Smokescreen cuts through years of misunderstanding and misdirection to make an impassioned, evidence-based argument for a new era of forest management for the sake of the planet and the human race. Natural fires are as essential as sun and rain in fire-adapted forests, but as humans encroach on wild spaces, fear, arrogance, and greed have shaped the way that people view these regenerative events and given rise to misinformation that threatens whole ecosystems as well as humanity's chances of overcoming the climate crisis.
Scientist and activist Chad T. Hanson explains how natural alarm over wildfire has been marshalled to advance corporate and political agendas, notably those of the logging industry. He also shows that, in stark contrast to the fear-driven narrative around these events, contemporary research has demonstrated that forests in the United States, North America, and around the world have a significant deficit of fire. Forest fires, including the largest ones, can create extraordinarily important and rich wildlife habitats as long as they are not subjected to postfire logging. Smokescreen confronts the devastating cost of current policies and practices head-on and ultimately offers a hopeful vision and practical suggestions for the future – one in which both communities and the climate are protected and fires are understood as a natural and necessary force.
Chapter 1. The Fiery Myths that Undermine Climate Solutions
Chapter 2. The Snag Forest
Chapter 3. You Can't Fight the Wind with a Chain Saw
Chapter 4. The "Megafire" Narrative
Chapter 5. What's the Real "Carbon Bomb"?
Chapter 6. The Economics of Deceit
Chapter 7. What You Aren't Being Told About "Thinning"
Chapter 8. An Inconvenient Woodpecker
Chapter 9. Climate Change Enablers
Chapter 10. The Logging Collaboratives
Chapter 11. Fire in the East
Chapter 12. Fire-Safe Communities
Chapter 13. Keep it in the Forest, Keep it in the Ground
Chapter 14. A New Wildfire Vocabulary
Chapter 15. Moving beyond the Politics of Fear
Chad T. Hanson is a research ecologist and the director of the John Muir Project of Earth Island Institute. He is coeditor of The Ecological Importance of Mixed-Severity Fires: Nature's Phoenix and his work has been featured in the International Journal of Wildland Fire, Ecosphere, and BioScience. He lives in Big Bear City, California.
"A leading expert on wildland fire ecology, policy, and politics, Chad T. Hanson is in perfect position to craft a new narrative about the interplay between natural and human systems as they relate to the management of US forests in a climate-changed environment."
– Char Miller, director of the Environmental Analysis program at Pomona College
"A must-read for anyone that cares about countering one of the biggest threats to public lands in our lifetime – the misguided, pro-logging agenda masquerading as fire restoration. Dr. Hanson busts through Orwellian fire-management myths to get to the truth: forests rejuvenate from wildfires but die from too much logging."
– Dominick A. DellaSala, author and editor of Conservation Science & Advocacy for a Planet in Peril: Speaking Truth to Power
"It's desperately important we finally get forest policy right. I hope this book is mandatory reading for the new administration – they have a lot of damage to undo, and a lot of good new thinking to implement."
– Bill McKibben, educator, environmentalist, and author of Falter
"If you're scared about town-destroying wildfires; if you cherish forests as a refuge for rest and recreation; if you hope that forests can help fight climate change; and if you're worried about the extinction crisis, this book is for you. Here you will learn how corruption, overexploitation, and gross mismanagement of our forests are connected to all those concerns and more. It is not a pretty picture, but we need to see it clearly."
– Anne H. Ehrlich, coauthor of The Annihilation of Nature
"Smokescreen is effectively the wildfire equivalent of Klein's Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism – and should be read by one and all."
– Maya Khosla, former poet laureate of Sonoma County
"If you read only one book about wildfire issues, I recommend that it be Smokescreen: Debunking Wildfire Myths to Save Our Forests and Our Climate (University Press of Kentucky, 2021) by Dr. Chad Hanson [...] [Hanson] interweaves his own personal experiences with exploration of many exciting scientific discoveries, making for an informative, accessible, and engaging read."
"Dr. Chad Hanson exposes problems with so-called 'forest management' that has been systematically destroying species and ecosystems in our national forests at taxpayer expense for decades. Reading Smokescreen is like attending a fascinating wildlife biology/political science/language class taught by someone who cares deeply about wild nature, explains complexities conversationally, and increases our understanding with personal anecdotes and photos."
– Carole King