Rebuilding from the ashes of forest fires
E DII TO RII A L
As tragic as the forest fires of the past few days have been, with a long-term impact on the environment and the rural economy, Cyprus has an opportunity to heed to earlier warnings and start working to build a sustainable economy out of the ashes. It is clear that the NIMBY syndrome (not in my back yard) has proven futile, as even the smallest climate change event anywhere in the world clearly has an impact on tiny Cyprus.
Leading economists, such as Jeffrey Sachs, have called for nations to embrace policies for sustainable economies, as measures to pre-empt disasters, although unavoidable, could help deal with crises in a far better way and with less cost of human lives. Sustainable strategies could also have long-term benefits, argue the economists, with a massive rethink of the way we have planned our economic activities during the past decades.
Researchers at the Cyprus Institute have shown that a 1-2C rise in temperature will have a serious impact on the tourism industry and all related services. By simply saying that we will extend the summer season is complacent, let alone naïve. If worldwide emissions force the weather to become warmer, then from mid-July to the end of August (by far, the best period in tourist arrivals) will soon become unbearable, hence no tourists and no revenue.
Probably, the most ill-calculated of all decision has been the closure of the Forestry College, at a time when Cyprus has no state educational programme for a sustainable rural economy. This goes to show how little this and past governments care about keeping the island green and encouraging research in the countryside, where other countries spend millions to boost this area.
The fact that Cyprus is now better organised to combat fires is commendable, but goes little way in becoming pro-active and investing in methods and cultures that would prevent, or at least lessen, mistakes that have led to the latest disasters.
It has already been nine years since wildfires decimated a bigger part of the Saittas forest, which although smaller in area than the Soleas valley fires, has taken a long time and efforts to conduct reforestation. But plating treelings and having cooperation agreements with neighbouring countries is not the solution.
With the Green party now boasting a member of parliament who has been methodical in his research and work, perhaps it is time that a feasibility plan gets urgently underway to reopen the Forestry College, where research about all aspects of the environment, damage caused to it and solutions to revive it would become a priority.
With the ‘sustainable’ phenomenon now expanded to so many spheres (tourism, etc.), a new Forestry and Environment College would have had a clear task ahead, if only an official had the courage to stand up and campaign for its reopening.