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Although this video report by Arte.tv is narrated in German, the visuals and the interviews give a good idea of what has led to the problem of wildfires, in particular the poorly established and managed tree plantations, and the short-sighted and irresponsible behavior of the pulp and paper industry, who use the pathetic excuse that they are simply “responding to the needs of the market”.

It is interesting that the same pulp and paper industry association (CELPA) spokesperson who was interviewed for the video (see above), is also the director of the PEFC (Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification), and until December 2015 was manager of the Portucl/Soporcel pulp and paper mill at Figueira da Foz.

Having a good fire response system is all very well, but meaningful wildfire disaster prevention must mean massively reducing paper consumption in the EU, and removing the offending trees in Portugal will be the only viable solution at the local level.

Here’s a short blurb translated into English from Art.tv’s website:
“The environmentalist Domingos Patachos (Quercus) has been warning for years that the real cause of the forest fires in Portugal is not the heat but the blue eucalyptus. The plant is highly flammable because of the essential oils it contains, and as it grows rapidly, it is extremely popular with the forestry industry and is increasingly replacing the native trees – also promoted with EU funds. – Forest fires in Portugal – The truth behind disaster

However, it makes little difference whether the plantations are eucalyptus or pine (as both are highly flammable) but the really big question concerning the wildfires that have recently devastated tree plantation areas in Portugal, and Chile, and Canada, and South Africa, and a number of other countries, is who will take financial responsibility for the deaths and injuries, lost income, and damage to property that local communities have suffered as a result?

In the case of Portugal, will it be the national government, or Portucel (Navigator), the pulp and paper company that owned many of the burned plantations, or the FSC and PEFC accredited certification body (presumably SGS)  who warranted that the plantations concerned were ‘well managed’, or will it be those members of the European Parliament who voted to subsidies tree plantations in the EU, or perhaps the IFC (World Bank) that has so generously financed the operations Portucel in Portugal, and now also in Mocambique?

Or will it be the NGO that promotes so-called “new generation plantations” (NGP) in partnerships with pulp and paper companies including Portucel/Navigator (Portugal & Mocambique), Mondi (South Africa & Russia), Arauco (Chile), UPM (Uruguay), Fibria (Brasil and Argentina), Stora Enso (China), See list at http://newgenerationplantations.org/en/participants/

 

– Wally Menne, Wally_Menne

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