The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

Two Tips For Dealing With Smoke

A large part of the world, not just the West coast of America, is currently experiencing fires.

September 14th Fire Map

Much of this is bad fire management (not allowing regular fires in forests that need them) and much of it is caused by bad maintainance of power lines, but without climate change it wouldn’t be happening this badly. Simply enough, forests are burning off as the climate reshapes the ecology of various areas.

None of which is much use for those stuck in the fires, though you should take climate change into account if you can choose where you live.

I’m no expert, but I saw two suggestions on how to improve air quality for those stuck in smoky rooms I thought worth passing on.

The first is to fill every container you have with water and place them around your house. They will absorb smoke particles, and over about half an hour, the air quality will get better. Replace the water every few hours. Similarly you can run a hot shower till the bathtub is half full every few hours.

The second is the so-called Beijing filter, which is just a filter taped over a box fan. Any filter will do. (Second link has a brief how-to.)

Not normally the sort of info I’d pass on, but I’ve seen a lot of people in distress who didn’t know these simple tips.

Obviously wear a mask, and wash your masks often.

These sorts of fires have been going on for a few years now, but they’re becoming far more widespread and will continue as our environment is re-shaped to the new normal.

I always wanted to live in a Mediterranean climate like California’s, but who knows where will have that climate in a few years?

If you have another tips for coping with the smoke (or fires in general) put them in comments.

Edit: A commenter points out that open still water in tropical countries could lead to issues with Dengue fever. Another commenter suggests dust bowl remedies from the 30s, like putting wet towels around windows and doors might help.

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Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – September 13, 2020


Square circles


  1. DT

    There is a risk in tropical countries that filling clean water in containers could attract dengue mosquitoes which are another health hazard. Dengue is spreading in areas that never saw such outbreaks, precisely because of climate change.

  2. Plague Species

    Also, I would suggest reading Cormac McCarthy’s The Road if you haven’t already. I’m currently reading it. Prescient, I’d say. The Blood Cults are just around the corner at this rate. I saw the movie several years prior but hadn’t read the book. Bleak is an understatement, but then, so too our future is bleak. It’s no coincidence the skies on the West Coast are the color of Donald Trump — Orange.

  3. Joan

    Probably some home remedies from the Dust Bowl era could be useful. Damp towels around the windows and doors where the air gets in, etc.

  4. sluggox

    All of this could have been prevented. Biden is doom, Trump is doom. Liberals made their decision to screw Bernie who was the only candidate who takes climate change seriously, in service of profit. Enjoy your mental masturbation of trying to legitimize pure utilitarianism, a notion rejected by utilitarians themselves, instead of restoring sanity by FORCE.

  5. Dan Lynch

    Slightly OT, but since Ian mentioned it in passing, there is no agreement on the role of Smokey the Bear. Here’s an essay from someone who is knowledgeable on the subject who claims that fire suppression has never made much difference, good, bad, or otherwise:

    Prior to the extensive fires of 1988, Yellowstone National Park had implemented what is sometimes called a “let burn” policy. During the years between 1972 and 1988 there were 235 wildfires that occurred within the 2.2 million acre park. None of the 235 fires were suppressed or fought–they were merely monitored. Most of those fires burned less than a few acres. Only 15 of those 235 fires burned more than a hundred acres and all 235 of them went out on their own without any assistance from humans.

    Since the vast majority of all fires go out without burning a significant amount of acreage, it is difficult to argue that fire suppression has significantly contributed to “fuels build up”.

    These kinds of scientific findings also call into question the common assumption that Native American burning significantly altered fire regimes across the West. Not discounting that the Indian influence around their villages and other high use areas may have seen more fire, one has to remember that you can’t get a fire to burn much, or at all, if the weather/climate is not conducive to ignition and fire spread.

    How Effective Is Fire Suppression”

  6. S Brennan

    Didn’t know that it was called a “Beijing filter” I’ve been doing this the 80’s when I lived in a building with a lot of smokers and poor ventilation; Chicago gets cold and heat was steam, sent up twice a day, opening a window meant being cold until the heaters kick-on.

    Anyway two tips, 1] you don’t need tape, the fan, when on, will hold the filter tightly against the fan; 2] Carbon impregnated filters [if you can afford them] will take a lot of the smell out of the house/apartment…make sure any carbon filter you is still sealed in it’s package.

  7. S Brennan

    …make sure any carbon filter you buy is still sealed in it’s package.

  8. Synoia

    “I always wanted to live in a Mediterranean climate like California’s, but who knows where will have that climate in a few years?”

    Them live in the Mediterranean area. California climate is Desert. The Mediterranean sea makes the (large) difference.

  9. S Brennan

    OT Warning: Do Not Read if OT posts offend you. Apologies Ian

    Li-Meng Yan’s Youtube on the subject of:

    – 1 Unusual Features of theSARS-CoV-2 Genome Suggesting SophisticatedLaboratory Modification Rather Than Natural Evolution and Delineation of Its Probable Synthetic Route –

    has been repeatedly re-posted/removed but, her paper is still searchable and downloadable. I do not have enough knowledge of Molecular biology to judge it’s validity, however, while it’s available it should be downloaded and preserved before it is made unsearchable by the usual suspects.

    Note; Yan’s subject material has been banned from peer reviewed scientific journals which seems rather extreme since science normally doesn’t censor a priori to discussion and debate. So, let’s get this thing out there for discussion and debate by virologist & molecular biologists.

  10. Zachary Smith

    I hadn’t been aware water was so good at suppressing smoke, so that knowledge leads me to some Uninformed Speculation:

    “Misting” devices exist to screw on the ends of garden hoses and also into threaded water pipes. Years ago I bought some to properly “cure” a small concrete slab I’d poured. Example from awful Amazon:

    What about arranging one or more of these water foggers in either an enclosed outside porch or even a cobbled up large tube?

    Some kind of fan could draw in air from the fogged area and provide a living area with relatively clean air? Ideally the fan would be powerful enough to “overpressure” the refuge space to exclude outside air from infiltrating inside through cracks.


  11. Eric Anderson

    Also, if you drive, be sure to change out the cabin air filter in your car. Most people never do for the entire life of their car, but it is a difference of night and day.

  12. Willy

    The rural PNW was once a homesteaders/survivalists paradise, but these increasingly common firestorms are making that sort of lifestyle riskier there.

    Vancouver CA is turning Mediterranean as the perennial summer dryness increases its way up the coast, but I believe the area is still classified as an oceanic climate, just as Seattle and Portland once were just a few short decades ago. In the change process the ubiquitous Western hemlocks, Madrone and sword ferns will die en masse and the bigleaf maples will start becoming diseased. That’s what I live with now.

    But I have relatives in southern California and southern Australia who have to live with droughts and bushfires on an almost annual basis, so it could always be worse I guess.

    With so much noise out there it’s getting harder to make out the actual experts who actually have the best ideas about why this is happening, and what to do about it. I’d rely on science, but since scientists made the mistake of killing God and contradicting our PTB, they’re not credible anymore.

    So I await some divinely inspired PTB to break through all the noise. But they’ll have to prove to me that they’re divinely inspired. I might settle for their conjuring up a bigly rainstorm, in front of credible witnesses. But those witnesses will have to be wearing MAGA hats.

  13. Zachary Smith

    Because the Covid thread is sort of buried:

    The loneliness of long-haul COVID: My son and I have battled the coronavirus for six months

    The piece has a label of “Opinion”, suggesting even the newspaper doesn’t really believe him.

  14. joe

    The thicker smoke after a few days i have noticed tends to have a psychological effect. It is subtle but not that subtle. I find myself short tempered and anxious. I have to remind myself to be calm and not react to inconveniences and minor difficulties with too fast frustration. The smoke makes things harder to accomplish. The good news is it is keeping the local climate ten degrees cooler than it would be if it were sunny.

    Here in Central California and many other places the natives extensively managed the land. They burned they weeded They had a plan. I’m sure they sent the kids out to weed brush starts. They promoted habitat for the deer which was a major menu item. Trees were selected for the quality of the acorns and were promoted. Over time they cleared and selected for the trees they wanted. The pines were not wanted you can’t eat pine trees. There is accounts of foothill California landscape in the 1840’s that that imply mass landscaping and management.

  15. Zachary Smith

    The pines were not wanted you can’t eat pine trees.

    It was just a matter of time before the “Indians” got around to working with the Pines.

    I’ve tried planting the huge-nutted California acorns, but they don’t seem to like Indiana. IMO they’d be a great backup “famine food”.

  16. js

    Do what you can to be comfortable now if the smoke makes it hard to breathe. But as for any long term consequences of breathing smoke, do you want to live a long life given current circumstances. I don’t see much value in it. I’m not offing myself, I’m telling anyone to, I’m just questioning the value of worrying about decades hence.

  17. Thomas B Golladay

    Now this is what clear cut police abuse looks like. That and the sheer money wasted on a bullshit charge that fell apart in court and the unwillingness to let him self-deport.

  18. ricardo2000

    In Canada, we have removable caulking compounds for older windows that leak air called DraftStop. Furnace filters here are rated by a standard known as MERV from 1 to 20. MERV 20 is used in surgical wards and computer clean rooms. MERV 16 is equivalent to an N-95 surgical mask ( Most homes use a MERV 11, or better MERV 13 (
    SO take the screen out of the window if possible. Remove a MERV 13 filter from the cardboard box, stretch it flat, and cut it to size. Put a bead of DraftStop around the inside the screen frame. Press the filter over the bead and let dry. Replace the screen in the window with the filter glued to the inside of the screen. Use a small DraftStop beads to seal all edges of screen to frame. Now the open window will only allow filtered outside air into the house.
    Replace the furnace filter with the highest MERV rating possible. Set the furnace fan to continuous slow speed. Block outside air intake to furnace. Now the furnace will filter the air while sucking return air from basement floor to cool house. This is an excellent method for removing cigarette smoke from a house.

  19. Ché Pasa

    Oh California!

    California has so many different climate regimes, saying it’s one thing, whether Mediterranean or desert or what have you isn’t very useful. What is true is that the most of the West Coast has suffered severe droughts alternating with heavy rainfall/snowfall over the last decade or so, leaving badly stressed people and environments that aren’t hanging on very well in the face of the recent and current mega-fires.

    I’ve seen people in Paradise try to rebuild only to watch another mega-fire nearby come close enough to scare the pants off of the survivors/rebuilders. Maybe, really, they shouldn’t be living there. Same with some of the fires that have repeatedly swept wine country and lake country and coastal forest communities.

    Friends and relations are still trying to live with current conditions, with the smoke everywhere, sometimes worse, sometimes better, but always, day in and day out, it’s there just overhead or even in their face and affecting them. They’re learning to adapt — with filter-fans and respirators and staying indoors as much as possible — but there’s only so much adaptation you can do before the effort seems worthless. You’re not going to win in the end. That’s the key. This sort of thing, like climate change that’s partially or largely responsible, is something you’re not going to beat, and you probably can’t adapt sufficiently to it, either.

    More and more, those who can afford to are walling themselves into impregnable compounds or moving to safe havens, or what they think of as safe havens, but they’re filling up and becoming fewer as the pace of the Apocalypse increases.

    What happens when the eastern forests catch fire? When the floods don’t retreat? When already crappy civic infrastructure fails and isn’t repaired or replaced?

    And how soon will that day come?

    I don’t think anyone is really prepared. Certainly the survivalists driven out of their forest retreats in Washington, Oregon and California over the last few weeks are feeling a little uncerain now, aren’t they?

  20. Dan

    Adding to S Brennan’s OT, with same caveats, Birger Sørensen and Angus Dalgleish have also argued the coronavirus is not natural in origin. I believe this article was posted here a while back:

    Luc Montagnier has also said that the virus is not of natural origin:

  21. S Brennan

    “Certainly the survivalists driven out of their forest retreats in Washington, Oregon and California over the last few weeks are feeling a little uncertain now, aren’t they? – Ché Pasa

    Schadenfreude Ché ? Taking pleasure in the misery of others. Oh how life must be sweet for you? You see somebody miserable, you imagine them your “enemy” and you feel good.

    Three years ago, when this area was inundated with a fire*, I did see people “driven out of their forest retreats” they were mostly older couples, some of them hippie types, mixed in with younger couples who were trying to live cheap, occasionally an old hermit. I am sure there must of been a “survivalist” or two amongst the field of people gathered by the Red Cross tents, nothing stands out in my memory but, I am sure there must have been one or two among the crowd.

    Oh how life must be sweet for you Ché…eh?

    *A fire that the local fire department were not allowed to put out FOR MONTHS because, it was on state land…that was before it blew up in the canyon winds that frequent the area.

  22. Willy

    Trump has claimed that Woodward does “hit jobs” and that Bernstein is a “nut job.” Nixon should’ve known better. He could’ve just called them “nut jobs who do hit jobs” and kept his presidency.

    I guess if I was a survivalist living in burn down country I’d make sure that all my roofs were steel and walls concrete, or at least have a similar structure on site, like my garage/shop ready to live in just in case. I know that after the Oakland firestorm lots of people got screwed by their insurance companies who simply refused to pay, big names like State Farm and Allstate, but some reforms were mandated.

  23. Susan Butler

    My vacuum has a hepa filter so I just let it run most of the time. Smoky air in, clean air out.

    I bought in Oregon and built a house in the middle of a 5 acre hay field with no trees, so I\’m relatively fire-safe. Most people around here live in houses set in heavily forested landscapes.
    Those with money can afford to clear out their forested areas. It cost my neighbor $7,000 to do hers. We need to put together community groups to do this type of work en masse so everyone\’s property gets done. The settled areas are small compared to the millions of acres of forested mountains. The areas near houses can be completely firesafed with proper landscaping, but that requires knowledge and expense. If we want to stay here we\’ll have to make that effort.

  24. different clue


    If I had a house in Fire Country, I would want to do the same. I would go further. I would want to see that it had zero wood, paper, cardboard, plastic or any other flammable anything as part of its structure. I would also want exterior shutters able to pull heat-tight/air-tight within seconds over the outside-side of every window. I would want them super insulated and exterior-faced ( facing the fire) with super-reflective material so as to keep the Infra-Red super zap-flash of heat from heat-zap exploding the windows and then heat-flash igniting every burnable inside the house.

  25. different clue

    When the smoke clears and the flames die down for now, one hopes that people throughout the West begin thinking about how to restore the American Indian Nations fire-management regime they developed here, and re-use it to restore the low ground-level fuel-load type of semi-open semi-savanah forest they had created in many places.

    Such an open low-undergrowth managed burn-cycles forest would be more fire resistant and also fire tolerant than the forest we have today after a hundred years of fire suppression.

    Or we can stick with the wisdom of Paul Bunyan, who is supposed to have said: ” Only YOU can prevent a forest”.

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