Raging wildfires

Published August 12, 2021

AFTER centuries of neglect and abuse, the earth appears to have finally lost its cool with mankind. Ferocious fires have been raging in different parts of the world. In North Africa, wildfires in the Kabyle region of Algeria have claimed at least 65 lives, almost half of them of soldiers fighting the blaze and rescuing people from the flames. In Greece, the country faces a “natural disaster of unprecedented proportions” according to Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis, as around 600 wildfires are causing devastation “in all corners” of the country. The most affected region is Evia, the second largest island of the country where hundreds of volunteers and firefighters are engaged in putting out the blaze. Fires have also been spreading in Italy’s southern regions where firefighters have reportedly extinguished around 45,000 wildfires since June, almost double the number witnessed last year. Multiple fires have also destroyed large swaths of pine forests in southern Turkey over the past couple of weeks, spelling disaster for the country’s tourism industry. Siberia — the region known for its merciless winters — has not been spared either. The smoke of the numerous fires burning there are said to have reached the North Pole. Indeed, the fires burning in Siberia are reported to be bigger than those burning in many countries combined. On the other side of the world, the Dixie Fires in northern California have burnt down over 900 buildings as firefighters brace themselves for more blazes and destruction.

While wildfires in many areas of the world are not an unusual natural phenomenon, and indeed play a part in the survival of certain ecosystems, what is alarming is their frequency and intensity in the present age. Climate change, that is fuelled in large part by man’s own contribution to appallingly high carbon emissions, leads to hotter temperatures where one spark can end up devastating thousands of acres of land. This demonstration of the “unprecedented fury of nature” in the words of the Greek prime minister is a clarion call for action.

Published in Dawn, August 12th, 2021

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