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Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down: Nov. 22

Thumbs Up

Wendell Berry visits Centre

Centre College always manages to attract interesting and important people to speak in the Norton Center. While some might be interesting and others important, Wendell Berry is qualified in both capacities.

Berry spoke to a healthy-sized crowd at the Norton Center last week, reading a pair of his works. Berry’s writing is enjoyable but also thought-provoking. He writes in a way that is at once understandable but full of more than can be understood without time to think.

Berry proved that, even at 82, he is quicker and more thoughtful than many people are in their prime. Some audience members may not have fully appreciated the genius level of intellect standing in front of them when they asked what Berry’s favorite farm animal was or what millennials should do about being lazy. But Berry turned even the fluffiest questions around and gave answers worth thinking about anyway.

Thumbs Down

Arsonists burning up Kentucky’s forests

Fall wildfires are continuing to blaze across Kentucky and have burned tens of thousands of acres. A shocking percentage of the fires currently being fought — as many as three in four by some estimates — are due to arson.

Usually, about 60 percent of forest fires are due to arson, according to a blog post from Bill Steele, director of the Kentucky Division of Forestry. As Bill points out, the negative impacts from forest fires are wide-ranging. Forest fires devalue timber resources by an average of $404 per acre, and Kentucky usually spends around $3 million annually fighting forest fires, according to the post.

That’s a lot of money that businesses and taxpayers are on the hook for because of people who intentionally set fires. 

But, Bill notes, “there are other, more compelling reasons for addressing the issue of arson.”

Wildfires pose a threat to buildings in the areas where they burn and to both the people living near them and the people who have to fight the fires.

With so much to lose from setting fires, why do people still do it — and do it in such large numbers?

Bill says he has spoken with wildfire suppression expert Michael Froelich about this problem. Michael’s research has shown some reasons people intentionally set fires include “to herd game, to eliminate undesirable vegetation, to rid the area of such ‘varmints’ as chiggers or simply because it is a family tradition.”

“Needless to say, none of these activities provide justification for such a potentially dangerous and destructive act,” Bill writes.

We agree.