The 21st century is already well-known for its colossal amount of notorious disasters which have a huge impact on the Universe overall. Every moment, the mankind suffers from different cataclysms which take away thousands of lives. The environmental problems became especially actual at the beginning of the 20th century when technical revolution begun. A huge amount of factories and nuclear power stations were built during the last decades that led to such dire consequences. Today, it is impossible to predict what will happen in a minute. Infernos, floods, and earthquakes are common things now.
In this assay, I have made an attempt to connect the past with the present, to compare two major conflagrations which managed to terrify the entire world. The big forest fire in the USA (1910) and the wildfires in Bolivia (2010) are two outstanding examples of environmental crisis in the modern world.
The American forest fire is depicted in Timothy Egan’s work which is called “The Big Burn”. It is a marvelous narrative which sets back to 1910 when President Theodore Roosevelt introduced a new conservation policy and formed an efficient US Forest Service. The novel deals with notorious historical event of the greatest forest fire in the USA which made a significant influence on the contemporary society and the environment. The precondition for the environmental disaster in the USA was the severe drought which took place during spring and summer of the tragic 1910. On August 20, the same year, the drought-stricken timber of the national forest caught fire. Washington, Idaho, and Montana experienced the hardest times, because they actually turned into the embers of the fire. The conflagration spread rapidly through the old magnificent forests, and it seemed more and more impossible to put it out. 100 years later, Bolivia also became the victim of threatening environmental disaster. It should be mentioned that the cause and the current time of these two infernos are completely the same. The extreme drought was the main cause of the roaring fire in Bolivia which started on August 15, 2010, 5 days later than the American blaze in 1910. The plants were so dried out that even a little ignition spark could lead to tragic consequences. According to BBC report, “indigenous people and small farmers in the Amazon region have traditionally burnt large tracts of land to increase areas of cultivation”. That became the main reason of the conflagration, which was almost impossible to subdue.
Both the fire in the USA and in Bolivia spanned vast areas of priceless forests. According to the report in Evergreen Magazine, “for two terrifying days and nights - August 20 and 21, 1910 - the fire raged across three million acres of virgin timberland in northern Idaho and western Montana”. In comparison with American blaze, 25,000 Bolivian fires damaged 3,700,000 acres of rainforests. According to BBC news, “The worst of the destruction has taken place in Bolivia's Amazon and eastern regions, close to the country's border with Brazil”. It is easy to notice that the amount of burnt lands in these two countries is also remarkably similar.
Unfortunately, even a short-lasting fire can cause a severe damage to the nature. Timothy Egan described the tragic environmental impact of the American inferno, which destroyed many buildings and even took 86 lives, mostly burned beyond recognition. The heart of book portrays an uphill battle against the roaring fire. Brave firefighters desperately fought the flames and quickly evacuated people from burning towns. Thankfully, the Bolivian population managed to escape death during the blaze, but, nevertheless, fire caused irreversible damage to many towns. Sixty families became homeless because of the devastating strength of flames. The empty death toll can be explained by the fact that the territory of Bolivia is not as densely populated as the Western American lands.
One of the key issues of Timothy Egan’s book is the idea of conservation. The author describes the time of Theodore Roosevelt’s presidency and his desperate fight for the use of the public lands. Theodore Roosevelt became president in 1901, and four years later, he appointed his best friend Gifford Pinchot to the position of the new Forest Service chief. Together, they worked on the idea how to preserve national nature, unspoiled lands, and priceless magnificent forests. Since 1905, Pinchot started to recruit ambitious young rangers who undertook training at the forestry department of YaleUniversity. But the amount of the hired people was extremely small; no one could foresee that such a notorious disaster will happen so soon. When the fire set out and the state of emergency was declared, there was a total lack of trained rangers. Consequently, the government hastily started to hire immigrants and random people who had a little or no experience of fighting fire. In addition, the special equipment was scarce. A good example of the appalling conditions of that time is provided in an interview included in Jim Petersen’s report in Evergreen Magazine: "...I'd been fighting fire up there for two days with nothing to work with but my hands. Skinned both of my knees climbing up there over the rocks. Both of my hands were burnt and skinned, too. My God, I thought, how much longer can I stand it? Got the fire under control. My knees scabbed over and felt pretty good but my hands were in a hell of a shape”. Every able-bodied man helped to fight the inferno, even the army was called up. The big fire of 1910 showed that the country was too weak to deal with such serious environmental disasters. The problem was taken into consideration, and government was made to solve it rapidly. President Roosevelt and his best friend Pinchot somewhat used “The Big Burn” to develop the idea of Forest Service adjustment. They proclaimed that national forests are in desperate need of public support and monetary investments to prevent the second catastrophe. Particular better equipment and better road access were provided, so the losses might not be as great. In other words, events would probably play themselves out differently. Today. a considerable improvement can be noticed in Forest Service management. Nonetheless, the risk of the subsequent fire still remains, but better equipment and improved road access will doubtlessly prevent so serious damage as that of 1910.
Bolivia also faced many considerable problems in attempts to put out the flames. Similarly to the American forest fire, there was a big lack of efficient equipment, especially water-bombing aircraft. According to BBC news, Bolivian President Evo Morales even requested help from neighboring Brazil and Argentina. In fact, Bolivia is one of the poorest countries in the Southern America and is usually dependent on foreign aid .The USA also made a significant attempt to help Bolivia in preserving its natural legacy. ”December 1996, the U.S. and Bolivian governments agreed to protect 2.2 million acres of rainforest and to promote sustainable development in and around Noel Kempff Mercado National Park, in part of an international effort to mitigate the emissions of greenhouse gases. In December 2005, the project was expanded to 3.8 million acres”. It was an important step to considering the safety of rich-species Bolivian rain forests.
Unfortunately, even the most successful government programs cannot prevent natural cataclysms. During the centuries, humankind has been violently destroying pristine nature, pitilessly exploiting precious resources. An experienced firefighter Bob Mutch has an excellent piece of advice how to save wonderful forest: “The worst has already occurred. We harvested too many trees in the wrong places, and we excluded fires where allowing them to burn would have cleared out dead and dying trees .What's needed now is a combination of logging and fire management techniques that will gradually reduce the danger of catastrophic fire, opening the door for an eventual return to forest conditions more like those that were present before white settlement began.” To summarize, the national forests are in a desperate need of human help, and only hard work would save them from complete damage.