montana

Tracking the Thirstbelt fires

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You can track wildfire size and containment status on InciWeb, a US Forest Service aggregator from various Federal agency databases. They additionally provide a Google Earth feed of fire data. However, I think it's still somewhat incomplete, since it lists only 162,000 acres in 7 active incidents in California, while the media is variously reporting numbers as high as 600,000 acres in 12 fires.

The question is why we insist on calling this a "natural disaster". Fire is good (and necessary) for many natural ecosystems - it's just bad for humans. Additionally, we generally wouldn't think the fire was a problem if there weren't humans in the way. Pop quiz: How many active forest fires are there in Montana right now? (Answer: 16 listed in InciWeb.) How many acres do they cover? (Answer: 411,000.) In Montana, it's not a "natural disaster", it's just natural. And, guess what, it's natural in California, as well. But because humans have gone and put themselves in the way of a (very predictable) natural phenomenon, it becomes a human disaster.

Traveling in the height of c. 1910 luxury!

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We've been hoping to take a trip to Montana in the next couple of months, once Cara is free of classes for more than a week at a time. Plane tickets don't seem to be getting below about $550/ea, though, and, since N'western is just about the only way to get there, there's no guarantee our flight would actually go anyways.

So I decided to look into Amtrak. I've taken Amtrak to MT and back before, and it's not a bad trip - really, more relaxing than the same trip by car, and much more comfortable than flying (the fact that it takes 32 hours by train, compared to 8-10 flying, makes the two modes about equal in my book, assuming I'm planning a decent vacation). One Amtrak trip was, in fact, where I met my friend Kenzi - nothing like sharing a seat for the 8 hour Mini-no-place to Chicago stretch with someone to get a feel for whether or not they are a psycho killer. (My vote: not, hence my first foray into blogging activism, five years ago now.)

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