? Apparently not. Did we learn anything from Iraq? Apparently not. For Iran we supported authoritarianism and oil interests. For Vietnam there was the domino theory (ungrounded by fact or predictable consequences). The theory alone was never viable. It failed to recognize the historical tensions between China and Vietnam and rested on a fight against Communism, which failed to see that it was not communism, whatever that is, that was the problem but rather authoritarianism. Yet again we supported authoritarianism in Latin and South America for fear of communism and as a result of hubris. For Iraq there was no cognizable theory but a disregard of factual information and hubris.
In the physical sciences, there is a balancing mechanism, a sort of homeostatic spring, that tends to keep science on track. And this is the need for prediction. In the social sciences, prediction is both harder and less necessary for theories to claim space. I claim as a testable hypothesis that as a subject matter is less reliant on prediction, the further it is liable to wander from both usefulness and truth. For many years, the field of education produced a series of often-contradictory theories that when implemented proved to be incorrect. In medicine women were advised not to run more than 800 meters or more it because it would be too hard on them. Foreign policy at the highest level seems to hang in this space. Thus, we must ask, in what future war will we ignore the lessons of Afghanistan?
Does this mean the U.S. should never intervene into the affairs of other nations? No! We should intervene first diplomatically but militarily only when we can reasonably predict the likely consequences, but this means we should seldom intervene.
In “Fighting for a livable Earth” (Aug. 25), Solveig Torvik portrays the realities faced by the younger generation of climate change set in motion by their elders’ failure to respond to earlier warnings. She notes that in the Methow we can expect “more-frequent, more-intense wildfires, toxic smoke” and captures the frustration of Susan Prichard, fire ecologist and mother, that we have not managed our forests for fire resilience. Susan said, “Smoke and wildfires do not have to be this bad,” observing that proactive management could be done under “milder conditions with less smoke.” I wholeheartedly agree, but there are major constraints to management actions that would achieve that outcome.
I asked Mike Liu, former Methow District ranger, what is preventing adequate forest health treatments. Mike answered that the U.S. Forest Service has only about two weeks a year in which to safely and effectively conduct prescribed burns. And that doesn’t include limitations imposed by Washington’s air quality rules. It is simply not possible to address the enormous forest health problems within the available window. Also, understandably, there is also a great deal of opposition to the smoke created by these activities.
This is where biochar comes in. Removing excess, unmerchantable fuel from the forest and cleanly processing it into biochar will support accelerated restoration of forest health and resilience, without the smoke. Better yet, biochar will retain about half of the carbon in those fuels, that, when burned, emit all their carbon as climate-warming carbon dioxide. A recent journal article identified the potential for sustainable biochar production to store a third of the carbon needed to stabilize the climate over the next century. We have a tremendous opportunity, right here, to do our part in the fight for a livable Earth.
C6 Forest to Farm is a nonprofit dedicated to helping protect our forests, community and climate by establishing local biochar production. We have just initiated a biochar research and demonstration project aimed at developing biochars designed for multiple uses, and will soon be providing opportunities for people to come see for themselves how biochar is made.
Leading by example
The Okanogan County Democrats will not be having a booth at the Okanogan County Fair this year. This is a huge disappointment for us, as it is one of our favorite events of the year where we get to talk to voters, exchange ideas and listen to what’s on the minds of our neighbors.
We were looking forward to this year in particular since we finally have legislation in the pipeline that will benefit working people and rural communities and we wanted to share the details about this good news. The alarming rise in COVID-19 cases caused us to reconsider our plan, however, so with heavy hearts and unanimous vote our Executive Board decided to cancel our booth.
Watching a recent county commissioner meeting where our Public Health Director explained in detail just how overburdened our local hospitals are drove the point home to us. While we appreciate that the county commissioners approved funding for extra safety measures in an attempt to provide a safer county fair, we feel that the very best way to ensure that we are not contributing to the spread of this highly contagious disease is to simply stay home. Our goal is to do whatever we can to help beat this virus, to lead by example and to get our communities back to health. If we all pull together and do our part, we’ll see you at the fair next year!
Chair, Okanogan County Democrats
I’d like to comment on several points from the article “COVID explosion alarms health care providers” in the Sept. 1 issue. Commissioner DeTro is said to have complained that Okanogan County Community Health Director Lauri Jones is “always pointing the finger at the unvaccinated” (though the article implied he didn’t have either the courage or the courtesy to say it to her face). I don’t understand what he’s complaining about. Unvaccinated people are exactly who is prolonging the pandemic, endangering the rest of us, and causing the continuation of societal disruption and inconvenience.
Then, Commissioner Hover, speaking against mandates, stated he believed in “people’s personal responsibility to keep themselves, their families and their community safe.” Yet, his own actions give the lie to his words. By not getting vaccinated, he clearly became a danger to others, including presumably his family, friends, work contacts, health care providers and constituents. He obviously failed to take any personal responsibility himself, regardless of what he urges the rest of us to do. Is this not a textbook definition of hypocrisy?
Get the shot
I have been watching on TV some of the .US. Open Tennis in New York City. Raucous fans have filled the stadium to capacity with no social distancing or masks. Have the event organizers given up on COVID protocols? No, it’s really quite simple — the fans are required to be vaccinated to attend. Then they have the freedom to cheer and boo as only New York fans can do.
The Methow Valley News (Sept. 1) reported that our local state legislators and county commissioner advocated for more local control in decisions about vaccination requirements. Guess what? Since the vaccines first became available early this year, local efforts of education, encouragement, and incentives haven’t worked. The unvaccinated are still driving this pandemic. Gov. Inslee is showing the courage to require vaccinations for school district employees and health care providers when local efforts have been inadequate. These vaccinations are needed to give my school age grandchildren the freedom to get the best education our schools can provide.
Not getting vaccinated is the ultimate act of selfishness. It means that you’ll take care of yourself (unless you need medical care) but that you don’t care about how you might infect the rest of the community. Personal responsibility is not just about yourself — it’s about your responsibility to account for your actions (or inactions) to others.
Before the vaccines became available, we all struggled through this pandemic. Now that the vaccines are available, we have a path forward. The sight of fans at a tennis match enjoying life again can be an incentive for a new normal life in the Methow. It’s not that hard — just get the shot.