Episode 23 – Fire – Indigenous Controlled Burning and Incarcerated Firefighters

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In the final installment of our Elements series, we’re dispelling the myth that there is no such thing as good fire. Olivia tells us about the lost indigenous practice of controlled burning, what happens when colonizers ignore indigenous knowledge, and the many ways that native-led prescribed burns could help our planet. Then, Elise explains how the government of California exploits prison labor to fight fires, the reason it’s so hard for formerly incarcerated firefighters to find work, and why we need to change how the public views people with a criminal record. We also discuss climate anxiety (more on this next week!), a new no-waste food app, and our favorite environmental documentaries of late.

**CW: This episode briefly discusses genocide (12:20 – 13:40).

We touched a bit on the conversation happening around the term “eco anxiety” or “climate anxiety.” You can read one of the articles ‘Climate Anxiety Is an Overwhelmingly White Phenomenon’ if you want to get a jump on what we’ll be discussing in next week’s episode!

Story #1: Indigenous Controlled Burns (Olivia)
Prescribed Burn in North Fork area of Big Prairie, Montana, April 2013. Photo via National Park Service.

Basics in under 2 minutes: How controlled fires have helped prevent mega-fires for centuries | Just The FAQs and Why wildfires in the western U.S. are only going to get worse by USA Today
How indigenous knowledge can help control wildfires by Grist
California Burning by North State Public Radio (I listened to Episode 2 but the whole series seems worth a listen!)
Insurance Information Institute for compiled statistics
Cal Fire for statistics
How Could Burning Be a Climate Solution? by Joanna Nelson for TEDxReImagineScience
California’s Little-Known Genocide via History.com
To Manage Wildfire, California Looks To What Tribes Have Known All Along by NPR’s CapRadio

Further Reading/Viewing:
Community owned solutions for fire management in tropical ecosystems: case studies from Indigenous communities of South America by Jayalaxshmi Mistry, Bibiana A. Bilbao and Andrea Berardi for Philosophical Transactions: Biological Sciences Vol. 371
Native American use of fire in ecosystems on Wikipedia
Language of the Land: Traditional Use of Fire with Margo Robbins of the Yurok Tribe by Sonoma Land Trust
How Indigenous fire management practices could protect bushland | Australian Story by ABC News In-depth
Indigenous fire methods protect land before and after the Tathra bushfire by ABC Australia

Story #2: Incarcerated Firefighters (Elise)
This is a photo from the The Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program site of formerly incarcerated firefighters doing their thing!

‘Only as Valuable as What You Save the State.’ Formerly Incarcerated Firefighters in California Speak Out On What Needs to Change, Time, Sept 2020
“A Human Tragedy”: Wildfires Reveal California’s Reliance on Incarcerated Firefighters, Democracy Now, Aug 2020
A New Form of Slavery? Meet Incarcerated Firefighters Battling California’s Wildfires for $1 an Hour, Democracy Now, Sept 2018
California Uses Prison Labor to Battle Dangerous Wildfires, Color Lines, Aug 2018
Coronavirus Limits California’s Efforts to Fight Fires With Prison Labor, New York Times, Aug 2020
California Bill Clears Path For Ex-Inmates To Become Firefighters, NPR, Sept 2020
The Former Prisoners Fighting California’s Wildfires, The Marshall Project, Sept 2020
Forestry and Fire Recruitment Program
California Relies on Incarcerated Women to Fight Wildfires. Then it Abandons Them., Vice, Sept 2020
A new law will allow some California inmates who fight wildfires to have their records expunged, Marketplace, Sept 2020
California’s Prison Population, Public Policy Institute
LAPD Budget to Be Cut by $150 Million; Decision Triggered by Widespread Protests, LA Times, Nov 2020

The Dump

All We Can Save Edited by Ayana Elizabeth Johnson and Katharine K Wilkinson – the piece entitled Indigenous Prophecy and Mother Earth by Sherri Mitchell specifically relates to Olivia’s story this week as it touches on scientists “discovering” Indigenous knowledge and the idea that white people and the Western world have to abandon their anthropogenic viewpoint in order for the planet to survive. Essentially white people can’t adopt practices backed by Indigenous knowledge without also letting go of their own harmful practices and way of life.

Too Good To Go App – Get deeply discounted prices on food that’s perfectly good but might otherwise end up in the landfill! Cutting down on food waste while saving money? Sign us up!

Necessity: Oil, Water, and Climate Resistance is the documentary Olivia watched with Extinction Rebellion NYC in Washington Square Park. Both a powerful film and a great exercise in taking up space.
Ain’t Your Mama’s Heat Wave is a climate change comedy stand-up special.
Blue Vinyl – a “toxic comedy” about polyvinyl chloride
Invasion – short but powerful 20-minute documentary – described on their website as “a new film about the Unist’ot’en Camp, Gidimt’en checkpoint and the larger Wet’suwet’en Nation standing up to the Canadian government and corporations who continue colonial violence against Indigenous people.” Olivia watched and discussed this film with a group through Signal Fire, an arts program that “helps build the cultural value of the natural world by connecting artists to our remaining wild places.”

Do you or someone you know live in California and need work done? FFRP is there to help Businesses, Homeowners, and Communities and are available to do the following work:

  • Fire Prevention, Fuels Reduction, Defensible Space Projects, Basic Tree Felling, Vegetation Hauling, Land Abatement, Pre/post construction clean up, Light demolition, Vacant lot clearing, Construction site prep, Renovation/installation, Highway maintenance, Painting, Weatherization, Light demolition, Groundskeeping, Snow removal, Tree maintenance, Graffiti and litter clean up, Mowing, Rubbish removal, Vegetation clearing

Click HERE to learn more and hire a crew!

The World Is Burning bookshop is live! Help us come up with book list titles and bulk up our reading list.

Our World is Burning themed playlist is on Spotify.

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Thanks for listening!

Sharing Is Caring [Down the Rabbit Hole Minisode 9] World Is Burning

This week we’re back with a minisode all about the sharing economy, or as they used to call it: sharing! Elise explains how community building can escalate quickly (in the best way) –– one day you’re bringing your wheelbarrow to the communal mulch pile, and next thing you know you’re on a free transatlantic trip with your neighbor. Subscribe/follow/press the button to keep up with new episodes every other Wednesday! You can also follow us @worldisburnin on Instagram and Twitter, and check out our website worldisburning.com for extended show notes including sources and photos. World Is Burning is hosted by Olivia Hamilton and Elise Nye. Our theme music is by Kaycie Satterfield, and our logo was made by Sonja Katanic. — Send in a voice message: https://anchor.fm/worldisburning/message
  1. Sharing Is Caring [Down the Rabbit Hole Minisode 9]
  2. Ep. 69 – A Positive Obsession with Octavia E. Butler
  3. Ep. 68 – Climatepunk – Vivienne Westwood and David Byrne
  4. Ep. 67 – 2022 Rewind: The Good, The Bad, & The Updates
  5. Ep. 66 – Myths, Part 2: The Overpopulation Myth