The world is on its way to an era of fires, estimates Stephen Pyne, professor emeritus at Arizona State University.
Pyne compares the era of fires to ice ages: sea level changes, species become extinct.
The difference, however, is, among other things, that man himself has been influencing the birth of the period.
- We are reshaping the planet so that this is starting to look like an era of pieces, Pyne tells STT by phone.
In an online publication focusing on environmental issues at Yale, a top U.S. university, Pyne summarizes that humanity, which has made itself dependent on fossil fuels, has been creating a planet prone to fire.
- We are lucky that this is not an ice age.
There would be nothing to do for the ice age.
Global warming as part of the history of fire
With wildfires in Australia, the United States and Russia, climate change critics have reiterated that there have always been fires.
Historian Pyne writes in his Yale publication that there are fewer pieces in the world in terms of numbers than before, although according to the news there seem to be more of them.
According to Pyne, the quantitative difference is explained, among other things, by the fact that during history, fire has been used, for example, in agriculture and forestry.
Today, however, fires are often more severe.
Pyne does not jump on the sledge of climate critics, but says clearly that climate change will affect the current global wildfire situation.
- These fires are wider and more severe.
They occur more often and last longer than previous fires in measurement history, Pyne tells STT.
Pyne, who has published dozens of books, describes that global warming seems to enhance the performance of wildfires in areas where there have been fires before.
Such places include Australia and California.
At the same time, large chunks are seen in areas where they have not traditionally existed, such as the Amazon and Indonesia.
Pyne has also toured Finland in the background of his book. Photo: Tom Story
- They (climate critics) are wrong about the climate, but I would go one step further and say that the climate is driven by the fire practices of humanity, he says.
- We created the problem before.
We decided to be dependent on fossil fuels.
For Pyne, the history of climate and the discussion of climate change are part of the history of fire, part of the great narrative of humanity and fire.
It is not just about fossil fuels.
Fire has been used for cooking and digging.
The introduction of fossil fuels, he said, took the human relationship further away from fire.
How's the Gulf Stream?
Five years ago, Pyne stood on the stage of a popular TED Talk event talking about humanity and fire.
When the professor starts talking about the fire used in agriculture, Eero Järnefelt's work Kaski, which is familiar to Finns, appears on the screen behind him, with a girl watching the audience directly in the foreground, in the middle of the birch.
Pyne says that in Finland, as elsewhere in Europe, traditional fire was ignored in the 19th century.
- The fire was seen as primitive, Pyne says.
The flames have also brought Pyne to Finland, where he toured the countryside and backed his book on the history of fire in Europe.
He estimates that in the era of fires, Finland and Sweden may be less vulnerable than, for example, Alaska, Canada and Russia due to forest management practices, among other things.
Pyne emphasizes that evaluation is difficult.
One of the biggest questions for northern Europe is how the melting of glaciers will affect the Arctic Ocean and, in particular, the Atlantic Ocean Gulf Stream, whose heat will also affect the northern climate.
"We have to live with an atmosphere marinated in greenhouse gases"
Then why are we lucky about Pyne that there is no ice age ahead of us?
Pyne, who has been with the Fire Department in Grand Canyon National Park for 15 field fires, says people can influence, at least to some extent, what the fires of the future will look like.
Pyne is especially problematic if you try to get rid of the fires and fire completely.
He talks about good and bad pieces.
Bad fires are those where people die, homes and communities are destroyed, and the future of species is at stake.
Good fire, on the other hand, promotes the well-being of nature, among other things.
According to Pyne, living with fires means that humanity re-learns to cooperate with fire and accepts its existence.
- Fire is like a virus.
It is not living, but it has many qualities of living beings.
It is the creation of the living world.
Life has created oxygen and fuel.
We feed it, he tells STT.
- Good fires are like a herd shelter that protects us from bad fires.
There is no vaccination against cuts, and we don’t even want to eliminate them.
The professor has little doubt that the use of fossil fuels as a general energy source should be discontinued.
- Even if we quit tomorrow, we will have to live with an atmosphere marinated in greenhouse gases for decades, if not centuries, Pyne writes.