Posted by: Tony Carson | 3 September, 2007

The flaming future: more megafires

If you think there are more hellaciously huge forest fire these days than there used to be, you’re right.

The conflagration in August that ate up almost half a million acres of Greece was just a quarter of the 1.9 million European acres that went up in flames.

Matters are even worse in the United States, according to this article in The Independent, where 20 years ago, fires burning over 5,000 acres were relatively rare. In the past 10 years, however, there have more than 200 conflagrations 10 times the size. Last year, 9.6 million acres of the country were devastated, beating an all-time record set 2005. This is the sixth time in the past decade that a record year has immediately been surpassed in the following 12 months.

A year ago the Australian state of Victoria suffered 200 fires in a single day. There have also been megafires in France, Spain, Portugal, Canada, Russia, Mongolia, Indonesia, South Africa and Brazil.

Why all the scorched earth? Two reasons:

1. global warming and its attendant sweltering temperatures and parching droughts,

2. the moralists’ moratorium on controlled burning which has inevitably resulted in a build up of highly combustionable materials just waiting for a lightening strike or human negligence.

The learning curve of adjusting our ways to more effectively deal with our environment in the face of dramatic temperature change is proving as difficult to grasp as our acceptance of the conditions that provoked these conglagrations. We must get smarter.


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