Why I Burned the Forest
Destruction and regeneration on Florida’s Forgotten Coast.
Something recoils: Something doesn’t like the idea of setting fire to the forest. The mind resists even as the hands busy themselves—filling a drip torch with diesel and gasoline, lighting the wick, tipping the canister’s spout towards the ground to let the burning fuel flow out. It resists as the hush of the trees is undone by the crackle of trailing flame growing behind you.
These fires help keep the forest healthy. See the longleaf pines, the tall ones? They support our whole ecosystem in the Southeast, and they depend on fires from lightning strikes to clear the ground. These woods will grow back greener and healthier.
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As a black man in the field of social work, my dad was, as a white female coworker of his once put it, “like a fly in buttermilk.”