Sunday, August 26, 2007
Greek Wildfire Catastrophe
The news all weekend has been full of the Greek wildfire story. Even the site of the birth of the Olympic games is threatened. Both the New York Times and The Washington Post have carried a story by John F. L. Ross with this quote:
Forest fires are common during Greece's hot, dry summers _ but nothing has approached the scale of the last three days. Arson is often suspected, mostly to clear land for development. No construction is allowed in Greece in areas designated as forest land, and fires are sometimes set to circumvent the law.
It shows that even in forest ecosystems prone to fire, their number and severity are strongly influenced by social considerations. The politics and economics of land ownership count a lot. This has been true every place I have worked, from Pennsylvania to Burkina Faso. The toll of human suffering from these fires is unimaginable. I hope they are put under control soon.
Here is a link to a photoset from a Greek photographer on Flickr.
Here is a link to the NASA image shown here.