Amazon Fire
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When the forest burns

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Amazonia, Equatorial Africa, Siberia, California... The world's forests are going through a dark period in these troubled times of climate change. And suddenly a new term appears on the scene: we talk about big fires, mega-fires. The forest fires that marked out the Mediterranean summers seem small, derisory compared to these massive fires, which are capable not only of destroying, killing and ravaging thousands of hectares, but also of compromising the great balances of our life on Earth.

"Green lung", "carbon sink", "deposit of biodiversity"... There is no shortage of expressions to describe these great forests ravaged before our eyes by the flames. The same state of astonishment that millions of people felt when they discovered the fire in the "forest" of Notre-Dame de Paris. The forest is burning, and not only under the media spotlight in the Amazon. It also burns in Africa, Russia, Greece, California. The subject occupied the speaking space of the last G7 and was the occasion of a rather undiplomatic jousting match between great heads of state. Put on the blacklist by the international community, the ultra-right-wing president of Brazil has become the scapegoat for this burning issue. Yet the Amazonian forest is not only burning in Brazil, even if the galloping deforestation is not helping. Peru, Bolivia, Suriname, Guyana and even French Guyana have recorded an increase in fires in their share of the Amazon rainforest this year.

If all eyes were on this part of the world.., those of NASA's satellites detected other fires, too. considerable. In Angola, Zambia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo ; so many countries affected by greedy deforestation.

In Siberia, three million hectares of land are gone up in flames this summer. Fires propelled by drought and the exceptional temperatures recorded as a litany of records this year. year. Same thing in Canada's far north, where the torrid month of July has favoured the start of gigantic fires.

Fires that say something about our humanity

These mega-burns are not natural disasters... like the others. They tell us something about our humanity. They provoke a brutal clash between a savage phenomenon and civilization. This is what thinks the philosopher Joëlle Zask who has just, very opportunely, published " When the forest is burning. Thinking about the new ecological disaster "(Ed. First Parallel). She approaches the great forest fire as a revealer, a indicator, a buzzer.

Amazon Fire
Aerial photo published by Greenpeace showing smoke from forest fires in the Amazonian biome of Altamira Municipality, Para State, Brazil, August 23, 2019. AFP PHOTO / GREENPEACE / VICTOR MORIYAMA

Faced with the vision of fire and the burnt forest, many beliefs shatter. To think that thanks to our beautiful technologies, to our art of piloting flame-fighting planes, to our strategic intelligence to thwart the whims of the winds, we could control such a phenomenon proves to be, in front of the spectacle of the mega-fires, a sad lure. Likewise, to think that forest fire is normal, beneficial to biodiversity and finally that it is an ancestral and convenient agricultural practice is the nonsense of a romantic naturalist. Such fires cannot be contained. They are stronger than our technologies. They are not just another tool offered to farmers to "tame" nature.

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Mega fires act as a revealer and volatilize our most established beliefs. They also install us in a sense of the end of the world. In this sense, for Joëlle Zask, the megafire is an indicator: " it signals that we are at an impasse. It acts as an alarm bell and renders absurd the dichotomous structure that underlies our relationship with nature, about which we finally nourish two great ideals: that of a nature so dominated that it must obey obediently to our needs and our predictions, or that of a virgin nature destined to be respected and contemplated from a distance. ». The philosopher thus sends the interventionists back to back, in the Bolsonaro style, and the evangelical ecologists of a sacred nature. Both of them are wrong when it comes to finding ways to control, counter or avoid mega-fires.

Total Event

These are a "total event". They are both natural and social. 85 to 98 % of them, depending on the source, are of human origin, caused by negligent, reckless, or criminals. Among these are not only deranged arsonists; there are also those who take an interest and act out of greed. In this, the big lights act as a powerful warning. Destruction large tracts of forest, reducing to ashes the treasures of the world's forests. biodiversity, engage human responsibility. Their degree of seriousness reaches that of tsunamis, volcanic eruptions or earthquakes. But while no one will come up with the idea of mastering these disasters and even less to set them off, the plan to dominate the fire continues and carries in the very conditions for its future spread.

Amazon fire
Aerial photo published by Greenpeace showing smoke from forest fires in the Amazonian biome of Altamira Municipality, Para State, Brazil, August 23, 2019. AFP PHOTO / GREENPEACE / VICTOR MORIYAMA

In the mega-fires, Joëlle Zask sees an "opinion accelerator" and the opportunity to question ourselves not on the safeguarding of the Earth, which will survive us, but on the conditions of human existence. She asks us to think about how to let our usual practices of nature continue and how they can be responsible for a phenomenon that is turning against us. The fires would then be an opportunity to finally define a new grammar of our interactions with our natural environment. It is time to become aware of this and this brilliant little book acts as a salutary electroshock.

READ: Joelle Zask, When the forest burns. Thinking about the new ecological disaster "(Ed. First Parallel), 196 pages.

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