I have a new fire pit. The weather hasn’t been good enough to use it yet but it’ll happen. I already have a wood burning stove in the living room, a chimenea and incinerator bin in the garden and plenty of space (and landlord’s permission) for all the bonfires I could ever want.
My recycle bin contains cans and plastic. I don’t throw away cardboard any more. The trees here shed branches at a rate to delight any firebug and there are a lot of trees. Pine cones in abundance – they burn very nicely too. I don’t burn plastic because it gives off an acrid black smoke and tends to leave horrible lumps in the bottom of your fire device.
Paper for starting the fire is no problem. Junk mail has a use here.
These things save me from my natural firebug tendencies. Rather, they save the rest of the world from me.
This does not make me at all unusual. Humans have been lighting fires since humans first learned to bang rocks together. Fire and smoke have accompanied our species throughout our history.
So, why aren’t we all dead from lung cancer?
Well, New Scientist, lefty propaganda hack-rag though it currently is, has reported that humans have a gene that made us more smoke resistant than the other kinds of humans – so they couldn’t tolerate living in a cave with a fire. (thanks to @mihotep who retweeted the link on Twitter).
We still have that gene. It’s not a superpower, we can still be overcome and die of smoke inhalation when it’s intense but even in visible smoke, we can tolerate it. I can’t, offhand, think of another species that can tolerate smoke as long as we can.
Naturally, this won’t include tobacco smoke because that is magically different from all other kinds of burning plant material. That’s why people were routinely dragged unconscious from pubs in the old days and resuscitated outside, and why every workplace that allowed smoking always kept a respirator and oxygen bottle handy.
What? That didn’t happen? Well, the antismokers will no doubt soon tell you it did.
All those diseases on the rise, all blamed on smoking that’s now in decline, are more likely to be caused by fire – actually, the lack of it. There are other factors, the almost-sterile cleanliness of many modern homes, the sprays and strange chemicals people use to make them smell like a countryside they’re afraid to actually visit because the ground is made of dirt.
I suppose I can be a bit smug here. I actually live in the countryside so all I need do to get the countryside smell in the house is open the windows. The windows are all open whenever weather allows. That gets the air in the house changed. It’s an old house and there are plenty of draughts but all but three of the fireplaces are sealed and the windows and doors are new, double glazed ones. Frequent air-changes are important.
It’s not that long ago that everyone had a fireplace with a blazing fire in it. The local pub still does – even though they aren’t allowed to allow smoking in there. They do have a covered and heated smoking area at the back though.
I know, we’ve been through this before but there’s a whole generation who might never have seen a fireplace, certainly not one in actual use. These days it’s central heating, underfloor heating, invisible heating in hermetically sealed boxes. It’s nice, I can’t deny that. It means you can set the heating to come on half an hour before you get out of bed in the mornings. Nobody has to freeze while they get the fire started up. I have central heating and I do use it but in winter it’s still nice to get the wood burner fired up. Especially as the landlord is gutting and rebuilding another house he owns nearby so I have an almost endless supply of free wood.
I’ll repeat, then, for the benefit of any smoke-terrified youngsters who might happen by, why the coal/log fire was so damn good.
Apart from being a plaything, and something to stare pensively into, the fire did a really important thing. It sucked the air up the chimney really fast.
The room didn’t run out of air. New air came in through every available gap, any open doors or windows so the air in the room didn’t deplete. As a bonus, if people were smoking in there, that smoke got sucked up the chimney too.
Along with the smoke, up the chimney was the fate of anything breathed, sneezed or coughed out of anyone else in the room. It was the fate of a lot of dust and airborne bacteria and viruses and fungal spores. Now, with no chimneys and eco-sealed draught-free homes, all that crap stays in the atmosphere to be breathed in over and over again.
People don’t even open their windows now. Certainly not often enough. Condensation leads to black mould growing and that stuff will cause a lot more harm than having a few smokers in the room.
Six chimney breasts have been sealed over in this house. If I owned it I’d reopen them all. It would mean having to uncap the chimneys and have them swept and inspected to make sure they’re still okay to use and it certainly wouldn’t be cheap. Well, not the kitchen fireplace. That now has the cooker in front of it and the old chimney contains the vent for the gas hob. Also, the gas pipe comes in through there because it’s the thinnest part of the wall. It’s only about a foot thick at the back of the fireplaces.
Living out here, surrounded by woodland, with plenty of fallen branches and dead trees and a landlord with loads of old wood he’s trying to get rid of, I could heat the whole place for the cost of a box of matches. What do you do if the power goes off and your heating doesn’t work? If it happens here I light up the wood burning stove. I can even boil water on it and have a cup of tea. How about you?
I’d also have continuous airflow through the house. That would be far healthier than sealing the place and breathing the same air over and over.
Best of all, I could sit by the fire smoking my pipe again. A pipe in a sealed room with no chimney draught soon causes something akin to smog. With an active fireplace it all just disappears.
There’s one thing I’d still need the central heating for. If the place is empty in winter, an hour of heating morning and night will keep it warm enough so the pipes don’t freeze. If there’s a power cut for a few hours, it just means the timer will be a few hours out. No biggie.
All those sicknesses on the rise, now blamed on smoking, were never anything to do with smoking. They were caused by the eco-freaks’ insistence on letting no heat escape the house and insisting we can’t burn stuff because ‘the environment, man’.
The environment has coped with humans burning stuff for millennia. Sometimes the environment will decide to clear a forest with fire and produce more smoke and flame than a generation of humans. The environment doesn’t die when that happens. In fact, forests need to burn down once in a while. Otherwise they’d be full of old dead trees shading the new growth from light. A clearout is Nature’s gardening tool.
Even in the 1900s when we had factories and steam engines belching smoke everywhere and smog in the cities, the environment didn’t die. It didn’t even change very much. We really didn’t have that much effect. There was no global warming then, so pretending it’s happening now that we have reduced our emissions so much is really pretty silly.
It’s like blaming the rise in asthma on smoking: global warming is worse now that our emissions are less.
The sealed homes,. the closed fireplaces, the lack of airflow, breathing the same air over and over – there is your asthma link. Most of the other infections too. Those in charge dare not say it, since they forced you to live in what amounts to a Tupperware fridge container.
I say it and I’ll keep on saying it. Smoke and fire are part of human existence and always have been. We have been playing with fire for so long now we are dependent on it – take it away and we become sick and feeble.
The Neanderthals couldn’t use fire indoors. They couldn’t tolerate smoke. Ask them how that worked out.
Oh. You can’t.