Living in Fear of Seemingly Everything

The next great danger to western civilization is ... wood burning fireplaces.

“The smoke from a fire smells very nice,” said Diane Bailey, a senior scientist with the Natural Resources Defense Council in San Francisco. “But it can cause a lot of harm.” The tiny particles, she said, “can cause inflammation and illness, and can cross into the bloodstream, triggering heart attacks” as well as worsening other conditions....

Not surprisingly, the green community has been sounding the alarm for some time. For the last several years,, an online magazine, has advocated replacing all wood-burning fireplaces with electric ones; an article published in September by Shireen Qudosi, entitled “Breathe Easier With a Cleaner Fireplace,” argued that there is no such thing as an environmentally responsible fire: “Switching out one type of wood for another is still use of a natural resource that otherwise could have been spared,” Ms. Qudosi wrote. And last fall, an article on the Web site, “Cozy Winter Fires — Carbon Impact,” called wood-burning fires “a direct pollutant to you, your family and your community.”...

Karen Soucy, an associate publisher at a nonprofit environmental magazine, isn’t swayed by that argument. She refuses to enter a home where wood has been burned, even infrequently.

Ms. Soucy, 46, blames fumes from a wood fire for sending her to the emergency room 25 years ago with a severe asthma attack. She had been staying at a friend’s house in Stowe, Vt., for about a day, she said, when her lungs seized up. She was taken to a hospital in an ambulance, and got two shots of adrenalin; the doctors blamed her friend’s cat.

“It was only later, working with a team of allergy doctors and pulmonologists, did we determine the culprit to be the wood-burning fumes from the various fireplaces,” Ms. Soucy said.

Now her husband scouts out any place they go in advance, to be sure it’s free of fireplaces, and she passes up countless dinners and parties. “I’m the one who feels guilty for always being the one to decline invitations or for making people go out of their way to clean their home,” she said. Even then, she added, “the smell lingers on everything.”

Absolutely, if you are worried about CO2 emissions, make sure you use an electric heater (some of the most inefficient sources of heat on the planet) powered by a big honking coal plant.  Because after all, in you hadn't burned that tree, it would have just fallen over and decomposed into ..uh.. Co2.  Which is why I personally advocate shrink-wrapping all Christmas trees after use and burying them deep, rather than mulching them as most cities do, to save the planet.


  1. ben:

    I came across another new and great danger to Western civilization a few days back: unrestrained pets in cars. Any excuse for control, it seems.

  2. Bob Smith:

    "Switching out one type of wood for another is still use of a natural resource that otherwise could have been spared"

    Silly me, thinking that the point of having resources is to use them. If you can't use it, it isn't a resource.

    The rest of us should suffer because an athsmatic can't handle fires? Screw her! It's like the peanut nazis in schools these days.

  3. Anna:

    Shouldn't someone promote obesity as a means to capture carbon?

  4. colson:

    @Anna +10 points

    @Bob - if anything, wood is also "renewable", the byproduct (ash) can be recycled by putting it out with your organic garden(with exception to the gasses). Given the abundance of pines, sprinkling ash can reduce the PH level of your soil allowing you to utilize your land more productively. In my parents' case, we trimmed up two pines, clearing the branches up about 3-4 ft, used wood ash to reduce the soil PH so the bare soil underneath could support growing flowers. We did use the "vitamin spikes" to reduce the acidity of the soil but wood ash was much cheaper and something we had in abundance in the spring.

    This always reminds me of this:!

  5. blokeinfrance:

    The French government gives you a 50% tax break if you install a wood burning stove with better than 60% efficiency.
    Mind you, burying wood for a million years would sequester some carbon which could be used later as coal, I s'pose.

  6. John Cunningham:

    Burying trees deep in the soil? YOU GAIA-MURDERING FIEND!! May the Earth Mother smite thee!! in a million years or more, those buried trees will turn into the Devil's Fuel, coal. clearly the only safe disposal
    for Pagan Solstice Trees will be to load them onto the new Gaia Navy galley's, where enslaved capitalists
    and engineers will row them out to the deep ocean trenches. there, they can be weighed down with chunks of
    Hated SUVs and jettisoned into the trenches.

  7. me:

    @Ben: Actually, I've been puzzled about those restrictions for a while. Talking on cell phones, to passengers or listening to music or the radio are of course sources of risk, but shouldn't we simply forbid the primary source of danger - driving in cars -, just to be absolutely safe?

    Also, anyone with serious concerns about woodburning: please consider rubbing ice cubes against each other to generate heat. Guaranteed to not cause any harmful outgassing.

  8. MikeinAppalachia:

    The coal-fired plants are next. Wonder how they feel about gas/propane lo....never mind.

  9. Mesa Econoguy:

    As an asthmatic, I love the smell and pulmonary irritation if mesquite fires in the West in winter. There is no other smell like it.

    I am much more likely to sue the EPA for banning albuterol with CFC propellants (bronchodilator) than I am to hold wood burners accountable.

    Go Packers.

  10. Maddog:

    Karen Soucy the best reason for a wood fire. If you don't burn one she might come.

  11. Doug:

    I agree with the above comments. Go Packers.

  12. Sam L.:

    Remember the old bumper sticker "Split Wood, Not Atoms"? I did the day I drove thru a small town in Montana or Idaho in December of '86 and saw and smelled all the wood smoke in the town.

  13. GoneWithTheWind:

    I am allergic to phony crazy environmentalist. Just reading about their antics make my lungs sieze and I need a shot of adrenalin. Lets ban these nuts for the my health and the health of all sane people everywhere.

    As I understand it all wood and all plant material allowed to rot on the ground emits exactly as much carbon as it would if it were burned. So the net benefit to CO2 in the atmosphere if you were to stop burning wood is zero.

  14. Gil:

    A Far Side cartoon describes Karen Soucy well: "I know you miss the Wainwrights, Bobby, but they were weak and stupid people - and that's why we have wolves and other large predators."

  15. DisparityFlux:

    Well, I can understand Ms. Soucy's anxiety with wood-burning fireplaces if she was waylaid by a domesticated one. I too, suffered through a life threatening experience after being ambushed by a wasp as a child and by sorghum pollen as an adult. For the former I underwent 3 years of immunization shots, and for the latter I chose to suit up with a pollen mask and safety goggles before entering a field of pollinating sorghum. In neither case did I decide to crusade for the extermination of stinging insects or against the cultivation of sorghum. Sometimes, one just has to know their limitations and learn to deal with it without making it someone else's burden or sacrifice.

  16. Zach:

    I live in Kansas City. Try to take away our hickory smoked barbecue, and we'll make you fertilizer for the next round of trees.

  17. Maria:

    Here in CA, you want to get a permit to fix your bathroom or such? Yeah, not going to get one unless you also convert you fireplace to gas. Oh and if you do have a wood burning fireplace better check if it's a spare the air day before using it or the fireplace police out in helicopters will hunt you down to give you an $$$$ ticket.

  18. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    > Which is why I personally advocate shrink-wrapping all Christmas trees after use and burying them deep, rather than mulching them as most cities do, to save the planet.

    Dude, the best way to save the planet is to shrink-wrap a GREEN and then bury the idiotic sumbitch deep.

    If you do it quietly enough and deep enough, you might even get to do more than one....

    Important Note: Mulching him/her is almost certain to make it a one-time thing, and very certain to get you talked about.

  19. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    > Silly me, thinking that the point of having resources is to use them. If you can’t use it, it isn’t a resource.

    Especially when dealing with The Infinite Resource, the human brain.

    > The rest of us should suffer because an athsmatic can’t handle fires?

    Well, it IS a great way to keep the stupid beyotch away from your party, while still obeying social protocols and inviting her:
    "HEY, HONEY? I'm going to invite the Soucys to the party... go fire up the charcoal grill, would you? Be sure and use the hickory-chip briquettes, n'kay?"

    > they can be weighed down with chunks of
    Hated SUVs and jettisoned into the trenches.

    Dude, they are still going to turn into coal eventually, when you do this.
    And, since tectonics shift, the fact that they are in a deep-ocean trench may not make access difficult in 150 million years or more.

    I believe the answer is rather blatantly self evident: To save the earth, we must kill ALL the trees.

    > Here in CA,

    There's your problem, Maria. Fix that and your issues will disappear.

  20. rxc:

    Dams were bad because they hurt fish. Nuclear is bad because it is associated with bombs and poison. Oil spills and hurts cute birds and mammals. Coal causes AGW. Windmills kill birds and bats and ruin the natural viewscapes, and make noise that makes people go crazy. Solar only works during the day when it is already light, but they need too much water to wash the panels, and they have to be cited in sensitive ecosystems like deserts when endangered tortises live. Transmission lines to carry electricity are the devils own work. We have finally gotten to the root of all evil - fire. It makes smoke. Bad, bad, bad...

    The last line was the key: "It is a guilty form of pleasure". Environmentalism is all about guilt.

  21. smurfy:

    "Here in CA"

    It's spreading Bupkis. I'm in Nevada and when my cat died last year, they couldn't cremate him because it was a spare the air day. I know, it's a cat get over it, but some people are pretty sensy about their pets and I don't want to prolong their suffering.

    A lot of environmental policy and rhetoric seems to promote a return to a pre-industrial hunter and gatherer lifestyle. But if you try to actually go out and hunt or gather and provide for yourself...can't have that. I used to get a firewood permit from the Forest Service and head out with my chainsaw to cut my own cords. I loved that I could control my costs by substituting labor, or not. My choice. And we can't have that.

  22. smurfy:

    Just to speak a little more seriously about one of my pet issues (sorry), I do think their are some pretty cool innovations going on in the woodstove and insert market and I'm a-o-k with non-coercive programs to encourage upgrades. But rebates and trade-ins don't work fast enough for some people. My prescription would be to give out spare the air day variances to people who upgrade to the EPA approved technology. But then, incremental improvements don't produce fast enough results for some either.

  23. blokeinfrance:

    It's all about entropy / 2nd Law of Thermodynamics in the end. That brassy thing going round and round in the sky somehow concentrates the calories which loggers then select (diseased trees, mostly) and deliver to me. I burn it and the calories dissipate. Wood is pretty expensive here (75€ a stère = about 1m3 = ? 1 cord @ $100) so I prefer to have a stove with a 65% efficiency than one with 40% efficiency. (You get no tax break at 40%.) Plus it looks great, got two glass panels and is a focal point much more entertaining than a TV.
    I paid about 1,000€ more for it than I'd have paid for a cheap stove. That's a pay back of well less than ten years even without the tax break. But why should I get subsidised when some poor schmuck who can't afford 1,000€ doesn't, and has to pay more tax to subsidise me?

  24. thebastidge:

    Well, it's absolutely true that mssive cities where everybody burns wood or coal are a health risk.

    On the other hand, crazy moonbats like Soucy can go jump in a lake. Probly poison the fish with all the patchouli oil, but at least she'll smell batter.

    Woodfired stoves and fireplaces are not easily controllable. You can't meter the rate and charge exorbitant taxes to incentiviaze behaviour. They allow people to be more resilient and independent in an emergency.

    We just can't have that.

  25. IgotBupkis, President, United Anarchist Society:

    > It’s spreading Bupkis. I’m in Nevada and...

    No, you're still in Cali, that's what you're missing.

    There's a great deal of brilliance in the fact that idiots flee Cali from its problems, then set about recreating the conditions that caused the problems in the first place where they are. Nevada and Arizona are both enduring this issue.

    I really do think that the wall along the US-Mexico border should go up along the Cali border through and around to the border with Oregon... then, if you want to leave Cali, you have to pass a "damnfoolidjit test" to be allowed out.

    It wouldn't be hard to institute --

    Circle True or False for each question:
    .1) Communism is a wretched evil thing. True False
    .2) Islamic beliefs are the source of most of the world's terrorism. True False
    .3) Crystals can heal you. True False
    .4) Alternative energy sources should be heavily funded. True False
    .5) Public Sector Unions should be outlawed. True False
    .6) John Maynard Keynes' economic principles have not been invalidated. True False
    .7) Homeopathic Medicine is valid. True False
    .8) G.W. Bush is an idiot, and Sarah Palin is a stupid, ignorant bitch. True False
    .9) Sexual Orientation should not be considered as a matter of military policy. True False
    10) We should have open borders. True False
    11) America, and its satellite state, Israel, is the source of much of the world's strife. True False
    12) Unilateral Disarmament is the Path to Peace. True False
    13) Resource Depletion is a serious problem. Sustainability is the answer. True False

    No Wrong Answers: Welcome to America!
    One Wrong Answer: 90 day Visa. Don't overstay. We shoot illegals from Cali on sight.
    Two Wrong Answers: 30 day Visa. See above.
    Three Wrong Answers: Stay the f*** home, libtard.

    I'll not insult any of the readers by telling them what the "wrong" answers are, as I'm sure pretty much all of you except the trolls know which ones are the Wrong Answers inherently.

  26. jay:

    I remember back in the 70s when wood burning stoves were THE green thing to do, stick it to those evil oil companies.

    But we all know that electricity is clean, because it just comes out of nowhere, or from some windmill somewhere, I guess. So heat homes with it, power cars with it, but don't build power plants because they're evil, and when we have brownouts and black outs, well that's dereg's fault. We need more regulators... that's the ticket. (oh and keep the electicity cheap, too)

  27. silvermine:

    ....and when the power goes out, like in the huge storms we're having, the tree will actually still burn and I won't die. I sort of like that about it.