Wildfires: political leaders are not powerless

Devastating wildfires have been raging in southern Europe for weeks. In many places, they are still not under control, and the next heatwave is imminent. Siberia has also been hit by the worst wildfires in the country in years: almost four million hectares of forest are on fire. Commentators make it clear that other factors besides global warming are fuelling these disasters - and that individual states can still do much to counter the fires and their effects.

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Le Monde (FR) /

The real experts were driven out

The fact that the fires have been so intense around the globe in recent years is also due to ethnocide, explains philosopher Joëlle Zask in Le Monde:

“The bush is the victim of immense fires that no human technology, however sophisticated, can control. This is also because the peoples who have cared for the forests for 50,000 years have either been decimated or lost the possibility to protect biodiversity and maintain the landscape. Today, faced with the absolute impotence of Western rationality, it is we who are calling on the aboriginal rangers, but also the Amerindians, the Corsican foresters, the Californian breeders, the Siberian peoples for help. ... Let us hope that their 'fire culture' and their natural sciences have withstood the onslaught of 'civilisation' better than the nature in flames.”

Der Standard (AT) /

International court against environmental crimes needed

Der Standard lists various potential courses of action:

“The Mediterranean region is becoming a 'hotspot of climate change', the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned. Can this be stopped, reversed? It can. ... The landscape has to be changed. Turkey has reforested the land, but with the pine trees that predominate in the Mediterranean region and burn very easily. In addition, we must reverse the rural exodus. ... Perhaps we need an international criminal court for environmental crimes? Where the political rainforest burners from Brazil or Indonesia can be put on trial. There was a time when the International Criminal Court in The Hague was just an idea, too.”

Il Manifesto (IT) /

Forgotten land

Il Manifesto outlines the effects of depopulation and desertification in Italy:

“In the inland areas, in the Apennines and pre-Apennines, fertile land is being lost, residential areas abandoned, and our forests are decaying. The fundamental reason - alongside climate change - for fires as vast and devastating as those that have destroyed the forests of Sardinia and Sicily and are still raging in Calabria and elsewhere is the absence of humankind. What is missing is the agriculture and forestry infrastructure of the past, the maintenance of the forests and the adjacent areas. The fires not only devastate farms, vegetational heritage and biodiversity treasures, but also turn the high forests, Italy's water reservoirs, into charred soil that is destined to collapse.”

eldiario.es (ES) /

Explosive cocktail in rural areas

Lourdes Hernández, responsible for the forest programme at WWF Spain and author of the report The Planet on Fire, explains the following in eldiario.es:

“Behind these super fires that leave apocalyptic images, there are also other factors that make the Mediterranean landscape an explosive cocktail: structural causes such as rural exodus, abandonment of previously used land, poor forest management, construction in forest areas without protective measures and disastrous forestry policies and rural development that neither encourage people to settle nor create jobs. ... Spain could be the next country to go up in flames. ... What are we waiting for?”

Iswestija (RU) /

No magic wand - but plenty of work to do

Ecologist Andrey Shegolov calls in Izvestia for a carefully considered prevention strategy:

“Year after year, more forests burn down in Russia. ... There is no doubt that this dynamic is primarily related to climate change. The fire season is getting longer, the frequency and intensity of droughts, heatwaves and strong winds are on the rise. As a result, the general risk of fires is increasing and fires are becoming more severe and spreading faster. If these increased risks were offset by a change in people's behaviour and a significant increase in fire prevention spending, we could put a stop to the negative trend ... There is no magic wand that can solve the wildfire problem - only thorough and systematic work.”