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Our Global Fire Crisis is the Sign of a Dying Biosphere. But We Can Take Action


The Guardian - A good, natural fire can be a cleansing force. Yet, the recent and ongoing catastrophic fires around the world – including in Brazil, the US, Sweden, Russia and Australia – are not moments of a healthy fire cycle but conflagrations of a dying biosphere.

Terrible as they are, the fires in the western American states are only middling on a global scale. As of early November, 8.6m acres (3.5m hectares) had burned nationally, with half of that total in California. This year has been the worst fire season on record for Colorado and California, the latter enduring five of its six largest fires since colonization. But the American catastrophe pales in comparison to Australia’s wildfires last summer, which incinerated an eye-watering 46m acres. More than a fifth of the country’s forests were destroyed in a single year. Siberia’s fires in 2020 were even bigger – 47m acres. A tenth of South America’s largest wetland, the Pantanal, went up in smoke this year – some 6m acres – coupled with the Amazon losing 8.5m acres. That latter figure is only half the size of last year’s fiery nightmare.


These unnatural wildfires may offer few ecological benefits, but they clear out the deadwood clogging up the public sphere. It is commonly understood that the recent fires are linked to climate change, but that is only half right. “Land-use change” is a cause of similar importance, yet it takes up little space in our public sphere. While the center and left may congratulate themselves that they “get” climate change unlike.... READ MORE




TheGuardian.com, formerly known as Guardian.co.uk and Guardian Unlimited, is a British news and media website owned by the Guardian Media Group.

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