There’s Swedish Death Cleaning And There’s Finnish Forest Raking.

Said Meade, as I was reading “Trump Says Finland Prevents Wildfires by ‘Raking’ Forests. Finland Isn’t Sure What He’s Talking About” (Fortune). “You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forests, it’s very important,” Trump said amid the ruins of the town of Paradise, which was entirely razed by […]

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There’s Swedish Death Cleaning And There’s Finnish Forest Raking.

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Said Meade, as I was reading “Trump Says Finland Prevents Wildfires by ‘Raking’ Forests. Finland Isn’t Sure What He’s Talking About” (Fortune). “You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forests, it’s very important,” Trump said amid the ruins of the town of Paradise, which was entirely razed by the Camp Fire. He added that President...

Said Meade, as I was reading “Trump Says Finland Prevents Wildfires by ‘Raking’ Forests. Finland Isn’t Sure What He’s Talking About” (Fortune).

“You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forests, it’s very important,” Trump said amid the ruins of the town of Paradise, which was entirely razed by the Camp Fire. He added that President Sauli Niinisto of the “forest nation” of Finland told him “they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”…

(For a post about Swedish death cleaning, go here.)

Trump is getting mocked for using the word “rake,” but I’m thinking it’s not rake rake. (I’m deploying a Whoopi Goldberg style locution.) Everyone seems to be acting as though they don’t know what Trump was talking about, and the image of lots of Finns with rakes out in the forest is silly. It made me think of “The Walrus and the Carpenter”:

The Walrus and the Carpenter
Were walking close at hand;
They wept like anything to see
Such quantities of sand:
“If this were only cleared away,”
They said, “it would be grand!”
“If seven maids with seven mops
Swept it for half a year.
Do you suppose,” the Walrus said,
“That they could get it clear?”
“I doubt it,” said the Carpenter,
And shed a bitter tear.

If seven Finns with seven rakes raked the forest for half a year, do you suppose, the Trumpster said, that they could get it clear?

But if anyone is inclined to give Trump a sympathetic reading, consider that “raking” is simply a description of gathering underbrush together for removal, which might be done with some larger-scale equipment than the leaf rake that springs to mind. I googled for a few seconds and learned that there’s something called a ratchet rake that attaches to a tractor.

Laughing at Trump and picturing Finns with rakes in the forest is a distraction from the real question of whether the Finns have anything to teach us about resisting and controlling forest fires. Trump said they’re “raking and cleaning and doing things.” What things? According to the Fortune article, what’s working in Finland is “the country’s extensive forest road network—which helps firefighters move quickly and also slows down fires—and the fact that so much of the Finnish forest is privately owned. That means many small sections of the forest are cleared or thinned out, and therefore don’t easily let fires spread. Finland is also full of rivers, lakes and wetlands.”

How are the small sections cleared or thinned out? Maybe it looks something like this.

ADDED: WaPo put up a piece titled “Trump Says Finland Prevents Wildfires by ‘Raking’ Forests. Finland Isn’t Sure What He’s Talking About” (Fortune).

“You’ve got to take care of the floors. You know the floors of the forests, it’s very important,” Trump said amid the ruins of the town of Paradise, which was entirely razed by the Camp Fire. He added that President Sauli Niinisto of the “forest nation” of Finland told him “they spent a lot of time on raking and cleaning and doing things, and they don’t have any problem.”…

(For a post about Swedish death cleaning, go excavator rake; or a McLeod tool (a.k.a. a “fire rake”); or the 19th century European practice of removing organic topsoil known as “litter raking;” or — as a reader put it in a profanity-laced email to The Washington Post — “He didn’t mean literally raking with a rake, like some guy with a little rake from Home Depot, it’s a term meaning to clear underbrush and rotted forest floors with control burns which California does not do.”

The White House has not responded to a request for clarification on what Trump meant by “raking,” so the above possibilities cannot be totally discounted.

However, it’s worth pointing out that when the president spoke of watching firemen rake beneath a little nut tree, he moved his hands back and forth as if he were miming a garden rake.

They love writing “He is wrong,” but they hate saying “We were wrong.”

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