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Someone getting it right

The heat, underpopulated rural areas with poor forest management, and strong winds have combined to create a perfect storm for wildfires. About 24,700 acres have burned this week.

It’s not climate change. This though:

The Quinta Do Lago resort near Faro, owned by Irish billionaire Denis O’Brien, released a statement and said tourists in some areas close to the fire have been evacuated as a “precaution”.

Watched that from the balcony. Cycled out to closer to it as well. Even still 20 km away it was like sticking your head into a bonfire smoke trail. However, it’s also true that the fire was in a wasteland area. Abandoned farming land etc.

The cause of all of that is that Portugal is richer than it was. The marginal land that used to be farmed now isn’t. But that also means that it’s not managed. The native ecology is built to burn every few years. An obvious problem therefore.

One dealt with by allowing the wilds to do that, burn, only controlling when it threatens substantial built areas. A cottage out in the wilds is screwed….a village will have the fire crews protecting it.

18 thoughts on “Someone getting it right”

  1. This is actually one of the things. Many fewer herds around than there were 20 and 30 years ago.

  2. Interesting to see that with population rises and ghastly fossil fuels, artificial fertilisers, herbicides and pesticides, Portugal doesn’t need as much land as it did.

    Though I must admit Tim, that a quick google gives the impression that the whole of Europe is ablaze.

  3. It’s most if not all of the thing,Tim. These lands were managed. Grazed by goats, firewood collected. They were stripped bare every year. Because they had to be. Now people are too rich to bother.
    Something people really do not understand. There is not a single square kilometer of natural land in the entirety of Europe. What’s there is what people wanted to be there. “Rewilding”is letting it return to what it originally was before people. They aren’t going to like what they get.

  4. ‘“Rewilding”is letting it return to what it originally was’: which won’t actually be possible – in the case of Britain – until they reintroduce aurochs, bison, and any other missing beasties, and exterminate pheasants, grey squirrels (and perhaps red too), ponies, rabbits, goats, most varieties of deer, and so on. “They” will also need to exterminate any plants , including trees, introduced by man, and the insects, yeasts, weeds, and whatnot that came with them. It would all be a Herculean task.

    I forgot to mention the unicorns.

  5. Dearieme is probably right.

    I always had the notion that pre Roman Britain was akin to Canada in many ways: swamp punctuated by forests.

    I guess that we had more deciduous trees, though.

  6. Just curious.. Given that at least some smart ( not neccesarily “educated”, actually smart..) people in Portugal know this stuff, and in theory must have pointed out the obvious..

    Why aren’t there firebreaks around the villages for when the Inevitable happens?

  7. @Grikath

    I would guess the answer is “many villages”. Less effort to protect the couple of percent (?) that end up being in harm’s way once a year than creating (and more importantly maintaining) fire breaks around every single village for the whole season.

  8. Firebreaks are one of the things that enviros and NIMBYs really don’t like. Prior to the 70s, firebreaks were bulldozed into the hills above Los Angeles. They seemed to haved worked pretty well. However a lot of folks didn’t like the ugly brown gash cut into the green (in winter) hills. So they planted grass on them and called them fuel breaks. As the fires of the last twenty years can attest, that didn’t work so well. Especially when you stop doing controlled burns.

  9. Being picky, but why does Rewilding mean letting it return to what it originally was before people? That may be what some people imagine should be the result, but doesn’t it more literally mean ‘return to a state achieved without human interference’? Humans having been around for ~200,000 years, the environment has changed quite a lot over that time, and not solely due to diesel engines, so what was here before humans would quite possibly not be here now if there hadn’t been any humans to muck around with things.
    Also, I have this suspicion that many proponents of re-wilding don’t want what nature will deliver, but something closer to what Disney would deliver.

  10. @EvilDrSmith
    why does Rewilding mean letting it return to what it originally was before people? That may be what some people imagine should be the result, but doesn’t it more literally mean ‘return to a state achieved without human interference’?

    I’d go further and add that such a state is not static but dynamic – it will not stay as is but will develop. Back in the days when I was a student in the 1950s, ecology was understood to be the study of populations and habitats with emphasis on their developmental progression and not the environmetal crap that is preached by those who have no grounding in basic science (yes, the so-called Greens). Over time bare rock will accumulate debris (soil) and grasses will eventually colonise, followed in time by larger plants, bushes and eventually trees. A simplistic explanation but basically it is what happens.

    My favourite personal example is a quarry where I used to play as a child in the 1940s. The rock floor was gradually becoming grass covered but essentially it was very open. The last time I visited it in 2008 it was populated by bushes 15 or so feet high with a few trees. By now I’d guess that there is a more substantial population of trees.

    As a corollary to that, the nature conservation industry is retrogressive. It attempts to introduce a static, unchanging condition into a habitat which is totally unnatural. But then, what can you expect from trained basketweavers and grievance students running the show.

  11. “pre Roman Britain was akin to Canada in many ways: swamp punctuated by forests”: oh Christ no. It had largely been reduced to order in the Neolithic and Bronze ages. You can tell from the pollen record. The Romans took over a flourishing agricultural society.

  12. British isles before Man arrived:

    Ice and glaciers, with tundra/polar desert running into taiga towards the South.
    Although, of course, most of the actual green bits supporting the megafauna from that time are now well under water…

    And even “before Man arrived” is dodgy in that respect, given that there’s plenty of evidence Man ( either our Neanderthal cousins or us ) were already happily living in those, now water-covered, green bits and did their evil Despoiling of Nature there..
    It’s simply that what we now know as the British Isles were too much of an icy shithole to bother with for them, and only got “colonised” when things thawed out a bit.

  13. Surely the classic case of rewilding is Chernobyl?

    Though I’m sure if people really needed the land they’d ignore all the bullshit. Indeed I understand it’s now a popular tourist attraction.

    Well ok. Before the war.

  14. Otto…. As hilarious as it is… That’s cheating, and it’s dutch territory anyway…

    Wanna have the umpteenth dutch-english war? 😛

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