Flaming Forests

High temperatures and heat-waves are spreading like…wild-fires.

Recently extreme hot weather of 40 degrees Celsius in Portugal resulted in a devastating forest fire in the Pedrogao Grande region, some 150 kilometres north-east of Lisbon, leaving scores dead and many more injured. Early this year, firefighters died battling some of the worst forest fires to hit Chile in half a century. In both countries the natural compositions of their forests had been changed for the sole commercial purpose of exportation of timber and wood-pulp with the planting of eucalyptus and pine trees, known for their enormous thirst for water. Capitalism has always placed profit before people, and it always will. The timber industry has contributed to the destruction of native forests and its habitat. The state is at the service of capital, at the service of forestry companies that have only benefited a small group of individuals. Yet the responsibility ultimately lies with those who keep voting for capitalist politicians.

There have also been numerous big fires in various other places around the world and in increasing numbers where typically there used not to be large-scale wildfires. Forest fires aren’t always necessarily bad and sometimes beneficial to the forest ecosystem for them to stay healthy. But this unnatural increase where entire forests burn down uncontrollably is bad for the environment and a risk not just to human life but also detrimental to human health.

According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, every state in the western US has experienced an increase in the average annual number of large wildfires over past decades. 2015 was a record-breaking year in the US, with more than 10 million acres burned. That’s about an area the size of the Netherlands or Switzerland. Large forest fires in the western US have been occurring nearly five times more often since the 1970s and 80s. Such fires are burning more than six times the land area as before, and lasting almost five times longer. The wildfire season has universally become longer over the past 40 years. There is very well-documented scientific evidence that climate change has been increasing the length of the fire season, the size of the area burned each year and the number of wildfires. Prevailing climate conditions have become warmer and drier due to global warming from greenhouse emissions and this enhances the likelihood of forest fires.

The winters are shorter and warmer. The summers are hotter and drier. Human-caused warming makes forests more susceptible to burning. Record heat has increased evaporation and dried-out the soil and tinder-dry vegetation will set forests ablaze. Worldwide, droughts associated with climate change are causing increasingly unnatural forest conditions leading to forest fires in a way never seen before. 

The situation is a direct result of unplanned and unrestrained industrial growth and an economic dependence on fossil fuels. It is crucial to understand that climate change/global warming has contributed to the higher temperatures. Our choice is between capitalism and its environmental destruction or building a healthy socialist planet. Socialism will place the resources of the world in the hands of the people. Until the capitalist is removed from the management of natural resources, we can only expect that the antagonism between human society and nature will continue with mounting tragic consequences. What we are witnessing is the impact of capitalism throughout the world and humanity needs a socialist society that has social control, where production is for use and not for profit. The capitalist system is working against the interests of humankind.


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