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(en) France, UCL AL #330 - Ecology, Landes: Monoculture smells of fir (ca, de, it, fr, pt, tr)[machine translation]

Date Mon, 26 Sep 2022 10:37:51 +0300

Following the fires of this summer, the Landes forest has been disfigured for several decades. If the records of heat, drought and climate change are rightly pointed out, the capitalist exploitation of the pine forest in monoculture must not be forgotten. ---- On July 12, two outbreaks of fire were reported respectively in the areas of La Teste de Buch and Landiras in the Gironde department. Quickly, the pine forest caught fire and several dozen hectares went up in smoke. It will take more than 2,000 firefighters, six canadair planes, three dashes and more than ten days before a drop in temperatures can control and fix what will be recorded as one of the largest forest fires in France. has known so far: more than 21,000 hectares burned, more than 35,000 people evacuated, wildlife decimated, smoke as far as Paris and a forest massif disfigured for several decades.

By the very admission of the emergency command on site, the configuration, power and extent of these fires are unprecedented. We can hear that, on July 19, while the department recorded several temperature records, beyond 42°C, the fires "literally exploded".

Napoleon III imposes expropriation

Firefighters noted a front of flames several kilometers long, fire swings over more than 200 meters, 20-year-old pine trunks exploding under the heat of the fire and a fire that created its own wind system before to bury themselves in the peat of the moors to brood there for several more months, as evidenced by the resumption of this fire on August 9. If global warming is the most visible culprit, behind the scorching temperatures and record drought hides a purely capitalist logging operation devoid of any environmental logic.

Indeed, the Landes forest is made up of more than 80% of private plots of monoculture maritime pines and we have to go back to the time of Napoleon III to find its origin and justifications. Subjected to human activity from the late Neolithic, the primary and diversified forest of the moors gradually gives way to a vast marshy and unhealthy area. Despite several attempts to cultivate rice or tobacco, the moor remained a peasant land until the middle of the 19th century.

From the top of his emblematic stilts, the Landes shepherd practices sheep farming and cultivates millet or rye on small plots to produce bread. All this stops on June 19, 1857 when Napoleon III decides, by the so-called law relating to the sanitation and cultivation of the Landes de Gascogne, to massively afforest the whole of the moor with the only essence of pine. maritime. Officially, the objective is to improve the conditions of hygiene but, in reality, it is a question of contributing to the capitalist effort of the French colonial Empire. The latter needs wood, turpentine, rosin, everything that a pine forest can provide.

The law of 1857 privatizes the commons, expropriates the workers, the sharecroppers and auctions considerable areas of land which will be monopolized by a local bourgeoisie made up of liberal professions and rentiers. The first conflicts broke out and the breeders, supported by an entire population attached to the agro-pastoral model, set fire to the first pine plantations. From 200,000 hectares of mainly natural forest or dunes reinforced at the beginning of the 19th century, the Landes today is approaching one million hectares.

The consequences of several hundred thousand hectares of maritime pine monoculture exploitation have been known for a long time. The intensive and unique cultivation of resinous essence has the effect of increasing the acidity and favoring the podzolization of the soil. On an area as vast as Ile-de-France, apart from ferns and pine, almost nothing grows and almost nothing lives at a depth of one meter.

An ecosystem to reinvent
In this impoverished ecosystem, the maritime pine finds itself the target of diseases and insects, it is regularly treated with glyphosate by many foresters so that the departments of Landes and Gironde are among the most polluted in France. This softwood monoculture also represents an increased and known risk of fire spreading during fires, not to mention the geographical location of the Landes, which is dried up by the local climate and swept by the western ocean winds. Thus, it was not necessary to wait for the effects of global warming for this forest to burn on more than 60,000 hectares and claim 82 victims in 1949.

The firefighters observed a front of flames several kilometers long, fire swings over 200 meters, 20-year-old pine trunks exploding under the heat of the fire.
In the middle of this artificial ocean, the user forest of La Teste de Buch is an exception. But its particular statute resulting from XVe century being more and more undermined by the absence of maintenance and by the permanent conflicts between " holders-pines ", owners of plots, and the users and users, will not allow this thousand-year-old forest to escape the disaster of July 2022. Worse, this dramatic situation will be an opportunity for the reactionary right to target a so-called ready-made culprit : local elected environmentalists who allegedly opposed the development of dirt roads. access for firefighters. Conspirators of all stripes will try to establish a link between this event and a project to create a 1,000 hectare solar park... 20 km north of the burned area of Landiras.

The lessons of the disaster of August 19, 1949 have not been heard and are clearly no longer sufficient to contain the risk of a "megafire" threatening this territory. Multiplying the access routes for firefighters is derisory when a crown fire ravages 5,000 hectares in less than 12 hours, the equivalent of ten football pitches per minute. Respecting the width of the firebreaks fixed by law, the length of two lying pines, i.e. 60 meters, is no match for a fire jump capable of traveling 200 meters.

Multiplying the canadairs is no longer enough when trunks explode on a front several kilometers long and on heights of flames exceeding 60 meters. It is becoming urgent, even vital, to completely rethink the ecosystem of the Landes de Gascogne forest and its fire risk prevention, to allocate the means that the departmental fire and rescue services (SDIS) have been calling for for several years, to stop immediate monoculture of maritime pine, to promote the return to biodiversity and to expropriate the forestry owners who take advantage of this land by destroying it.

Gaelle (UCL Bordeaux)

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