As I sit at my desk preparing for the fall term to begin at Sacramento State University, I look outside to the hot and smoky conditions in Sacramento. With a current air quality index of 154, it is a stark reminder of the conditions that are currently prevailing in Greece today.
Over the past few weeks, international headlines had decried the catastrophic conditions that prevailed in northern Evia (an island adjacent to the eastern coast of Attica). Images had tugged at the heartstrings of those who saw them, and they were a somber reminder of the devastation that forest fires have to our environment and people. Whether the fires were caused by natural causes or by arsonists, the outcome remains the same. The long-term
implications of the decimated forests will only make life more challenging for the people, animals, and wildlife in Greece.
A few years ago, I read an article in the BBC entitled “Enigma of the trees that resist wildfires” that discussed how the Mediterranean Cypress tree was fire resistant. According to the article, “One of the main conclusions of the European study… is that peculiar plantations with selected varieties of cypress seem a possible alternative new tool to counteract the risk of wildfires in some sensitive sites like wild-urban-interfaces or wild-industrial-interfaces.” In Valencia, Spain, planting this indigenous tree is now considered a form of fire prevention. Perhaps the current Greek administration might consider this tree in its reforestation program. As well, the current Minister of Justice, Kostas Tsiaras, has moved forward with legislation that would entail stricter punishment for arson.
Both the fires ravaging territories around the world, together with the humanitarian crisis looming in Afghanistan, students this fall will have much to learn and discuss in their classrooms.