Some serious questions for which I would appreciate some serious answers:
• Why do people risk their lives by hiking in the Arizona desert in the middle of summer?
I'm not talking about the people who have lived here for a long time and have enough sense to hike early in the morning or late in the afternoon, making sure to dress properly and to have too much water with them. I'm talking about the twenty-something German tourist who died on Camelback Mountain in Phoenix in 110-degree heat after polishing off the one (!) bottle of water he had taken along. Or the 65-year-old woman who died a couple weeks ago while hiking in Pinal County. (Richard Pryor's character, Mudbone, once said "You don't get to be old being no fool!" Apparently, there are exceptions.)
I'll admit I'm not much of a hiker. It combines walking (which is boring), constantly looking down at the dirt path (which is extra-boring), and getting scratches on your legs from sharp bushes (which is boring and painful). I have lots of friends who absolutely swear by hiking and, well, all I can say is different strokes.
This is not to say that I don't appreciate Nature. There's nothing like stepping outside of a hot, sweaty gym just in time to see a magnificent Tucson sunset ... and then going back in to play one more game.
It's terrible for people to die needlessly this way, but I have to wonder what they were thinking when they set out.
• On that same topic, is there a Stupid Hiker's Law and if not, why not?
On the news a few weeks ago, they showed how local Search and Rescue personnel had gone to aid of a guy who got lost on the Catalinas. He was out of water and in pretty bad shape. But then they showed him on the screen. He had no hat and was wearing a tank top and sandals! You're supposed to rescue that dude?!
In all seriousness, I believe that everybody should get rescued. But if their plight is their own doing, I think there should be consequences. The Search and Rescue people often risk their own lives and expend lots of resources (helicopters, land vehicles, man-hours) to rescue others. If a hiker gets in trouble because he/she did something stupid (fail to properly prepare, getting off the path, not telling others where they were going, etc.), they should have to pay for the cost of their rescue.
• Why does almost every wildfire that pops up in the West have to be fought? Why not just let some of them burn?
Without sounding like some kind of pyro (which I am not), I have read several books on the subject. (Two of the best are The Big Burn, about the worst fire in U.S. history, the 1910 conflagration that devastated much of Idaho; and Fire On The Mountain, about the 1994 South Canyon fire in Colorado that took the lives of 14 firefighters.) What I've learned is that most of these fires are natural phenomena and mankind may be doing more harm than good in the long run by putting them out.
I certainly understand fighting a fire that threatens a town or a city. But if somebody builds a cabin out in the woods, they have to know that, sooner or later, those woods are going to catch fire. I'm not sure it's society's responsibility to risk lives and drain resources to fight that particular fire.
After three firefighters tragically died in Washington last week, I saw a really cool handwritten sign attached to the front of a house that had been evacuated. It read "Dear Firefighters, This is only a house. Please Stay Safe."
• With all the wringing of hands and gnashing of teeth over the proposed nuclear deal with Iran, I have yet to hear even one person ask the most basic question: Where is it written that we (the United States) get to determine which countries get nuclear weapons and which ones don't? To me, it's like the U.S. telling Albania, "You can't have television. We invented television and we don't want anybody else to have it."
The nuclear Pandora's Box was opened 70 years ago and that lid is never going to close. The physics and mechanics of such a device are so straightforward that a halfway-decent high-school student should be able to come up with a workable design. Obviously, the biggest hurdle is obtaining (or, in the case of Iran, creating) the fissionable material.
Not long after the U.S. built the first bombs, the Soviets soon had the secrets through espionage and then the U.S. gave them to England and France. (The CIA then helped Israel get The Bomb back in the 1960s.)
It would be a NeoCon's wet dream if the U.S. were the only nation with nuclear weapons. But such is not the case. We worry about Iran but think nothing of the fact that Pakistan is a nuclear power. Then there's the fact that Pakistan, with a government that's shakier than a cheerleader at a charter school, hates India, which also has nukes.
It's way too late to think about closing that barn door, plus it seems just a tad arrogant on the part of our country to even think about doing so.