FREAK Shots: Gas Masks and Getting Used to It

Reader Leonardo Piccioli sent this photo of one employee’s adaptation to smoke in Buenos Aires caused by natural fires nearby.

Smoke, Buenos Aires

In a similar fashion, Americans should begin adapting to man-made pollution instead of trying to reverse the inevitable, writes Spencer Reiss in Wired. “Climate change is inevitable,” he writes, and we should “get used to it” by focusing our energies on carbon-neutral houses and crops engineered to withstand drought.

Most Americans aren’t walking around in gas masks, but kids’ hoodies in London now come with them and Canada is promoting adaptation strategies, like heating with wood. (Hmm: possible terrible idea; anyone here ever lived with a wood stove?)

It’s also recommended you bring your own mask to the Olympics.

Here’s a different form of adaptation — to The Oregonian‘s overzealous newspaper circulation:


(Send your FREAK-worthy photos here.)


We took the environemnt for granted and never once thought of the consequences. Now we are paying the price for driving the gas guzzling car and the somking of cigarettes and just in general things like not recycling. Now we are all in a panic! Have you changed the way you are doing things or just complaining?

Fred Munn

The picture of the fellow in the respirator reminds me of a Gahan Wilson cartoon published in Playboy, back in the sixties, I think. As I recall, it showed a respirator-equipped man behind a desk in a flag-bedecked office, the Capitol Dome visible through the window behind him. An aide, also in a respirator, is saying, "Senator, there's a couple more of those environmental nuts here to see you."


Growing up in Appalachia, I'm surprised wood stoves aren't more common. They've always been the main source of heat in the homes I grew up in. My mother recently replaced hers with a new one that's very efficient. A few rooms that are far away from the stove have electric baseboard heat to supplement it when it gets really cold. As long as you have a supply of good wood, and the chimney is in good repair there shouldn't be any problems.

Wesley Tanaka

In this mountain town where I live in China, most people use wood for heating. The stoves here are not efficient like they undoubtedly are in Canada, so you need to feed the fire more often than you normally would, but it doesn't seem like a terrible idea... as long as there's wood to burn.

I've since switched to electricity during the winter because I didn't want to cut a hole in the window or roof for a chimney, but wood certainly puts out a lot more heat for a lot less money.

I met a Canadian here who laughed at us Americans for not knowing how to use a wood stove. I get the impression that wood stoves are fairly common (and often sophisticated) there.



The original post seems to imply that Canadians and/or the Canadian Government are using wood stoves to combat climate change. The first link the to gov site recommends subsidies to encourage switching from wood to natural gas. The secound article talks about how moving to a wood stove is a MIS-adaptation.

It is also worth noting that the second article was also about rural residents in Quebec, which was the area which was worst hit my the major ice storm of years past. The worst hit areas were without power for over 30 days (iirc). So that is enought time to run out of gas/diesel, cash(no ATMs or Banks), water(unless you had an bucket dipping well) and food. Even if people had generators (which were purchased in record qunatities in neighbouring and less severly hit Ontario) they would quickly run out of fuel in these conditions.

Considering the number of trees knocked down by the ice storm and the number of chainsaws purchased after the storm, wood stoves in rural Quebec dont seem like a bad idea.


Jack Springer

I have a european biofire wood fire stove in my home in Ketchum Idaho. It is very efficient I only have to light one fire and it heats for 12 hours.This heats a large portion of my house on very little wood even in the coldest days. The technology is quite old, proving that sometimes the answers to our problems can be found in the past. Also since I only have to make a fire once, it doesn't take out as many trees or cost me as much in fuel as other wood burning stoves.


I don't know if human bodies are that adaptable. There are all the studies linking allergies and illness to pollution.

"The risk of developing asthma, hay fever, eczema or other allergies is about 50 percent higher for children living 50 metres (yards) from a busy road than for those living 1,000 meters away, they said in a study released on Friday." Joachim Heinrich article at

Great images. We'll have to start rummaging through ours and submitting them.


Interesting question: How long will the world accept a hands-off approach to pollution? Will we let it get to what you're suggesting, seeing the light of day only through gas masks and the scenic window in your clean room?


well - at least it looks like the guy has the right cartridges for wood smoke if it's a North respirator.
It's been a while but I believe pink is particulate.
If he's wearing acid gas or organic vapor cartridges they'll clog like a mother and he'll die of suffocation anyway.

Logan Browne

I have lived with a wood stove and actually believe it is a great idea in low population density areas with lots of available forest. Given modern technologies I can heat my house with my own wood with relatively high efficiency and not require a large truck to drive propane to my house a long distance on rural roads. Now when it is not locally produced wood, or it is not sustainable production, there could be issues. But much of the rural US and Canada can benefit from this approach.


I think Spencer Reiss is correct. We really should be more realistic about climate change. The climate has seen extremely dramatic shifts forever.

The question isn't will it happen, but when and maybe for the few guilt ridden, what caused it.

Since it's inevitable, then we should prepare for it. I would think the last few years of natural disasters (hurricanes, typhoons, earthquakes, etc.) have demonstrated that Mother Nature is still firmly in charge.

In addition to trying to cut down on pollution, we should be preparing new ways to survive in a climate that is 20 degrees warmer on average.

Think of all of the time and resources we're wasting on trying to control something that's beyond our capability.


Ah yes, the unsolicited newspaper. Advertisers pay for the full circulation. But talk about externalities!

Gene Morris

The people or companies with the ability to remedy or help curtail the problem are running the oil train till its dry, mean while any innovation that could replace our energy dependency upon oil is bought and patented by the oil companies. Its just like any other technology now, people do not develop technology for the sake of its innovation they produce technologies with the incentive of money. This is also seen in other industries, especially home electronics, fifty years ago if they had the technology for HD TV's they still wouldn't go into production because Black and White TV's were selling, and HD TV's sales would only cannibalize profits. I do understand I have not cited any information or a worthwhile publication but I would like to know if anyone out there has any concrete evidence behind the aforementioned topic or at least what do you THINK?


Lived with wood oven. Hours of additional work every day - in winter while arranging it; and in summer - while preparing the wood. My London neighbour heats fis flat with wood - and he pays both for wood delivery and for workers to cut his garden trees' branches and to remove the still "wet wood" away. I get to breath the ashes in the winter thanks to the ineficient London chimneys and high density air distribution.


Can't the same sort of analysis be applied to watches? A very accurate watch can be very inexpensive.

karl w. hatten

The best approach is decreased consumption. You will know you are one the right track when the last self storage unit is retrofitted for a home and street cleaning is no necessary