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August 10, 2010

A Smoky Warning To All Those Anti-Government Folks Out There

Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters
Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Given the power of denial, it’s easy to look at the terrifying photos coming out of Russia right now and think that the threat is unique to them.  According to the caption:

A newly married couple walks along Red Square amidst heavy smog, caused by peat fires in nearby forests, with the mausoleum of Soviet state founder Vladimir Lenin in the background, in central Moscow August 7, 2010. Dense clouds of acrid smoke from peat and forest fires choked Russia’s capital on Friday, seeping into homes and offices, diverting planes and prompting exhausted Muscovites to wear surgical masks to filter the foul air.

On the other hand, what the NYT article accompanying the photo below implies — as does Paul Krugman’s column yesterday (“America Goes Dark“) — is that the threat is not that unique. If the photos of “Russia on fire” makes it primarily seem like an ecological story (which it now is), the crisis occurred from the lack of resources at the local level to protect citizens from basic threats — like fire spinning out of control.

Dana Romanoff for The New York Times

This photo from The Times shows a local resident in Colorado Springs who fought to have this street lamp turned on again on after one-third of the city’s lights were shut off due to budget cuts.  (This followed a five-year campaign by the resident to have the light installed in the first place after crime took hold of the neighborhood.)

What’s the link? When you combine the homeland threat of anti-government reactionaries with the decimation of state and local coffers, the newlyweds up top could as easily be navigating downtown L.A., or Denver, or Atlanta … after desperate towns and ‘burbs have burned though the budget for firefighters and firetrucks.

NYT cutbacks slideshow.

  • black dog barking

    The image from Colorado Springs highlights an entirely under appreciated basic component of modern civilized life — reliable electricity. Apparently reliable street lighting drives off crime, holding back the figurative night as well as the literal as shown in the image. Nature’s light, the faint moon, is not sufficient for the job at hand. Weeds poking up by the curb, lower right, remind us that maintenance is never-ending.

  • oldsod

    ‘we’ve sold our earthright for a pota message’

  • Books Alive

    Displaced resident whose home was destroyed in the peat fires:

    “We had just five engines and one fire hydrant,” she said. “We didn’t have enough water, and engines ran out of fuel so they stood idle.

    Not enough water? Another looming issue to confront.

    Then there’s the irony of uncontrolled burning of peat, a formerly important fuel:

    Apart from the weather, the main thing spreading the fires is neglected peat resources, said Pyotr Gurko, head of state peat developments in Soviet Russia. Peat bogs were drained during the Soviet era so the peat could be cut for power stations and the land used for agriculture. Once ignited, peat fires burn deep under the surface and are hard to extinguish.

    Also from the article linked above, new firefighting equipment is to be supplied in the next five years.

  • cmac

    While we were talking about the fires in Russia this morning, a conservative friend of mine asked if I’d heard that some governments were experiments with climate controls, and that their shenanigans explained the recent unusual weather.

    I said, No, Hal. The weird weather is the result of the climate change which your side says doesn’t exist.

    So frustrating to see that when it’s no longer possible to deny the changes, the hard right will blame ‘furriners’ climate experiments…’

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