Stentor (acsumama) wrote in history_time,

Gifford Pinchot saves New Jersey

Comic description:
PANEL 1: Title: Gifford Pinchot Saves New Jersey. Pinchot proudly says "With science!"
PANEL 2: Pinchot leans out of a car window to survey a burned landscape, and says "What's this?"
PANEL 3: Pinchot crouches down to look at burned stick and says "NO!"
PANEL 4: A bearded man with a torch is grabbed by the shoulders by Pinchot, who says "You there! What's the meaning of this?"
PANEL 5: Pinchot measures the man's head with a caliper, and says "Hmmm ... unusually small cranial capacity ... likely the result of inbreeding." The man says "ow!"
PANEL 6: Pinchot waves dismissively at the man, and says "Stop this at once, or I will denounce you in my report to the governor." The man replies "I *am* the governor."
PANEL 7: Pinchot huddles over a clipboard, and writes "Findings: Everyone is stupid." The man says "stop that!"

Gifford Pinchot was the first head of the U.S. Forest Service. He is best known for promoting "conservationism," a type of moderate environmentalism that focuses on preserving resources for long-term human use (rather than valuing the environment for its own sake). He was trained (in France) in the German forestry tradition, which held that fires are always bad for forests. This was more or less true for German forests, but definitely not true for most of the rest of the world. One of Pinchot's first jobs in the U.S., in 1888-1889, was to write chapters for the New Jersey state geologist's report about fire. Southern New Jersey is the location of the Pine Barrens, an ecosystem that thrives on frequent, cool fires. But Pinchot condemned burning in the Pine Barrens, saying it would lead to poorer timber harvests. He blamed irresponsible fire-setting by local people for much of the damage, and felt that allowing burning would contribute to the moral backwardness of the region. As head of the Forest Service, he continued to promote his anti-fire agenda. The white people in the Pine Barrens, sometimes referred to by the arguably derogatory term "Pineys," have long been stereotyped as backward and unintelligent. The book The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness published by eugenecist Henry Goddard not long after Pinchot's reports, was a major contributor to the stereotype, though Goddard's research has since been discredited. As was typical of the era, poor rural people were experienced at using controlled burning to reduce fire danger and reinvigorate the forest (as were Native Americans, although they had been largely killed or removed from NJ by Pinchot's time). But they were criticized as wasteful and irresponsible by the scientific control-minded Progressive movement, of which Pinchot was a part.

The part about the guy doing the burning being the governor is mostly made up for the purposes of having a punch line, since the governor during most of Pinchot's time in New Jersey was Foster Voorhees, a progressive Republican (like Pinchot) from north Jersey. However, David Ogden Watkins, who hailed from Woodbury (on the outskirts of the Pine Barrens) did serve a brief stint as acting governor.
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