Recent Wildfires and How We Can Spark a Change to Prevent Them
Written by Sakshi Agarwal (Weloquent)
Wildfires have ravaged the earth since times immemorial. While some small-scale and contained fires do provide a chance for decomposition, revival, and revitalization of the forest floor and the soil quality, others cause mass destruction. With changes in the global climate, we’ve witnessed an unfortunate wanton increase in the frequency and intensity of the wildfires. They have become a menace to the forest’s ecology and the social and economic lives of the people in and around the region.
Here is a list of 6 such fires that have caused havoc in different parts of the world in only the past 2 years:-
1. Turkey, July 2021
200+ raging wildfires took down 1,600 square kilometers of Turkey’s beautiful forests in its Mediterranean region. They started in the Manavgat, Antalya Province of Turkey in July ‘21, and since then have spread across forests making it the worst wildfire the country has ever witnessed. Environmentalists claim that they are caused by heatwaves due to climate change.
2. Greece, August 2021
Starting around the 5th of August, Greece has faced more than 50 wildfires in the span of this month, making it one of the worst cases of wildfires to have wrecked the country's forests and property in many years. It is a heatwave fanned using coal and other natural gas that has raised temperatures turning the forests into tinderboxes waiting to light up. It was only a week ago that the fires seemed to quell, and the situation began to ease down.
3. California, August 2020
What has been termed as a mega-fire now, was one of the biggest wildfires in California in 100 years? It stretched to an area that covered around 4 million acres of land and took the lives of 31 people. The fires are reported to have been caused due to a culmination of several reasons - from climate change resulting in a drier region, lightning strikes that ignited the sparks, and even human negligence is suspected in a couple of areas.
4. Chernobyl, April 2020
The wildfires in Chernobyl’s Exclusion Zone (near the tourist attractions and main site of the accident) were ignited by a local resident when he failed to extinguish a spark near some dry grass that was close to the forest. The fires caused radiation levels in the region to increase by more than 16 times. It was finally brought under control after 10 days by firefighters and the aid of rainfall in the region.
5. Kerala, February 2020
Kerala witnessed an unusual spike in temperature rising to 38 degrees in February and soon after suffered a massive wildfire that took the lives of 3 officials who were trying to tame the same. The Meteorological department believes that it is the rise in temperature due to climate change and the change in wind patterns that have led to a rise in these wildfires. To prevent more people from coming in harm’s way, trekking activities have also been banned in the region.
6. Amazon Forests, August 2019
2019 saw an increase of 80% of the number of fires in the world’s largest natural oxygen tanks when compared to those that hit the land in the previous year. Many of the fires were blamed on the deforestation programs that tried to clear the land for more development projects. Those aided by dry winds and heat caused by climate change are said to have let these fires rage out of control. It was only in late August that President Bolsonaro banned the lighting of fires for clearing and only allowed fires that had been cleared by environmental authorities for the indigenous people.
While climate change seems to be the biggest instigator in the rising numbers of wildfires, it is also in our hands to take control of the fires and do our best to mitigate the damage. Here are some ways in which we can do our bit to prevent them in the future:-
1. Analysing the records of wildfires and ecological data over the years can yield valuable information on predicting patterns and can be used to brainstorm solutions for combating them effectively.
2. Indigenous and local knowledge from the native peoples in the land can be a useful tool in understanding how best we can work towards the wellbeing and protection of biodiversity and the livelihoods of people.
3. Camping and trekking, while fun and adventurous, can turn dangerous if campfires and firepits are left unattended or not disposed of till cold.
4. More important than anything is the need to stay alert, aware, and responsible when out in the wild. This includes reporting unattended fires, being cautious while using flammable equipment, and following the rules and guidelines set forth by the authorities for fire safety and prevention.
5. Last but not least, we must do all that we can to reduce climate change. Banning single-use plastic, eating a vegan diet, riding a bike to work/school, and employing other similar sustainable practices can help our Earth heal from its fires and prevent others in the future.