Garbage, a risk factor for nature

2022 will go down in history as one of the hottest summers for Spaniards. We’ve seen water temperatures in the Mediterranean sea rise between 2.5 and 4 degrees above normal markers at this point, reaching 30 degrees in some spots.

As a result of the heat, in addition, the drought seems to have settled in our country. Water supplies reached 36.88% of capacity this summer, the lowest level since 1995.

But not only in Spain. Drought has eliminated the traditional green of London’s mythical Hyde Park. In fact, according to the UK Met Office, last July was the driest month on record in the country, dating back to 1835.

The impacts of water shortages and unprecedented heat waves show us beyond doubt that climate change is exerting more and more control over the weather. The signs are very clear. And it is precisely the high temperatures and the great drought, the extreme events that are increasingly frequent, that are key factors in the outbreak of fires, another of the events from which we suffered the most this summer.

An event that affected not only us. The wave of fires also hit our neighbors Portugal and France hard. In fact, in Europe more than 600,000 hectares had burned as of August 8, the highest figure since records began, according to data compiled by EFFIS, the European Forest Fire Information System.

But Spain suffered the worst and became the country in the European Union with the most burned hectares: about 230,000 (until August 14) according to the Ministry of Ecological Transition and Demographic Challenge (Miteco). In addition, the fire in Losazio (Zamora) is already the worst in the entire history of our country, surpassing that of the Rio Tinto mines, announced in 2004, which devastated more than 30,000 hectares.

Unfortunately for all of us who love nature, so far this year Spain has already had 50 major forest fires, a figure four times the average of the last 10 years, with a total of more than 162,000 hectares burned. A fact that emerges from the latest forest fire balance published by Miteco.

According to this ministry, 80% of the fires that occur in Spain, directly or indirectly, originate from activities carried out by people. An alarming figure that requires us to focus on prevention and to point out those uncivil behaviors that can cause a fire to occur, causing the loss of natural values, as well as affecting the population and their livelihood systems.

Aware of the importance of protecting our natural environment, by Project exemption we call for action not to give up garbage in the field, as it can become a risk factor and cause, increase or worsen a fire.

To cite an example, leaving aerosols in the natural environment can be a cause of fire, as they can explode when exposed to high temperatures. The same happens with bottles or pieces of glass, which when heated can cause a fire due to the so-called “magnifying glass effect”.

It is also important to focus on one of the remnants that we find most in the features and collections of garbage which we perform throughout the year in marine, river and terrestrial environments: burrows. A residue that can not only cause a fire, but also pollute up to 10 liters of water, as it contains substances such as cadmium, arsenic, tar or toluene.

It is logical that an improperly extinguished fas hides a direct danger of fire. But we also need to raise awareness of the risk of improperly extinguished cigarettes being thrown into a field or thrown out of a car window onto the road. The wind can carry and activate them.

In fact, the association Reforesta published a report stating that fires caused by cigarette butts were responsible for 3.25% of the total number of accidents produced between 2004 and 2013. In other words, poorly extinguished cigarettes burned more of 40,000 hectares of forests in the last 20 years. An example of this is the incident last July in Cebreros (Ávila), the trigger of which was precisely a badly extinguished cigarette, which burned about 5,000 hectares.

We have to open our eyes. We need to apply measures from all sectors to invest in prevention. From our small leeway, the solution lies in continuing to work on education, on making society aware of the serious consequences of abandonment garbage in our environment.

A single gesture like throwing trash in a field can have serious consequences. That’s why we have to be active. as garbage it is not an aesthetic problem, but a source of pollution and destruction of natural spaces.

If we do not act now to take care of our planet, we will witness the coldest summer in the coming years, with the resulting consequences: more drought, rising sea levels or a greater risk of fires, among others. The countdown has already begun.

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