During 2019, there were many manifestations of global changes in the planet’s climate system.
Meteorological observations record record highs, frequent flooding, the decline of the Great Australian Coral Reef, and the disappearance of the ancient Aqocull glacier. Scrolls are reported, but less interested in humanity than the news of Kim Kardashian’s life. The exceptions are fires.
For several million years, our ancestors lived in the African savannah, not interested in currency fluctuations, home loans, and Prince Harry’s family life. They were only really concerned about leopards and fires. Centuries passed and leopards ceased to be a problem, they were replaced by new, previously unknown dangers. But we are still afraid of fire no less than leopards. The echoes of those times are still felt – most of all we pay attention to the color of these two dangers: yellow-black or red.
The year 2019 has not been quiet either for Ukraine or for the world. Many problematic topics can be listed, but the “hottest” (in every sense) was the topic of fires. Many Ukrainians are outraged: Why is a photo of a burnt kangaroo provoking a more violent reaction than a portrait of a Ukrainian warrior in a mourning frame? Because the fear of fire is much more ancient feelings of patriotism and more firmly killed in the subconscious.
Let’s try to look at the topic of Australian fires: are there no signals relevant to Ukrainians?
Fires in Australia are not uncommon, but it is the driest continent. And they started here thousands of years ago. According to Paleobotanical data, at the end of the Mesozoic era, when dinosaurs walked the Earth, native plants had special education to protect against fire.
But the real fires in Australia became regular at the end of the Ice Age (about 55,000 years ago), which was compounded by a number of circumstances. One of the reasons for their emergence was global climate change, which in Australia was manifested not in the formation of glaciers, but in the increase of droughts.
Contributed to the fires and the peculiar situation prevailing in the wildlife of the continent. The main predators here were crocodile quincana and giant lizard megalania. Unlike the inhabitants of Eurasia and Africa, they were not threatened by predators, wit and agility equal to wolves or big cats. Therefore, the local animals were not ready for the penetration of the continent by a man with his hunting companion – a dog.
Humans and wild dogs quickly destroyed both predators and large herbivores. Modern kangaroos and wombats are just remnants of the former diversity of Australian herbivores.
About 55,000 years ago, the continent had a problem: Who would eat vegetation instead of extinct animals? Neither humans nor Dingo dogs obviously wanted to chew the grass. The dry and fallen leaves accumulated in large volumes, occasionally leading to fires. Aboriginals started burning dry vegetation to prevent misery.
Despite the fact that prophylactic fires have been relatively effective for tens of thousands of years, it is difficult to call this a natural event. In addition, this was sometimes the cause of major fires. Today, Australia is trying to abandon the ambiguous method of “preventive arson”, but has not yet developed a better alternative.
The problem of fires is not only painful for Australia’s forests. It touched, for example, the Amazon forests and the Siberian taiga.
There are parallels between the fires in Australia, Brazil and Russia. The ecosystems of these countries are different: dry Australian bush, wet tropical rainforest and cool Siberian taiga. And there are big differences between countries: a civilized Australia, a booming Brazil and stuck in Russia’s Soviet past. But in all three cases the root of the disaster is similar – irrational land use. Unfortunately, this also applies to Ukraine.
Forest users often misuse the “log cabin” by using them to cut down healthy trees. So it is not surprising that environmentalists are protesting against “logging” and an ambiguous situation arises: clearing permits cover up illegal logging, and a ban promotes dryland accumulation and increases the likelihood of fires. The problem could be solved by state intervention, but it is not (unless, of course, we consider such “crunching” of unscrupulous land users).
Although the scale of fires in our region is much smaller (at least so far), there are many problems at all levels. Often our compatriots willfully set themselves on fire in dry grass and reeds, not only destroying many animals but also endangering humans. Others just don’t care about fire safety.
Among the three countries mentioned above, Australia has the most optimistic future. No matter how bright it burns now, native species of plants and animals have become accustomed to wildfires since the time of the dinosaurs. And, as the last 50,000 years have shown, they have succeeded. The flora and fauna of Ukraine, Brazil and Russia is not endowed with such properties.
In addition to the irrational use of nature, another reason for the increased forest fires is the global changes in the climate system of the planet.
An example is the fires in Sweden, although much less is said about them in the media. The fact that fires of Australian woodlands or Siberian taiga is quite common, scares only its scale. While in Sweden, for centuries, large-scale forest burning has never been known!
Skeptics say that how many degrees should the temperature rise in order for the Swedish forests to break out? But the point is not to increase the readings of the thermometer, but rather that warming promotes the formation of so-called blocking anticyclones in the atmosphere. In such circumstances, the weather may not change for several weeks or even months. Today, Ukrainians can see this by looking out the window. The absence of weather changes contributes to droughts, during which even a fragment of a glass or an abandoned cigarette can cause a fiery element.
Today, like thousands of years ago, fire is drawing attention. We need to think about this signal at least. And not for the sake of faraway Australia, but for ourselves. Australia’s nature will soon recover, eucalyptus forests are surprisingly vibrant and fast-growing. And they are reborn rather than the artificially burned Kherson forests and the Carpathians.
We need to change our environmental strategy both locally and globally. Otherwise, the offspring will be concerned not by fluctuations in exchange rates, but by leopards.