Books and Other Writings by Jonathan Apirion

Books and Other Writings by Jonathan Apirion:

NOTE ON THE AUTHOR, Jonathan Apirion:    JD magna cum laude, U of A law school,  MS from MN State, BA from St. Johns College, NM and MD.  Jonathan practiced law for almost two decades, with a focus on prosecuting sex crimes and homicides.  He was nominated for Arizona Felony Prosecutor of the Year in 2007 by County Attorney Mel Bowers and again in 2009 by County Attorney Brad Carlyon.  He did more than 65 jury trials.  Before he began practicing law, Jonathan worked for ten years in the outdoors, serving as Head Climber for Outward Bound, technical alpine guide and instructor for the American Alpine Institute and as a general climbing guide for Acadia Mountain guides and other organizations.




This book begins with the recognition that faith is something different from belief.  Belief is a human activity.  It is an action of thought which requires an object.  Belief is always directed towards an object – the thing in which we believe.  Because our human capacities are necessarily limited and unable to properly or fully describe or imagine God, all belief is directed to a false, lesser image of God – a false idol.  Belief in God is idolatrous.  Ardent belief is anathema to faith.  Faith is something more difficult and it involves a constant struggle to overcome mere belief.  Furthermore, God, as author of existence itself and all that is this universe cannot be limited in the same ways that all things within this universe are limited.  All things we understand are limited by the condition of either existing or not existing.  God cannot be so limited, and any thoughts or question of whether God exists or not are seriously misguided.   God cannot be limited by or subject to the worldly constraint of either existing or not existing.

This book is a discussion of some of the basic challenges of faith.  It is an effort to go a little further than Kierkegaard by avoiding the trap of Hegelian analysis that shuts down some of his more interesting lines of thought in Fear and Trembling and other works.

I have a second edition in the works, and so I strongly recommend you wait for that rather than reading this first edition. The second edition will be MUCH better.



running small groups

This book concerns the small group structure and how to make it work.  As examples I use the small groups of climbing guides and trial attorneys I have led and worked within.  Such small groups require that the person in charge give each member of the group actual authority that is proportionate to and commensurate with their responsibilities.  Organizations that utilize small group structures function better than organizations which do not, but it takes some work to make it work.  This book provides some simple guidelines and rules for a person who finds themselves running a small group or operating within one.  It is not a load of inspirational management / leadership crap and useless garbage as is the case with most books on either leadership or management.  It is much better than all of that nonsense.  Rather, this book gives the reader some defined frameworks for making sure that small groups you are involved with are functioning as well as they can.  If a person has some experience serving in the military, working something like a trail crew or on a construction site or in the field with climbing guides who have to be given autonomy for the decisions they make leading their support staff or clients, much of this will read as something they already know.  However, it might help you articulate the problems you see with the way your small group is being led, and more importantly, it might help someone who is thrust into the position of running a small group without such experience.  The motivation for writing this book was seeing how dismally certain individuals with whom I worked failed at running small groups of trial attorneys because they came into it after a life of college into law school into some success at the actual work followed by being given some responsibility for running a small group of attorneys without ever having had any life experience in the field where most people who are competent at working with small groups learn the basics.



climbing programs

This is basically a second edition of a book I did a long time ago titled “Institutional Climbing”.  It is a really useful set of basic procedures and policies for rock climbing programs running from basic top-roping to multi-pitch guiding.  It contains some excellent illustrations of techniques and rope-work.  It is really good, but unfortunately, at this point it is somewhat outdated in certain areas.




BOOKS IN THE MAKING  (I have done some work on each of these, but I can’t say when they might be finished.  Some have decent first drafts, others are just outlines with partial drafts.)


            This book is about my personal experiences with land stewardship in Maine, Vermont, North Carolina and Northern Arizona.  It includes a review of the most up to date studies and papers related to managing forests in a manner that is intended to keep them healthy rather than to maximize timber production.  A lot of it is about Ponderosa forests, because I am currently living in Northern Arizona where we have 15 acres of Ponderosa.  My motivation for writing this arises from interactions with well-meaning people who love the forests, but who don’t really understand what those forests need to be healthy.  Unfortunately, many of the people who love the woods the most have adopted a perspective that values individual trees over the health of the forest as a whole.  My hope with this book is that I can help move them towards a place where they accept the necessity of mechanical thinning given the damage we have done with many decades of unnatural fire suppression.

A healthy Ponderosa forest is mostly open space.  It will have a good number of really big, yellow/orange barked, fire resistant, mature trees and a scattering of smaller and medium sized trees that each have the potential to become big yellows themselves.  Between clumps of trees there will be open space and sunlight.  Fire suppression has resulted in much denser forests.  Low intensity controlled burns are great for clearing pine needles, seedlings and some smaller saplings, but once a sapling is established, low intensity burns will not kill it.   Once too many mid-sized trees have taken hold, the only solution that allows for the growth of the big yellow/orange barked Ponderosas is mechanical thinning.  A stand of overly dense mid-size trees maximizes the draw on all of the available water.  During a drought all of the trees get less water than they should, they all weaken uniformly and they all become more susceptible to bark beetles and fire.  When you have some big yellows, a few mid-size and smaller trees with lots of open space, even in droughts, there is enough water to keep the big trees healthy.  They can survive the regular smaller fires that should come through and burn out most of the seedlings.  Ponderosa forests where most of the trees have stalled out at mid-size have become so common that we often do not recognize them as problematic.  There is a limited amount of water and sunshine.  When the forest is too thick with mid-sized trees, none of them ever grow to their full potential.   “Ponderosa pine likes to grow in open, park-like stands with plenty of space between groups of trees. In pre-settlement times, periodic low-intensity lightning fires kept tree density down and the forests were very well adapted to fire because of the healthy spacing between trees. Today, we can use thinning to recreate those conditions.”  Sandy Benson, Forest Fuels Management Specialist.

When we first took possession of our property in Northern Arizona, just South of Flagstaff, it was obvious to me that there were some sections that were too dense.  However, it was not until I started measuring the actual basal areas of the two dense sections which occupy ridges on the Eastern and Western sides of the property that I realized just how bad it was.  In the paper, GUIDELINES FOR THINNING PONDEROSA PINE FOR IMPROVED FOREST HEALTH AND FIRE PREVENTION by Tom DeGomez, the author describes methods for calculating the basal area of a given stand of trees.  (The basal area per acre is the total area in square feet that the trees in one acre would occupy if they were all smooshed together.  Basically, you measure the circumferences of all the trees in a given smaller plot and extrapolate to get an approximation of the entire basal area per acre for a stand.)   DeGomez recommends a maximum basal area of 65 square feet per acre for our elevation and average precipitation.  The recommendations of other scientists range between 40 and 80 square feet per acre.  I have never seen any serious paper by a forest professional that recommends more than 80 square feet per acre for Ponderosa.  I was expecting that the denser stands on our property might be as much as twice the recommended level. But   they measured out at over 220 square feet per acre and I repeated the measurements multiple times using different techniques, because I thought I was probably doing something wrong.  The most meticulous measurement came in at 244 square feet per acre.  I have attached a photo of that section, which is about 2.25 acres all told.  You can see that in some ways it just does not look too bad.  There is space to walk between the trees.  However, at this density, there just isn’t enough water or sunlight to go around during lean times, so all the trees will become weaker and more susceptible to fire and bark beetle damage.  Mechanical thinning is obligatory.  We don’t want the huge fires that will take out all the trees and destroy all the houses in the area.  Those fires are inevitable if we do not take action.  Mechanical thinning is the only effective action.  Stewardship has to be based on science not sentiment.  Sometimes responsible stewardship means taking down trees that will result in a situation that is not be pretty in the short run.  It can be jarring and sad to take down nice mid-sized trees, but it is necessary.  It is my hope that sharing my thoughts, research and experience with taking down trees in a deliberate and conscientious manner can help others do the right thing, even when their initial impulse might be to preserve every tree.  Old school environmentalism was, in some instances, fueled by an understandably negative reaction to profiteering clear-cutting.  Unfortunately, the “save every tree” mentality has interfered with the adoption of competent, conscientious thinning.

Part of this book explains what I have learned about the basic how to do it of taking down trees.  I spent some time in a Quaker community in Vermont where some very experienced individuals taught me how to fell trees.  I explain why I always use hand tools (saws and axes and so forth).  Doing it with hand tools rather than a chain saw is important for many reasons.  It forces you to take your time with every tree and really think about whether it is right to take that particular tree.  It slows you down so that you are much less likely to screw up you hinge and have a tree fall in the wrong direction.  It is safer.  It is a part of showing respect for the life force of every tree and the forest.  Taking a tree down is serious – you are taking a life.  Using hand tools is also a demonstration of respect for your neighbors.  Chain saws, like other power tools, are an abomination.  The neighbors for whom you should show respect are both the people with houses near and all of the animals that inhabit your area.  (I am competent with chain saws, but I will not use them at this point unless conditions require it, and with trees that means only cutting them up once they are down, not for the felling.  The felling should always be treated as a sacred sacrifice.)  Also, and I think people might underestimate the value in this, doing this kind of work with hand tools is great physical exercise.  We have become a deeply unhealthy society in many different ways and some of those are rooted in a perverse relationship we have developed with our bodies and our environment because of the seduction of “easier” ways of doing things.

The failure to thin forests that are kept from engaging in their natural burn cycle is akin to the failure to trim the hooves of a horse that has been kept from engaging in the regular, daily running that would normally keep their hooves healthy.  Ponderosa evolved with fire.  Horses evolved with daily running and movement.  Take a second to think about the freedom and joy of movement that comes to a horse that lives wild and runs every day.  If we are going to keep it in a stall most of the time, the least we can do is trim its hooves.   In some ways, regular fires, once or twice a decade, are a similar freedom for Ponderosa forests.  The fire cleans out the waste and the crowding of too many small trees.  Our denial of that freedom to the forests is a great crime.  We should not abdicate our obligation to mitigate the loss through manual thinning.

Untrimmed hooves of a horse kept in confinement and a section of our land in Northern Arizona when we bought it with a basal area of 244 square feet per acre.  65 square feet per acre is the scientific consensus for maximum density in at this elevation with our precipitation averages.

untrimmed hoof









This synopsis is under review.


This book is many things.  Part of it is a set of guidelines for staying healthy in the weird world we live in.  Another big part is an analysis of how modern medicine took its great successes with reconstructive surgery, treatment of extreme diseases and so forth and then made great, unwarranted claims to competence in the area of general health and how people should live their lives day by day.  I have had several reconstructive surgeries that have kept me from becoming hobbled and handicapped.  Modern medicine’s ability to perform such miracles, in combination with its ability to treat acute diseases or emergent health problems of all kinds is truly amazing.  This book is in no way a criticism of modern medicine’s ability and competence to deal with acute injuries and diseases.  What has been accomplished on those fronts is overwhelming.  Rather, this book is a critique of the problematic way that the modern medical establishment has taken advantage of its competence in these areas to insist that it should also be deferred to in the area of general health and well-being, an area that modern medicine is barely beginning to understand and appreciate.  This book provides some guidance on how a person might make good use of modern medicine where appropriate and find real general health strategies that work better than what modern medicine has to offer at the same time.




This is pure traditional Sci-Fi.  Not much to say about it till it is ready to go.  It is the adventures of a retired attorney and a retired veterinarian in a solar system where a failed FTL experiment using the mass of our sun as a pivot point shifted our sun into a slowed time frame which has resulted in much diminished output, resulting in major famines and population shifts towards the asteroid belts where the populations had already adapted to the use of fusion reactors rather than solar arrays.  The veterinarian’s skills in sewing up people who can’t go to the hospital end up being much more useful than the attorneys, and they find themselves involved with the piratical, criminal element.  Adventures ensue.