With fires raging across California, Oregon and Washington in the US, President Trump has repeatedly criticised the way forests in these states are managed.
“It is about forest management. Please remember the words, very simple, forest management,” he told a campaign rally in Nevada.
So is poor forest management responsible for these worsening fires?
Who manages the forests?
Firstly, most forest in California, Oregon and Washington isn’t the responsibility of the state authorities – in fact, their share of forest land is small.
In California state, the federal government owns nearly 58% of the 33 million acres of forest, according to the state governor’s office. The state itself owns just three per cent, with the rest owned by private individuals or companies or Native American groups.
There’s a similar picture in Oregon, with significant proportions of forest land in federal rather than state hands, as well as under private ownership.
And in Washington state, only 12% of forest land is in the hands of the state authorities, with 43% federally-owned and 36% in private hands.
Federal agencies like the US Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management and the National Parks Service are responsible for the upkeep of federally-owned land, and as far as private forest land is concerned, it’s up to the owners to manage these areas.
Could there be better forest management?
Two years ago, President Trump also criticised California’s forest management. He pointed to Finland, where he said they raked and cleared the forests to prevent fires.
Finland is not directly comparable to California due to differences in climate, types of vegetation and land use.
But experts believe there are issues with forest management practice and land use across California and elsewhere.
Scott Stephens, a leading authority on wildfires, at the University of California, has for some years questioned forest management priorities.
He’s pointed to the large number of dead trees left standing in parts of the state, due to drought and disease, as a serious fire risk that needs to be addressed.
Prof Stefan Doerr, a wildfires expert at Swansea University, points to the modern practice of total fire suppression, at the expense of allowing some limited fires to burn and create firebreaks.
“For centuries, Native American peoples would burn parts of the forest… and that would thin out more flammable vegetation and make forests less dense.
“But the emphasis has been on putting out any fires – and with climate change this has now created a tinderbox of vegetation,” says Prof Doerr.
The US Forest Service has been trying to rectify this in recent years through setting fires in what’s called “controlled” or “prescribed” burning.
However, there are questions about whether enough resources are being devoted to this, and if it’s really come too late in the day to prevent major fires.
The Governor of Washington State, Jay Inslee, has acknowledged that “there are places where it makes sense that we thin our timber. And we are doing that.”
But he also criticised President Trump for highlighting this factor, rather than climate change: “These are climate [change] fir
Brain-eating microbe: US city told not to use water amid contamination concerns
Residents of Lake Jackson, Texas, have been urged not to use tap water because it might be contaminated with a deadly brain-eating microbe.
The local water authority warned of the potential contamination of its supply to the town – home to about 27,000 people – by Naegleria fowleri.
The amoeba typically infects people when contaminated water enters the body through the nose. It is usually fatal.
Infections are rare in the US, with 34 reported between 2009 and 2018.
Eight Texas communities were told on Friday night not to use their water supply for any reason except to flush toilets. But the warning was lifted on Saturday for everywhere but Lake Jackson.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality said residents of Lake Jackson should continue to avoid using tap water “until the water system has been adequately flushed and samples indicate that the water is safe to use”.
It said it is not yet known how long this will take.
Denmark confronts sexual harassment at work in #MeToo moment
It started with a comedy awards show and a bombshell revelation that left the audience stunned.
Now a vigorous debate about workplace sexual harassment is under way in Denmark, a country that often ranks highly for gender equality.
More than 1,600 women have signed an open letter alleging the problem is rife in Danish media. Hundreds of others have also come forward alleging sexism and harassment are serious issues in politics and the medical profession.
A #MeToo moment
“I’m really insanely happy to be the host here today,” began presenter Sofie Linde, as she introduced the Zulu Comedy Gala. “I’m only the second female host in 14 years.”
After a few jokes, Ms Linde’s speech struck a serious tone as she detailed receiving less pay than her male co-hosts.
“We can pretend there is no difference between men and women in Denmark,” said Linde, who also works on Denmark’s X Factor talent show. “It’s just not true.”
She then revealed that when she was 18 years old, and starting out at national broadcaster DR, one of the network’s heavyweights demanded oral sex and threatened to ruin her career.
The moment, broadcast two weeks ago, has catalysed a national debate that has seen Linde’s #MeToo moment come in for both praise and criticism.
‘We experienced it too’
Dismayed by the negative reactions,
several female journalists wrote an open letter of support in Politiken newspaper calling out both sexual harassment and a sexist workplace culture. “You are right. We experienced it too,” they said in their front-page address to Sofie Linde.
“We’ve all experienced it to a greater or lesser degree over the course of our careers: inappropriate remarks on our appearance or clothing; suggestive messages; physical behaviour that crosses the line. Warnings that there are a few men we should avoid at the Christmas party. It happened before. It’s still happening.”
By the time the newspaper was published, 701 women had signed the letter. The next day it was more than 1,600. Those who signed either had direct experience or knew of a colleague who had, said TV2 reporter Camilla Slyngborg.
“We wanted it to be proof, so we don’t have to talk anymore about whether this exists, but how to solve the problem.”
“Hundreds of people wrote with small stories or bigger stories about what they’ve experienced,” she told the BBC. “It’s actually been kind of sad to go through these emails.”
Complaints emerge across society
More claims have come to light since.
Ten women have complained to DR News about the behaviour of male bosses or senior male staff while they were trainees from 2015-2019. The allegations include inappropriate comments, unwanted text messages, shoulder massages and patting on the bottom.
Danish tabloid Ekstra Bladet has faced accusations too. Last Monday, 46 women wrote to management detailing sexual harassment at the paper.
Women have also shared experiences of sexism and harassment in other workplaces, from restaurants to retail, and hashtags such as “#MeToo” and “#NejTilSexisme” (No to Sexism) have been trending.
More than 600 doctors and medical students have signed an online petition denouncing sexual harassment and gender discrimination in hospitals, clinics and universities.
Over 300 women in politics have also called on leaders to root out sexism in their profession. Their statement in Politiken included 79 anonymous testimonies of incidents ranging from offensive comments to sexual assault.
One of the four women who initiated the letter, Camilla Soee, told the BBC: “Once and for all, we wanted to prove that sexism and sexual harassment is part of the political environment.”
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen has responded by saying a change of culture is now necessary. “We need to do something about that… and we’ll start on that now,” she wrote on Facebook on Saturday. Other party leaders have also promised to act.
More stories on sexism and harassment
Apology from foreign minister
The debate has also brought a 12-year-old controversy concerning Denmark’s foreign minister back into the spotlight.
Jeppe Kofod apologised this month for having sex with a 15-year-old girl following a political youth event in 2008, when he was 34 and a spokesperson for the Social Democrats.
In Denmark, the age of consent is 15.
“I wish I could change it, that it never happened,” he told Danish TV. “It happened. What I can do is to have regret, I have learned from it.”
His supporters argue that it all happened a long time ago.
And some female politicians on the right have taken issue with claims of a sexist culture in parliament, arguing that the #MeToo debate is going too far.
But the Social Liberal Party’s gender equality spokeswoman, Samira Nawa, has described the workplace culture in parliament as “rotten”. “Some industries have the ingredients needed for sexism to thrive. Media is such an industry. Politics is another,” she wrote on Facebook.
Ex-Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt urged media bosses and other leaders to do “too much rather than too little. And do it right now”.
A knock to Denmark’s reputation
Denmark prides itself on a reputation for gender equality and regularly performs highly on international measures, but some are concerned that has led to complacency.
In a recent World