But the shifting epicenter of natural disaster has now fallen on Evia, a densely wooded island northeast of Athens, once best known for its beekeepers and resin producers, its olive groves and seaside resorts, and now a capital of the consequences of a warming planet.

This week, as firefighters scrambled to put out rekindling fires and helicopters dropped seawater to sate licking flames, acres of burned hillsides and fields lay under white ash, as if dusted with snow.

I drove through winding roads riddled with fallen trees and electric wires. Smoke hung low, like a thick fog. The trunks of mangled trees still smoldered and the hive boxes of beekeepers looked like burned end tables abandoned in empty fields. Miles away from the fires, the smoke still left an acrid taste in my mouth. Ash drifted around cafes where waitresses constantly watered down tables and the sun imbued the dense haze with a sickly orange hue.

“We lived in paradise,” said Babis Apostolou, 59, tears in his eyes as he looked over the charred land surrounding his village, Vasilika, on the northern tip of Evia. “Now it’s hell.”

This week, the fires covered new ground. In the southern Peloponnese, where wildfires killed more than 60 people in 2007, a long stretch of fire tore through forest and houses, prompting the evacuation of more than 20 more villages. But many Greeks have refused to leave their homes.

When the police told Argyro Kypraiou, 59, in the Evia village of Kyrinthos to evacuate on Saturday, she stayed. As the trees across the street blazed, she fought the airborne barrage of burning pine cones and flames with a garden hose. When the water ran out she beat back the fire with branches.

“If we had left, the houses would have burned,” she said across from the still smoldering ravine. A truck rolled by and the driver leaned out the window, shouting to her that there was another fire in the field behind her house. “We keep putting out fires,” she shouted back. “We don’t have any other job.”

Kyriakos Mitsotakis, the prime minister of Greece, has called the recent days “among the hardest for our country in decades” and promised to compensate the afflicted and reforest the land. Residents across the seared north of Evia complained that the government had failed to fly water-dropping aircraft out to them fast enough or that it had waited too long to ask the European Union for help.

Greece’s top prosecutor has ordered up an investigation into whether criminal activity could possibly have sparked the fires, perhaps to clear land for development. Many here blamed mysterious arsonists for starting the fire.

“This is arson,” said Mr. Apostolou. “I had heard they want to put in wind turbines.”

Mr. Tertipis said, “I hope the person who set these fires will suffer as much as my animals.”

But it was also possible that the finger-pointing at arsonists stemmed from a feeling of powerlessness and the need to blame someone — anyone — for a crisis that at least some acknowledged was everyone’s fault.

“We all have to make changes,” said Irini Anastasiou, 28, who expected the fires to keep happening around the world as the planet warmed. She looked out from the front desk of her now empty hotel in Pefki, one of the hardest-hit towns, and saw an opaque wall of haze over the sea.

“Usually, you see clear across to the mountains,” she said. “Now you can see nothing.”

The residents of Evia did what they could. In the town of Prokopi, volunteer firefighters set up base in the Forest Museum (“focused on man and his relationship to the forest”).

Hundreds of boxes packed with supplies for the displaced cluttered the log cabin. They brimmed with crackers and cereals and granola bars. Soft stacks of children-and-adult diapers reached up to the windows. Boxes held medicines and burn creams, aloe vera, Flamigel, hydrogel and Flogo Instant Calm Spray, under a sign promoting TWIG, the Transnational Woodland Industries Group.

An international group of emergency workers operated out of the cabin. Some of the 108 firefighters sent by Romania coordinated with Greek Army officials and local authorities to put out the flames. Some volunteers went out with chain saws to cut down trees while those returning leaned against a wall of bottled water and ruminated on what had gone wrong.

Ioannis Kanellopoulos, 62, blamed heavy snowfall during the winter for breaking so many branches and creating so much kindling on the forest floor. But the intense heat did not help.

“When the fire broke out it was 113 degrees in the shade,” he said.

He said the previous benchmark for destruction in the area was a 1977 blaze. This fire had far eclipsed it, he said, and guaranteed that it would not be surpassed for years.

“There’s nothing left to burn,” he said.

“It’s not California,” added his friend Spiros Michail, 52.

That there was nothing left to burn was the island’s common refrain. The punchline to the terrible joke nature had played on them.

But it wasn’t true. There was plenty more to burn.

At night the fires came back, appearing on the dark hillsides in the distance like Chinese lanterns. The fires burned on the sides of the roads like ghostly campsites.

Stylianos Totos, a forest ranger, stood rod straight as he looked through binoculars at a hillside near Ellinika.

“How do we get access to that one,” he called to his colleague in a truck carrying more than a ton of water. He worried that the wind would change direction from east to west and feed the fire with fresh pines. Just before 9 p.m. Tuesday, one of the small flames flared up, lighting all the barren land and twisted branches around it. “Andrea,” he shouted. “Call it in.”

But any help, and any change in global behavior, had come too late for Mr. Tertipis and his flock.

Mr. Tertipis, 60, who lost his mother and suffered permanent scarring on his left arm in 1977’s fire, rushed back from home to his stables before dawn on Sunday. The fire had consumed half his flock, but left a plush green pine tree and verdant field untouched only a few dozen yards away.

“That’s how it is, in five minutes, you live or die,” he said, adding, “the fire just changes all the time.”

For two days he could not answer the phone or do much of anything other than weep. Then he started cleaning up, wading through the remains in galoshes, dragging load after load away, using a sled he fashioned from a hook and a broken refrigerator door.

He had been raising animals all his life, and he said he had no choice but to keep going, no matter how inhospitable the weather around him had become.

“Things may have changed,” he said with a shrug. “What are you going to do? Just give up?”

Niki Kitsantonis contributed reporting from Evia.

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Brazil’s Bid to Outsource Amazon Conservation Finds Few Takers

This article was produced in partnership with the Pulitzer Center’s Rainforest Investigations Network.

RIO DE JANEIRO — Facing strong international condemnation over the destruction of the Amazon, President Jair Bolsonaro’s government came up with a strategy: It offered companies the chance to “adopt” a patch of rainforest.

But the plan — which invites companies to contribute money to help preserve the forest — has been marred by disorganization and met with skepticism by critics, who see it as an effort to “green wash” the Bolsonaro administration’s poor record on the environment.

It also hasn’t found many takers.

The program was announced in February, as the Biden administration made clear that it expected Brazil to reverse some of the forest loss and dismantling of environmental protections that marked Mr. Bolsonaro’s first two years in office.

the Adopt-a-Park program would accomplish two of the Bolsonaro administration’s goals: redeem Brazil’s tarnished environmental image, which industry leaders have feared could shut them out of international markets, and outsource the costs of conservation at a time of tightening budgets.

“Many of these companies, investment funds that signed letters demonstrating their concern about the Amazon,” said Ricardo Salles, the minister of the environment, “now have in Adopt a Park a concrete, very simple and efficient possibility of transforming their statements into action.”

The government offered 132 federal reserves in the Amazon for sponsorship. So far, only three foreign companies — the grocery chain Carrefour, Coca-Cola and Heineken — and five Brazilian corporations have enrolled. Their donations total just over $1 million — a tiny fraction of the $600 million that Mr. Salles aspires to raise.

Protected Areas of the Amazon program has raised tens of millions of dollars from governments and companies for protected areas in the Amazon.

Through the Adopt-a-Park program, sponsoring companies pay at least $9.5 per hectare of the reserve’s area per year. To sponsor the biggest park costs almost $35 million annually, while the smallest go for $23,000 a year.

Once sponsorship deals are finalized, companies donate goods and services — which could include vehicles or a fire brigade — to the Chico Mendes Institute office in each reserve.

July to share responsibility for protecting the Amazon with nongovernment actors. As protests over fires in the Amazon rainforest intensified, he challenged the actor Leonardo DiCaprio, one of the government’s most prominent critics, to sponsor a reserve.

“Are you going to put your money where your mouth is?” Mr. Salles wrote on Twitter in September.

Beyond proposing the park-adoption program before the climate change summit convened by the Biden administration last month, Brazil’s government seems to have done little to improve its environmental policies.

At the summit, Mr. Bolsonaro vowed to allocate more money to environmental protection agencies. But the very next day the government did the opposite, signing into law a budget that further slashed funding for the agencies.

And federal lawmakers are considering a bill that would make it easier for companies to get environmental permits for new farming, mining and infrastructure ventures.

“Is receiving donations as they are proposing going to compensate for all that?” asked Natalie Unterstell, a climate policy expert who has been tracking the program. “No. It’s a palliative measure.”

View Source

>>> Don’t Miss Today’s BEST Amazon Deals! <<<<

Sweden, Dressed in Summer

For as long as I can remember, the forests, lakes and mountains of my native Sweden have been my refuge. Half of the photos from my childhood depict me with an armful of wildflowers or a bucket brimming with — not to mention my face covered with the juices of — blueberries.

After moving abroad with my family at the age of 10 and adopting an ever more nomadic lifestyle as an adult — in the last decade I’ve worked primarily in Africa and Asia, usually without a permanent base — I have developed the happy knack of feeling at ease wherever I find myself, almost regardless of the circumstances.

WildSweden, took me along for what remains perhaps the most magical moment of my life: sitting at the edge of a lake, surrounded by a forest and the semidarkness of Swedish summer, listening to the howling of wolves just a few hundred meters away. They knew we were there, of course, but chose to remain nearby, making this auditory encounter one entirely on their terms.

photo essay about Swedish winter, I soon understood that things were far from ideal in what I had previously believed to be a largely untouched wilderness. Despite the extensive and expensive public relations campaigns run by Sweden’s forestry industry, it became very apparent that we are in real danger of losing our last old-growth forests through a process of clear-cutting and monoculture plantations. A curtain was pulled aside, as it were, and my feelings about the nature-loving country of my birth are now far more muddled.

Does it seem absurd if I claim to be as grateful for this insight as I am to have been introduced to the fascinating beauty of microscopic fungi? Well, I am. Ignorance might be bliss up to a point, but it rarely resolve existential threats.

There is a Swedish word — “hemmablind,” or home-blind — that I think is particularly relevant today, given our reduced ability to travel. We often overlook that which is close to home. We travel abroad to experience the exotic, just as we donate money to support faraway causes.

But venturing beyond our borders needn’t come at the expense of appreciating our immediate surroundings. Wherever home is, it undoubtedly offers much to appreciate and experience — as well as plenty to fight for.

View Source

Tropical Forest Destruction Accelerated in 2020

Tropical forests around the world were destroyed at an increasing rate in 2020 compared with the year before, despite the global economic downturn caused by the pandemic, which reduced demand for some commodities that have spurred deforestation in the past.

Worldwide, loss of primary old-growth tropical forest, which plays a critical role in keeping carbon out of the atmosphere and in maintaining biodiversity, increased by 12 percent in 2020 from 2019, according to the World Resources Institute, a research group based in Washington that reports annually on the subject.

Overall, more than 10 million acres of primary tropical forest was lost in 2020, an area roughly the size of Switzerland. The institute’s analysis said loss of that much forest added more than two and a half billion metric tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere, or about twice as much as is spewed into the air by cars in the United States every year.

pro-development policies of the country’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, led to continued widespread clear-cutting. Surging forest losses were also reported in Cameroon in West Africa. And in Colombia, losses soared again last year after a promising drop in 2019.

a severe fire season, with 16 times more forest loss in 2020 than the year before.

anecdotal reports from Brazil and other countries suggested that deforestation was rising because of the pandemic, as the health crisis hampered governments’ efforts to enforce bans on clear-cutting, and as workers who lost their jobs because of the downturn migrated out of cities to rural areas to farm. But Mr. Taylor said the analysis showed “no obvious systemic shift” in forest loss as a result of the pandemic.

If anything, the crisis and the resulting global economic downturn should have led to less overall forest loss, as demand, and prices, for palm oil and other commodities fell. While falling demand may have helped improve the situation in Indonesia and a few other countries, Ms. Seymour said that globally it was “astonishing that in a year that the global economy contracted somewhere between 3 and 4 percent, primary forest loss increased by 12 percent.”

Global Land Analysis and Discovery laboratory at the University of Maryland, who have devised methods for analyzing satellite imagery to determine forest cover. The World Resources Institute refers to their findings as “forest cover loss” rather than “deforestation” because the analysis includes trees lost from plantations and does not distinguish between trees lost to human activities and those lost to natural causes.

View Source

The Making of a ‘European Yellowstone’

It was my first visit to Romania’s Southern Carpathian Mountains in 2018, and I was standing beside a derelict sheepfold high above the Dambovita Valley. To the east, the imposing limestone cliffs of Piatra Craiului, or Kings’ Rock, towered overhead. All around me was a panorama of deep valleys, soaring mountains and the ever-present forest.

Beneath a canopy of old-growth trees, an array of animals — wolves, European brown bears, boar, eagles, lynx — were thriving.

Here among the Fagaras Mountains, the highest reaches of the Southern Carpathians, and tucked away in an unlikely corner of the European Union, an immense conservation project was underway. The ultimate aim: the creation of a “European Yellowstone.”

Piatra Craiului National Park, would create a chain of parks and a wide-reaching wildlife reserve.

rewilding initiatives began to gain global momentum, Romania stood out to me as a remarkable example.

While many countries were working to replace what they had once lost, Romania, in many ways, was battling to preserve what it still had.

increasingly threatened.

Instead of simply photographing the landscape and wildlife, I began to embed myself with F.C.C. rangers as they conducted their daily operations: wildlife monitoring, the replanting of forests, patrolling to deter logging.

Since 2018, I’ve conducted around 10 trips to the region. I’ve spent days bundled up in the back of a ranger’s S.U.V., and clutching my large-format camera as we track wolf packs on snowmobiles.

Over time, I was able to establish a camaraderie with many of the rangers. Occasionally, on patrols with the wildlife monitoring teams, they would invite me to assist in their duties — including the collecting of fresh bear scat.

The chief wildlife ranger, Bogdan Sulica, once took me to the site of a bear attack on a small farm just outside the commune of Saticul de Sus. Despite my efforts to assist in ranger duties, he laughingly advised that I stand on a hill and stick to taking pictures.

After the fall of communism, the Romanian government began a restitution program for nationalized land, resulting in a new ownership structure for a significant portion of Romania’s forests. In the years that followed, logging companies bought many of the privately owned forests, leading to large-scale deforestation.

To further complicate matters, wildlife populations in the Fagaras Mountains have been subjected to severe levels of poaching and overhunting. To combat this, F.C.C. has founded its own hunting’s association and has purchased hunting rights for several large tracts, totaling around 160,000 acres. By purchasing the rights and foregoing hunting, they can effectively protect the animals within the tracts.

While there’s a broad consensus in Romania for preserving these areas, tensions have sometimes arisen among the surrounding communities. Some locals feel as though certain land was protected without their input, especially those with strong ties to hunting. Others have seen protected animals — bears, wolves, lynx — damage their property and prey on their livestock.

My documentation of F.C.C.’s work in Romania continues, having organized itself around the three primary facets of their initiative: wildlife monitoring, forest replanting and community outreach programs.

Creating a national park, I’ve learned, takes time. Progress is slow, and there will likely be many more unforeseen roadblocks standing between the foundation and the fully realized dream of a European Yellowstone. But, in time, through the combined efforts of F.C.C. and the people of Romania, a blueprint may emerge that others in the international community might follow.

View Source