It was beautiful and visionary Jacques Chirac’s speech, written by Jean-Paul Deléage, on the occasion of the 4th Earth Summit. It was September 2, 2002 in Johannesburg, South Africa. Twenty years later, the house is on fire everywhere, but the images are so beautiful on TV that it would almost be a shame to change the model of society, wouldn’t it?
Three hundred and seventy hectares here, one thousand two hundred there… Every day in France, new fires devour the dry forests like old grimoires and ready to ignite at the slightest spark. There are the arson attacks by criminals all excited to be the makers of local apocalypses, those of arsonist firefighters which unfortunately is not just an expression, those still unconscious who throw a cigarette butt out of the door of their car or find it clever to have a barbecue in the middle of the scrubland. This is happening in Gironde, in Brittany itself, but also elsewhere in the world, in California, in Morocco… This was the case last year with heat domes in Canada in particular and gigantic fires in Australia. And we can put our hand to the fire that this will still be the case next year.
On the news, “emotion sequence”, as we said in Ushuaia
Is it inevitable then that these fires which ravage trees and scrubland, reduce houses to piles of ashes and force holidaymakers to leave their campsites to find refuge in municipal gymnasiums where the promiscuity is much the same as at the Flots bleus? For TV in any case, it makes for beautiful images: white or black smoke, pines transformed into a torch, red, yellow and all shades of orange, the ballet of the Canadairs or the too few Dash, dazed fellows repeating over and over that they “have never seen this”a grandpa all in contained emotion, the hand of a helpless fireman on his shoulder, who sees ” all his life “ and his house “built in 1969” burned before his eyes… “emotion sequence”, as we said on the show Ushuaia.
So we see. We sympathize but we don’t understand much. Quite simply because the explanations never go all the way. Admittedly, these are the holidays and the editors of the continuous news channels would not want viewers to burn their neurons before aperitif time, which coincides well with that of the pub. It is also true that we have politicians who have optimism ingrained in them and who know how to boost the morale of the troops. This is the case with Christophe Béchu, ex-mayor of Angers, who became, by the grace of small political calculations – the man is a Horizon insert – Minister for Ecological Transition. So let us be reassured in terms of forest devastation: we have already experienced worse. “The fires have been divided by four, the area burned, compared to the 1980s taking into account the prevention plans”explained the new minister learnedly.
The journalists of franceinfo.fr verified the ministerial statements by referring to the database Prometheus. This shows that if forest fires are down over these decades, they have not been reduced by four! Moreover, as Christophe Béchu himself acknowledges: “The new phenomenon is the multiplication of extraordinary fires”. Those that are now called mega fires. An expression launched for the first time in the United States by an official of the American forest service and which has since flourished. Their characteristics? Devastating considerable hectares, spreading to unusual heights, triggering simultaneously, sometimes joining together to form a single, apocalyptic wall of fire…
2040 or when the center of France will have the Gard climate
Carried by gusts of wind, sparks ignite water-stressed vegetation, completely dried out by months without rain. These mega fires render the classic systems for the rapid fight against these scourges inoperative. So, even if the Minister for Ecological Transition is right, even if in 40 years, the number of fires has decreased, it would be crazy to stick to this observation and hum the old tune of: “Everything is fine, Madam Marquise”. Because, no, everything is not going very well and is certainly not going well. Especially if public policies are still reluctant to do prevention, if no serious and coherent message comes to explain, say, harp on the absolute urgency to act.
Already today, classic firefighting “show limits during exceptional weather conditions such as during the heat wave of 2003, the droughts of 2016 and 2017 or this summer of 2022”, explains on Twitter Julien Ruffault, researcher at Inrae and specialist in forest fires. Other IPCC scientists are also alarmed by the fact that if nothing changes in our society – quickly and drastically – the climate of central France could resemble by 2040 that which we currently experience in the Mediterranean. Almost supernatural for a population that is not used to the risk of fires and very serious fears about the ability of local vegetation to regenerate after such devastation. The plants of Morvan or Creuse are not particularly resilient in the face of fires!
To put it in a nutshell: our mind-numbing lifestyles, our ultra-consumption, our crass beliefs in all-powerful technology and above all our flippant “after me, the deluge” joyfully fuel global warming of the planet. An upheaval whose effects are now visible to everyone… On TV, on the evening news, between two reports on dream cruises or the best tips for cooling off at the beach. Why change a team etc…? •