A Burning Planet – The Problem with Forest Fires

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The whole world has had their eyes on Australia for a while now. Pictures and videos of people’s fight against the fires and animals’ struggle for survival have moved all of us. The bushfires there have killed at least 33 people and more than a billion animals, whilst severely damaging the ecosystem. The Australian bushfires are a recent and drastic example for the problem of forest fires. They are, however, by far not the only one. Every year, there are countless forest fires all over the world, some bigger than others. Within Europe, Portugal, Greece and Spain are generally most affected by them. And with globally rising temperatures, the danger of forest fires only increases.

 

Catalonia responds

Last summer for instance, temperatures in Spain reached over 40ºC and there was a constant warning of potential forest fires. In Catalonia for example, a fire was burning for days before it could be extinguished. As a response to the ubiquitous risk of forest fires, organizations like the Pau Costa Foundation (PCF) and the Grupo de Actuaciones Forestales (GRAF) were founded in Catalonia in 2011 and 2002 respectively.

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The PCF dedicates itself to the gathering and sharing of knowledge concerning forest fires and how to handle them. Initiated in Catalonia, the foundation aims at operating on a national and international level. GRAF has set up a surveillance system for fire risks in Catalonian forest areas. This allows them to be on alert for current fire risks and to oversee fire fighters in the field in case of a fire.
 

Devastating consequences

Since October 2019, more than a billion animals have been estimated to have died in the Australian bushfires. Not only does wildlife lose its life directly through the fire, but also because animals lose their habitat which leaves them with not enough food and shelter to survive. Many endangered species are dying out because the last of their kind die in the fires or in its aftermath. Even animals in areas that have not been directly affected by the fires struggle to survive because of the shift in the ecosystem.

The environmental consequences are equally vast. For one thing, the surroundings areas and rivers are contaminated with ash. Apart from the incredibly high number of plants that have been burnt in the fires, a great number of the insects that would usually pollinate the surviving plants are gone, which again decreases the plants’ population massively. The damage through greenhouse gases (GHG) is twofold: the extensive burning of biomass releases GHG in the atmosphere. Additionally, through the decrease of forest areas that serve as a natural sink, less GHG can be stored. This is not only a local problem, but has consequences on a global level as well.

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A Vicious Circle

Burning forests contribute to climate change. In turn, climate change increases the risk of forest fires. It is a vicious circle. However, that does not mean humans have no chance to intervene. One of the main drivers of climate change are fossil energies, such as the coal industry. Australia’s economy is largely based on coal mining. That does not mean that we can just blame the Australian industry. Said coal is mostly destined for export, Europe being a major importer. In that way, reducing our own use of fossil energies is one way to decrease the risk of forest fires. This is just one example of how economical and ecological processes worldwide are intertwined.

 

Social Forest

Social Forest works towards a reduced risk of forest fires in two main ways. Through the right forestry techniques, the spreading of forest fires can be restricted. The necessary steps to reduce the risk of forest fire spreading is part of the sustainable forestry Social Forest offers.

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Besides this direct action, Social Forest has an indirect impact on forest fires through the contribution in efforts against climate change. Besides other positive environmental effects such as the increase of biodiversity, Social Forest enables the storage of CO2 through the sustainable management of forests. As a company you have the opportunity to support us in that undertaking. Through the connection of your employees with the forest, this is also an opportunity to foster a deep sense of ecological responsibility in your organization. Understanding the necessity and the benefit that comes with having a harmonious coexistence with nature and the gravity of the damage that is done by exploiting its resources is an important step in caring for the environment. To find out more about how to work together with us, visit the Social Forest website!

 

Related SDG

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