In Jack London’s famous short story, “To Build A Fire,” a man freezes to death because he underestimates the cold in America’s far north and cannot build a proper fire. The unnamed man—a chechaquo, what Alaska natives call newcomers—is accompanied by a wolf-dog that knows the danger of the cold and is wholly indifferent to the fate of the man. “This man did not know cold. Possibly, all the generations of his ancestry had been ignorant of cold, of real cold, of cold 107 degrees below freezing point. But the dog knew; all its ancestry knew, and it had inherited the knowledge.”
If only the bureaucrats in Washington DC knew what the wolf-dog knew. But alas, now comes the federal government to tell the inhabitants of Alaska’s interior that, really, they should not be building fires to keep themselves warm during the winter. The New York Times reports the Environmental Protection Agency could soon declare the Alaskan cities of Fairbanks and North Pole, which have a combined population of about 100,000, in “serious” noncompliance of the Clean Air Act early next year.
Like most people in Alaska, the residents of those frozen cities are burning wood to keep themselves warm this winter. Smoke from wood-burning stoves increases small-particle pollution, which settles in low-lying areas and can be breathed in. The EPA thinks this is a big problem. Eight years ago, the agency ruled that wide swaths of the most densely populated parts of the region were in “non-attainment” of federal air quality standards.
That prompted state and local authorities to look for ways to cut down on pollution from wood-burning stoves, including the possibility of fining residents who burn wood. After all, a declaration of noncompliance from the EPA would have enormous economic implications for the region, like the loss of federal transportation funding.
The problem is, there’s no replacement for wood-burning stoves in Alaska’s interior. Heating oil is too expensive for a lot of people, and natural gas isn’t available. So they’ve got to burn something. The average low temperature in Fairbanks in December is 13 degrees below zero. In January, it’s 17 below. During the coldest days of winter, the high temperature averages -2 degrees, and it can get as cold as -60. This is not a place where you play games with the cold. If you don’t keep the fire lit, you die. For people of modest means, and especially for the poor, that means you burn wood in a stove—and you keep that fire lit around the clock.
Growing up in Alaska, I learned this from an early age. (My father, in fact, was a chechaquo. As a white kid growing up in Alaska native villages in the 1950s, the native kids would call him and his siblings chechaquos as a kind of juvenile epithet.) Like many families in Alaska, then and now, we weren’t wealthy and had no other means of staying warm besides burning wood. As kids, my brothers and I would spend long hours stacking cords of wood and, when we were older, felling trees, cutting them into logs, and hauling them back to the house. It wasn’t romantic, it was simply part of life in the far north: firewood was as natural and necessary as food and water.
For most Alaskans, it still is. Replacing wood-burning stoves, especially in the state’s interior, isn’t easily done. Ever since the EPA’s ruling in 2008, local and state efforts to address air pollution caused by wood stoves hasn’t solved the problem. As the editors of the Fairbanks newspaper recently noted, “The borough faces two unpalatable alternatives: More stringent restrictions on home heating devices that could impact residents’ ability to heat their homes affordably, or choosing to stand pat and accept a host of costly economic sanctions and health effects to residents.”
Alaska is by far the largest state in the union. Much of it is desolate and nearly inaccessible.
Wouldn't it be tragic if government bureaucrats somehow became lost, never to be seen or heard from again? (Wink, wink)
Back when we were building the trans-Alaska pipeline, we used to tell the Texans that we could divide Alaska into 4 parts and make Texas the 5th largest state! Always pissed them off!
How many can we send?? Seems many would be needed!!! Many!!!
Common sense is not what the EPA or most government agencies use when establishing policy... no, they are driven by those who OWN THEM... BIG ENERGY and BANKERS... can't make money from those cutting their own fire wood or living in the wilderness where they can't be regulated, taxed, or driven to consume their goods and services... Those rugged individuals in Alaska represent a rebel class of independent, self sustained individuals, who don't need Exxon Mobile or the Bank of America too exist and the New World Order elite can't stand it.
To hell with the EPA. their gone in 20 Day's stay warm
I love winter in Northern Wisconsin! I just threw a couple of pieces of seasoned Red Oak in my wood stove. Piece 1 to stay warm, piece 2 to piss off the tree huggers. Now I have to run a few patches through my "deadly assault rifle".
Blessed New Year, everyone!
If there was a reason for session Alaska has the best reason in the world, to get rid of the stupid regs of the DC PC they are the dumbist fools in the world and are poster children for abortion I have ever seen. Cut the friggin heat and air off in their homes and offices and see how long their stupid regulations would last and where they live and work are not even that cold. These useless idiots have no idea how the rest of the world works all they have is a diploma in ignorance and PC additude, get your heads out of your ass's and get a dose of the real world and get a real JOB and see how real people live
I refer to them as educated idiots!
Eskimos know no other kind of heat. The EPA has, once again, over-stepped their stupidity.
The EPA has once again "over-stepped their (sic) stupidity? Must I remind you that Sec. Gina McCarthy is intimately familiar with the "Call of the Wild.? She - and her subordinates - have visited the wilds of the city parks of the City of Boston. And she - and her subordinates - know intimately of what they speak. Or something like that.
I am not an expert on percentages but I would be willing to bet, that all the fireplaces on this planet, would not equal the emissions output of one volcanic eruption or one big forest fire ? Maybe they should place a ban on forest fires ? or valcanic eruptions !!!! "STUPID IS AS STUPID DOES". Global warming is just a ploy by the left to regulate the free people of this nation into submission !