Southern Europe's coasts in flames: what must be done?

Firefighters and inhabitants in Greece, Turkey and Italy continue to battle countless wildfires. Numerous towns and villages have had to be evacuated, and some of the most valuable forests and agricultural land in the Mediterranean region have been destroyed. And there is no sign of the situation improving because the next heat wave with temperatures above 40 degrees is imminent.

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Ethnos (GR) /

Refugees are no longer the others

To Ethnos writes about the hundreds of people in Greece who have lost their homes and jobs in the last few days:

“In 2021 we will officially have the first Greek environmental migrants. ... In the last ten days more than 2,700 people gathered what they could in a rush and left their lives behind to board boats and ferries. ... They are displaced Greeks. Now it's no longer those treated by fascists and racists as outcasts or the unwashed or the foreigners who are being driven out of their homes because their lives are in danger. Now it's our aunts and our grandfathers.” (GR) /

We can't all run away

The Greek government needs to adopt a more nuanced strategy when evacuating places threatened by wildfires, the web portal In demands:

“Evacuations save lives, but citizens can and must help to put out fires. ... Evacuations are necessary for the 'civilian population'. The remaining citizens are needed to fight the fires, and must stay behind and work together with the firefighters. ... In those villages where inhabitants disobeyed the order to evacuate and joined the fight against the fires, numerous properties, crops, and houses were saved.”

Milat (TR) /

Help Greece! That goes for Turkey too!

Politicians must not use the fires on both sides of the Aegean for their own political ends, the conservative daily Milat warns:

“The plants and animals that are being consumed by the flames are also part of the lungs of the world. ... The fires that burned in our country until yesterday affected all of us. And now all that is valuable for humanity is also burning [in Greece]. What Greek politicians have done to us, and the problems in Turkish-Greek relations are another matter. It is not right to exploit the fires there in the interest of domestic or foreign policy. In a nutshell: Help Greece!”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The mediterranean is on fire

La Repubblica stresses the scope of the tragedy of the countless fires in the Mediterranean:

“It almost seems like a message from history, a reminder of the climate crisis: the emergency that will change our future is everywhere, here and now. The forests of Sardinia and Sicily, Cyprus, Albania, Morocco, Macedonia and now Turkey and Greece - the entire Mediterranean is on fire. ... More than 150 fires have broken out in Greece after a week of extreme temperatures, a relentless heat wave like those we have already witnessed from Canada to Siberia. One of the central problems of this hot summer is precisely that: heat waves are lasting longer and longer, on already parched land, and hot winds fan the flames that spread fast.”

Dagens Nyheter (SE) /

Prepare for a hotter planet

Extreme weather including floods, heatwaves and fires is likely to become occur more often, Dagens Nyheter is convinced, and also calls for urgent measures to prepare for the consequences of climate change:

“Even if we achieve the 1.5 degree target of the Paris Agreement, it still means the planet will be hotter. ... This means that climate change must not only be stopped, but it must also be parried. Both national and local authorities have a huge responsibility in this regard. Real estate must be adapted to the new risks and infrastructure must be revamped to include increased water volumes. Emergency services must be prepared for far more intense fires, floods and storms.”

Badische Zeitung (DE) /

Trial by fire for Erdoğan

The fires could become politically dangerous for the Turkish president, the Badische Zeitung believes:

“His ostentatious palaces and ecologically damaging prestige projects, the chaotic coronavirus crisis management, now the flaming inferno in Turkish forests: the country is drifting deeper into the maelstrom of a chronic political, social and economic crisis. Many Turks remember the earthquake disaster near Istanbul in 1999. The total failure of the government at that time initiated a political upheaval that led to Erdoğan's first election victory at the end of 2002. At the time he was a beacon of hope for many people in Turkey. Now these blazes could become a trial by fire for him that will decide his political fate.”

Hürriyet Daily News (TR) /

Same suffering on both sides of the Aegean

In Hürriyet Daily News, Istanbul-based Greek journalist Ariana Ferentinou analyses the language being used to describe the fires in Greece and Turkey:

“The coincidence of a natural disaster showed us that the languages of both countries still use similar semantics to express their feelings. 'We are from the same dough' is the expression used by both Greeks and Turks. To what extent these common expressions reflect a similar view of the world is difficult to tell. But the use of so many common expressions by contemporary media in both countries to describe a similar catastrophe indicates that deeper bonds still hold. After all, these two countries lived together and fought against each other for many centuries.”

Anametrisi (GR) /

Austerity was devastating for the environment

The austerity policies of the past decade are to blame for the wildfires in Greece, writes environmental activist Thanos Andritsos in Anametrisi:

“All governments that have not seriously invested in better forest protection and a unified institution for fire fighting are responsible for the fires. ... Particularly in the last decade of austerity memoranda the governments tried to destroy all environmental protection measures and facilitate investments (in tourism, infrastructure, energy production, etc.) at the expense of nature. This became a political paradigm. What's more, fires were also caused by a lack of infrastructural maintenance (e.g. of the electricity grid) as well as public and private activities in forest areas.”

El Periódico de Catalunya (ES) /

Our task now is to adjust

El Periódico de Catalunya wonders when people will finally recognise the signs of the times:

“Our [Mediterranean] region will be among the hardest hit by global warming. According to recent studies, the risk of fires could increase by up to 64 percent if average global temperatures rise by more than two degrees Celsius. ... What more will it take for the world to react before we reach the point of no return? We have to adapt our entire system of production, our territorial organisation and our everyday life to the new situation. One in which large investments in infrastructure no longer serve growth but the adaptation of our way of life to the requirements of the environment.”

Efimerida ton Syntakton (GR) /

Bad timing for selfies on the beach

Greece faces the prospect of highs of up to 47 degrees on Tuesday. Efimerida ton Syntakton is astonished that certain politicians seem to be thinking mainly of their holidays:

“The country is in the middle of a firestorm, the consequences of which are manifold and the risks for people and the environment extremely high. ... If in the midst of such a difficult situation for the country the prime minister [Kyriakos Mitsotakis] decides to leave Athens to relax, swim and take photos with other bathers, we don't need to look any further for the main culprit. For what is happening now and for what is yet to come.”

T24 (TR) /

Ankara has failed all down the line

Rumours of arson should not distract from the authorities' inability to extinguish the fires that have been raging for a week, T24 criticises:

“Too little electricity, too few hoses, too little water, and to make matters worse, helicopters, water bombers and vehicles that don't show up. ... If you could only witness this helplessness and loneliness, you'd never be speculating on TV or social media about who started the fire. ... Your only topic would - and should - be: who was unable to put out the fire! ... No government can shirk responsibility for days of inadequately fighting a fire that is leaving the country in mourning by tersely declaring 'we have no planes'.”

Denník N (SK) /

Like the musicians on the Titanic

If one takes a step back to look at the big picture one discovers an ominous scenario, Dennik N notes:

“The alternation of heavy rains and extreme droughts in Slovakia still looks relatively harmless compared to what we've observed worldwide just in the last month. The record melting rate of Greenland's glaciers, temperatures of almost 50 degrees in Canada, a billion dead animals on the Pacific coast of North America. In large parts of Siberia, the permafrost is melting. ... Tourists watching large fires on nearby hills from their hotel beaches are becoming the standard image of this summer in Europe. ... . It's reminiscent of the musicians on board the Titanic.”

Irish Independent (IE) /

Listen to the scientists - on the climate as well as Covid

Even if the correlation between current weather phenomena and climate change is not crystal clear yet, the overall trend is, The Irish Independent stresses:

“Some individuals appear to relish the debate, delighting when a scientist says, with the professional honesty we rely on, that they do not know or cannot tell with absolute certainty just yet. Scientists did not know everything about Covid when it landed on our doorsteps either, but they knew the general direction of travel, they spotted the key risks and worked exceptionally hard to mitigate them while teaching us how to adapt to protect ourselves. They warned, we listened and, for the most part, we responded. Now we have to do it again for climate.”