Media’s attention is currently drawn to the Corona virus epidemic. But, what’s the status of fires that were burning major biodiversity hot spots? The answer is provided by today’s map from NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (see Figure 1 below). In South America, Amazon rainforest fires are record-breaking. Much larger devastating series of fires are raging in Africa. In Australia, bushfires are unstoppable. Satellite images show that South-East Asia is burning too. Even Taiga, the world’s largest forest, spread from northern Russia to northern America, had been facing unprecedented wildfires for months.
I feel deep sorrow when I see this massive destruction of millions of trees. Many had took several decades to grow, while producing our precious oxygen. Some were doing its for several centuries. This massacre is even more traumatizing to me, since millions of animals get trapped, suffocate or burn alive.
What can we do about this disaster?
Wildfires: a Natural or Man-made Phenomena?
Research shows that fire does spontaneously spark in nature. However, the events we are witnessing are much beyond natural fire regimes. The cause is human activities. They do increase the number of fire outbreaks, their frequency, and their intensity.
The resulting irreversible damage to the environment reinforces the vicious circle of climate change (see Figure 2 below). Wildfires are more likely to occur during dry periods with high temperatures. Burning trees release carbon dioxide. The greenhouse effect is increased by these extra CO2 emissions. The consequence is longer dry periods with even higher temperatures, causing more fires.
Climate Change Consequences Are Beyond What We Think
Plants and animals do pay a hefty price as shown by many shocking videos from Australia. But, this is not the only consequence of the climate turmoil. Smoke and aches make the air unbreathable in many cities, increasing respiratory illnesses and related premature deaths.
Environmental disasters also have financial consequences. On the individual level, there is an increasing number of displaced people who loose their homes and all belongings to fire or floods.
On the economy level, direct financial losses attributed to climate-related disasters go beyond the roof. The World Bank reported that, in 2015, the estimated economic cost of fire to Indonesia is $16 Billions! In the US, expenses for suppressing 2019’s fires in California alone reached $422 millions (see Figure 3). That’s an increase of +78.8% compared to 2018!
Do We Do the Right Things to Save the Planet?
For so many years, I’ve did my best to follow recommendations to help fight climate change. As far as I can remember, my home has been heated to 19 degrees Celsius (66.2 Fahrenheit) in winter. The thermostat automatically turns down to 17 degrees Celsius (62.2 Fahrenheit) when we sleep, and when we go out.
It’s been more a decade now that I bike to work, all year long, all 4 seasons. No car, no fuel, no emissions, no global warming. For long distances, I mainly rely on public transportation. I’ve also been reducing the amount of meat I eat.
But, when I see all the burning forests, I feel depressed. I wonder if what I’ve been doing is useless. Should I do it differently? Or should I do something else?
One Hope: Act Hand in Hand
The United Nation have chosen 2020 to be the International Year of Plant Health (see Video below). This for sure will spark initiatives in favor of the planet. TED’s #JoinTheCountdown movement is a major one that worth joining. But, it should not be the only one.
We need all diverse contributions, large and small, involving young and older ones, with individuals, NGOs, and businesses. Every drop matters!
Take action now!
Simple Actions Can Save the Planet
Baby steps done repeatedly are effective to save the planet. Just keep going. The cumulative effect of our collective efforts will save the forests from turning all into aches.
One simple thing to start with is spreading the word. Discuss with family, friends, and co-workers. The global conversation will fuel and inspire action.
So, please, share your ideas and actions with everyone, on every channel and every social media.