Fire – Greenpeace: 7 myths and truths about fires

An extensive text, posted on its website by Greenpeace , analyzes what happened with the fires of recent days, which caused huge ecological disasters, and analyzes myths and realities about reforestation , how the fires “entered” and reports of possible arson . Greenpeace points out that the best thing to do from now on is to let the forests grow again on their own and points out that extensive studies need to be done if we want to replace the pines with other species.

At the same time, he clarifies that most fires are always caused by human negligence and few are due to deceit and that the situation is certainly aggravated by climate change, which, however, can not be an excuse for inaction. As for the rumors that some people burned the forests to get wind turbines , the environmental organization points out that they have no such reason as wind turbines can be installed in both forest and reforested areas. The following is a detailed text by Greenpeace.

Myth: Tree planting should start immediately

Reality: Despite our longing to help, artificial reforestation can be from useless to dangerous for forest recovery. The forest is a much richer and more complex ecosystem than just all its trees. They are the wild flowers, the bushes, the soil and its microorganisms, the animals, the birds. If we enter the forest and we start planting without knowing it, by clicking in the wrong places while nature is trying to regenerate, we can cause significant damage. The same is true if we plant seedlings that may have disease, or are not suitable for the area or there is no way to find water and protection. So, we do not take part in any such hasty move! 

Often, the best thing we can do is simply leave the forest alone to recover naturally, as long as it does not receive other blows from human activities. In any case, the protection of burned areas and any interventions should be examined transparently by experts and done on a case-by-case basis, only if and when they recommend it. 

To put it another way. The tragic situation is due to the fact that almost no politician has listened to the advice of experts on climate change and nature protection. They take some spasmodic measures only after the tragedy. Do not perpetuate their mistakes! Our first obligation is to demand forest maps and to expand prevention and response planning. Any mistakes must be investigated and corrected so that we can be better prepared for the next extreme phenomenon which will unfortunately undoubtedly come, due to the climate crisis. 

Myth: To take out the pines and put other trees

Fact : We can not replace one species without causing serious damage to the entire ecosystem, with the risk of even its total collapse. As mentioned above, the forest is a very rich and complex ecosystem that maintains different species of flora and fauna that are interdependent. Even if we assume that this would have the slightest value in regenerating the green lost in some settlements, it will need to be studied before the entire sensitive area is endangered by the introduction of foreign and unsuitable species.

Myth: The fires were started by arsonists

Fact: In some cases, this may indeed have happened and will be answered if a systematic, thorough investigation is carried out. However, we know that the majority of fires are due to human negligence and not to deceit (eg from sparks from PPC transformers, from burning branches, discarded cigarette butts, etc.). About 10% of fires are due to natural causes, as has been the case in the Mediterranean for thousands of years. 

But whatever the reason a fire started – from an accident to a crime – the steps to prevent and deal with it must be the same. The last green of the country is completely unprotected, without a prevention plan, without a plan to limit the damage for whatever reason. Forest maps have not even been completed in 2021. At the same time, climate change is exacerbating the situation with severe droughts, heat waves, floods. Our forests are just as vulnerable to natural causes, negligence and deceit. Therefore, the first and main concern of the government is to protect them from any kind of danger. At this point, that is, prevention and protection ALL the time and not just the days when the mercury rises, the local community must be included in the planning. The locals know their area and its peculiarities. They can and must be allies at every turn. 

Myth: Forests were burned to generate wind turbines

Fact: There is no reason for them to do so, as they are allowed to be set up in both forest and reforested areas, so there is no incentive. Especially for the cases of wind farms in reforestable areas, while allowed by the institutional framework, they have an even higher degree of licensing difficulty. In short, the fire not only does not facilitate but complicates the implementation of the project. The famous Decision 2499/2012 Στε (Ολομ.), Which is mentioned in many posts on social media, does not change any of the above: a RES project is allowed in a reforestable area provided that the same conditions apply as in the forest area (before burns) and in fact with increased responsibilities for the protection of the reforestable area by the investor. 

It is worth dwelling a little more on this myth with winds and fires. We are dealing with a myth that reflects the -to some extent justified- concern of many Greeks towards wind farms. 

In short, in most cases the design method was and is problematic. The Special Spatial Framework for RES has not been updated, while all the environmental studies in the protected areas from which the relevant Presidential Decrees for their characterization and the Management Plans will emerge have not yet been prepared. In short, we do not know exactly what is allowed and where. This applies to all human activities and not just wind. In addition, the development of RES is not promoted in a participatory way, ie through the necessary dialogue with local communities but also with substantial incentives to participate. 

As a result of the above, local communities feel marginalized, their questions are not answered, proper and systematic information is almost non-existent. That must change and the process must be democratized. 

The biggest problem with this myth is that it distracts public opinion from the essence of the problem of fires (climate change, prevention, forest protection, off-plan construction). Tackling the climate crisis is a matter of survival for us, our children and our country. Wind farm installation is a necessary part of the overall solution (along with energy savings, other RES and energy storage). This is an extremely difficult exercise that we must do, having as a supply the scientific data and the participation of local communities in every step of dealing with the climate crisis. 

Finally, we can not ignore the sad reality of our country, which historically poses the greatest threat to forest ecosystems, off-plan construction and various other accompanying Greek patents, such as “residential densification” within forest areas. All Greek governments, without exception, stubbornly refuse to deal with the situation effectively. This is a serious problem that we need to look at and address. In the triptych “politicians – local government – society” we must all radically change the way we deal with forests, each from his own position and through his own role.

Myth: Politicians are to blame for everything

Fact: In Greece in 2021, many politicians do not even mention the term “climate change”. They live and govern as if there is no problem. It does not concern them, it does not concern them. Those who refer to climate change, especially government officials in the days of a major catastrophe such as fires and floods, do so to justify their inaction. The prime minister did the same again in his recent sermon on August 9th. He referred to the climate crisis but did not announce a single measure to halt it. It is worth mentioning that a few hours before the sermon, the latest UN report on Climate Change was announced, which confirms that the situation is ominous and that measures are urgently needed to reduce carbon emissions.

Some politicians have gone even further than nonsense. They have promoted and voted in favor of environmental laws or have contributed to the problem with tragic delays, bargains and half measures. Today the forest protection system is not only weakened but also provided perception which does not reflect the new data of the climate crisis. More funding is needed and emphasis on prevention (eg forest management, fuel removal, etc.), information and the active participation of society. A corresponding change of course is required in energy production and consumption, as in other activities (for example, travel and agri-food model).

At the same time, we must all make a promise to ourselves and keep it forever. In any electoral contest, local, national or European, we will demand a plan and measures from the politicians of our choice. It is now clear that tackling climate change and nature conservation have an impact on our lives, our health, our homes, our employment, our food production, our economy, our very survival. The necessary actions start from the Municipalities and the national government reaching up to the European institutions. If they want our vote, they will deal with the problem, explain their plan and be strictly evaluated by us. 

Myth: Climate change is to blame, nothing better could have been done

Reality: Favorite excuse of anyone in power at the time of disaster, while knowing that he was “fooling around” while there was still time. Climate change is making everything more difficult and this has been confirmed by the global scientific community for many years. Simply put, the more greenhouse gases we add to the atmosphere, the more intense the climate crisis becomes. If politicians had listened to scientists they would have tackled the problem in time, we would not have to wonder what our lives would look like from now on. However, of course there is a lot that can and should be done, even now. Anyone who claims otherwise is lying.

It takes a titanic effort, always transparent and democratic, to address the causes and protect the ecosystems on which we are absolutely dependent. Characteristically, the main axes on which the government must move immediately, are the production and consumption of energy away from the dependence on fossil fuels urgently, the abandonment of any plan for oil and gas extraction in our country, reduction of meat consumption and reduction of intensive agriculture and livestock and support for extensive livestock which can make a significant contribution to better management of forest ecosystems, change of transport systems, investment in green within urban tissues, protection of biodiversity on land and sea, forest maps, all-time forest , education, 

Myth: Let this summer pass and we’ll see

Reality: There is no margin. The recent announcement of the UN Climate Change Report (9 August) confirms the nightmarish scene we have already begun to experience and which will deteriorate rapidly if we do not change immediately. 

The next critical moment in our country, especially for the affected areas, is the first rains. There is no time to lose and radical changes in dealing with such phenomena must be planned and funded as soon as possible. The Recovery Fund is just one of the financial instruments that can be used. If the necessary actions are not already foreseen, we have extremely good reasons to proceed with the necessary changes. 

At the same time, people who have lost homes and income can not wait. The immediate support and solidarity of the first difficult days will be needed in the long run. For both symbolic and substantive reasons, the buildings that will be reconstructed will need the necessary incentives (and disincentives) to be converted into almost zero-emission buildings.

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