YRE Competition 2022
1st Place - International Collaboration
11-14 years old
By Ali Emre Varis, Bahar Koray, Begum Kilic, Derin Demirbas, Fatih Sarp Yildirim, Adil Ilkem Aydogan, Guner Polatoz, Idil Baser, Mehmet Yagiz Yuksel, Poyraz Erguvan Vlastou Vasiliki, Kapsanis Theodore, Bilfeld David, Brili Melita, Nezis Stergio, Papandropoulou Lydia, Stamelou Natalia, Fragaki Maro, Chanioti Urania, Hatzopoulous Angelo, Linardos Dimitris
Early August 2021 was a terrible month for the Mediterranean. A record heat wave sparked wildfires across Greece and Turkey. It had elevated temperatures, reaching 47.1C and it was also dry. Many fires spread all over the area. The largest wildfires in Greece were in Attica, Olympia, Messenia, and Evia. At the same time, Turkey’s wildfires began in Manavgat and Antalya province with the temperature rising to 37C.
The numbers were frustrating. In Greece, three people lost their lives, at least twenty people were injured, and dozens of homes got burnt living people homeless. Over 1.200.000 acres of green land turned black. There was deadly gas in the atmosphere spreading over Attica. Many animals had to leave their homes in order not to get burnt. At the same time, in Turkey, there were more than 200 disastrous wildfires too, mostly in July and August, being the most ruinous wildfires in the country’s history. Flames burning everywhere, people screaming, animals running, loud sirens coming from the fire trucks, chaos.
What was it like to be there?
Konstantine Chaniotis, an 80-year-old retired mechanic from Greece, was present. His first thought was water. "I ran to the yard to check if the water was running" he said. After a few minutes, the police officers told me to evacuate my property. I was devastated.” He let his dog go free because he could not take it with him. The police led him somewhere, to keep him safe. “It was beyond terrifying. The place where I had been living for 40 years was being burnt down. When I finally came back, the view was dystopian. Everyone was shattered.”
Stefanos Kapsanis, a 45-year-old Greek was at his office at the time of the fire. He remembers: “It was terrible. Small flames developed into a critical situation in a few seconds. As soon as I realized it had become a threat to my home I immediately rushed back. I was relieved when the fire did not come close. I could hear the crews fighting the wildfires. It was as close to a war zone as you can get in time of peace. For a month after the fires, I was numb. However, a few months later I could see green plants sprouting up from the earth and I was positive that the forest would regenerate.”
Climate change and wildfires
Mr. Stavros Dimas, the European Commissioner for the Environment 2004-2009, honored us with his valuable insight. “Wildfires are most likely to occur when there is a remarkably elevated temperature. Last year, temperatures especially in Greece went up to over 40 degrees. Therefore, the country had the worst wildfires than ever.”
Naturally, climate change came up. Mr Dimas noted that wildfires are intricately connected to climate change. “It is a bigger problem in places like the ones near the sea or the ones with higher temperatures. Wildfires happen in drier or hotter places but they are all connected to climate change.”
Mr Dimas warns: “Our planet does not have much time until there is no turning point. If we do not act now, temperatures will increase so much that we will not be able to live in these conditions. This is why 196 parties signed an agreement in Paris in 2015 where they agreed to stop climate change for good to avoid severe consequences.
After such fires, nature is damaged as much as the people affected. Forest fires cause soil, air and water pollution. Beneficial microorganisms in the soil disappear and the fertility of the soil and the productivity of the plants decrease. With a decreasing number of plants, the amount of oxygen produced by photosynthesis drops.
Vegetation is also significantly affected depending on the temperature and the time in which the forest fire occurs. Plants and trees that survive the flames become susceptible to diseases, fungi and insects because their resistance is reduced after burn injury.
Lots of animal deaths occur after the fire because of loss of habitat and food resources. Wildfires also kill animals that are not able to escape. Mr Dimas agrees: “Surely, wildfires affect the environment gravely. Indicatively, animals have to leave their homes since huge areas of land where they used to live get burnt and become desert.”
Wildfires also affect global climate systems due to the increase in carbon emissions. More particularly, CO2, NO2 and SO2 gases found in smoke rising from fire are greenhouse gases which thicken the layer day by day. Therefore, the average temperature of the Earth rises and causes global warming. In 2018 the IPCC 1.5 C Special Report on Global warming reveals the urgency of the climate crisis. The report suggests that by 2030 we should limit the global average temperature rise to 1.5°C. (IPCC Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) With increasing climate change, dry summers are seen in some regions and forest fires break out. In other regions, we witness floods with sudden precipitation. Everything in nature is connected; when a variable changes, the balance is disturbed.
What can we do?
There are several ways to prevent wildfires. The authorities should identify the places with a high risk of fire and take necessary measures. Mr Dimas notes: “A country needs to have particularly good infrastructure to prevent and battle fires. Of course, it is not only hot temperatures that are to blame. 90% of the fires are caused by human carelessness.”
Thus, broken glass or cigarette budds should not be thrown into forests.
Educational and warning information should be provided to the people living in fire-sensitive areas, attics and basements should be kept clean, children should not play with fire. Heaters and stoves should be used with caution.
The serious conclusion from all of the above is that the future of our planet is in human hands.
We need to act now.
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1.Σοφία Αποστόλη: Young Reporters for the Environment
posted in ΚΑ ΔΗΜ ΚΑΘΗΓΗΤΕΣ ΑΓΓΛΙΚΩΝ / General at Τετάρτη, 13 Απριλίου 2022 11:17:54 π.μ.