Monday, May 3, 2010

Their smoke, my ersatz depression

You’d think it’d be common knowledge, even in this civilisational backwater called Tasmania, that fires put carbon into the air and so add to global warming and climate change. But that doesn’t stop Forestry Tasmania and Gunns Limited undertaking 200 planned burnoffs in Tasmania each autumn – ostensibly to germinate seeds in the ground after the chainsaws, excavators and skidders have done their work. These aren’t minor burns, mind. Their smoke plumes resemble nuclear mushroom clouds. The burns not only load the air with carbon, their particulates reduce visibility and, more importantly, aggravate lung diseases like asthma and emphysema. But does that stop the forces of darkness (pun intended)? Don’t answer that – it’s a rhetorical question. They even have a website, don’tcha know [1]. Recently some environmental activists highlighted Forestry Tasmania’s arrogant, woeful and arguably negligent disregard for the public and planetary good. Here’s the background [2, 3], and here’s their creative response [4]. Will it do any good? Oops, that’s another rhetorical question. I find it all so depressing. Which reminds me of this wonderful article in the 1 March New Yorker, titled ‘Head Case” Can psychiatry be a science? [5] The author writes that the US National Institute of Mental Health estimates over 17M Americans suffer from depression. And he quotes a psychologist who thinks this number’s ridiculous — not because people aren’t depressed, but because in most cases their depression’s not a mental illness but rather a sane response to a crazy world. Yessir.

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