Witnessed from Grünstadt: The storm of the United States Capitol on Epiphany 2021

Currently we are witnessing a fascist coup d’état attempt in Washington” were the words I published on my Facebook wall while observing the storming the United States Capitol on Wednesday the 6 January 2021 on CNN. Epiphany is a holyday in Baden – Württemberg, and as I work in Karlsruhe at the KIT, this was also a holyday for me, even if a live in Grünstadt in Rhineland-Palatinate where Epiphany is not a holyday. In former days when my children were younger I used this holyday, or the days after this holyday to drive to France to buy some “galettes des rois” for them. But now they are older, and they are not more interested in “galettes des rois”, this old French tradition of choosing the King or Queen of a day on Epiphany. I used the holyday to write my traditional blog retrospective  “Rétrospective sur le blog paysages en 2021[1]” but then I received a breakings news mail from the NYT  on about 20:45 German-Time “              The New York Times – BREAKING NEWS : Vice President Mike Pence was rushed from the Senate chamber and the vote certification was halted as pro-Trump protesters stormed Capitol Hill” – and then I began to witness this historical moment on CNN – and didn’t finished my blog retrospective post, post which still waits to be finished.

I was neither astonished nor shocked by the images transmitted by CNN because for me it seems to be clear that was something was in progress with the “Trumpistes”. At least when I read the opinion piece  “All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory” published by the Washington Post on the 3 January I was convinced that “Trump and the Trumpistes” were on the way to sustainably disrupt the transition process. But even before that I was convinced that the transition phase could be at least chaotic – in a blogarticle posted in paysages on 3. November I wrote “Et même si Biden gagnait, je pense que la transition des pouvoirs sera au moins chaotique, personnellement je crains même le pire pour les Etats-Unis. Les « Trumpistes » auront certainement du mal à accepter une défaite électorale. (translation = And even if Biden won, I think the transition of power will be at least chaotic, personally I fear even worse for the United States. The „Trumpists“ will certainly have a hard time accepting an electoral defeat. [2]”.

But concerning the inability of the security authorities, the police, not to have prevented the storming of the Capitol, have nevertheless more than shocked me. If the French Police during the Yellow vests movement in France in Winter 2018/19 would have reacted in this amateurish way as the security forces during the Capitol Storm, France would now be governed by a national-bolschevist people’s committee or a national-bolschevist dictator or something similar.

In my Facebook post on my timeline I used the Book cover of Madeleine Albright “Fascism – a warning”. I read the Book in summer 2018 and I found this book was a very comprehensive description of the rise of the fascism in Europe. Seeing the “trumpist Mob storming the Capitol” recalls me the chapters were Albright descriped the  March on Rome of Benito Mussolini and his Black Shirts! For me the Book was also something like a wakeup call concerning the Trump presidency!

Some may view this Book and its Title as Alarmist. Good. We should be awake to assault on democratic values that has gathered strength in many countries abroad that is dividing America at home. The temptation is powerful to close our eyes and wait for the worst to pass, but history tells us that for freedom to survive, it must be defended, and if lies are to stop, they must be exposed (Albright (2018:252)”. At least not so many people have been so impressed by these word, which I read in 2018, – but after all what read, and of course I am reader – heard and see from the Trump presidency – I was convinced that this man would be capable of the worst.

That’s the way I witnessed the “Storm on the Capitol” on Wednesday the 6 January, the day of the Epiphany. Not so astonished, but shocked by the unpreparedness and amateurism of the security forces of the Capitol. The event recalled me a part of the books I have read during my life time concerning fascism and dictatorial power took over[3], and more recently the book “Fascism – a warning” written and published by Madeleine Albright in 2018.

Writing down this word some days after these dramatic events, I hope that this nightmare is over on January the 20 2021. Seen from Grünstadt, the town where I live, this seems to be the most dramatic political crisis for the United States of America since the Amercian Civil War.

Books and other sources:

Albright, Madeleine; Woodward, Bill (2018): Fascism a warning (with Bill Woodward). London, 2018. ISBN 978-0-00-828227-1

Applebaum, Anne (2020) : Twilight of Democracy. The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism. New York. ISBN 978-0-385-54580-8

Guilluy, Christophe (2010) : Fractures françaises. Paris, ( François Bourin Editeur), ISBN 978-2-84941-201-5

Neff, C. (2012): Blognotice 5.5.2012 : – la géographie le grand gagnant du scrutin des présidentielles 2012. In : Paysages: paysages et livres – Landschaften und Bücher – Landscapes and Books. 12.05.2012

Neff, C. (2020):   Blognotice 02.11.2020: Donald Trump peut – il encore gagner ? In : Paysages: paysages et livres – Landschaften und Bücher – Landscapes and Books. 02.11.2020

Photo/Screenshot: Authors Facebook TimeLine, 06.01.2021 21:25 Berlin Time (GMT +01:00).

Christophe Neff, written and published in Grünstadt, Saturday 09.01.2021


[1] The last retrospective was “Rétrospective sur le blog paysages en 2019 ». The paysages retrospective of 2020 will be published with some delay !

[2] See the whole article (written in French) « Blognotice 02.11.2020: Donald Trump peut – il encore gagner ? »

[3] I read so many booktitles concerning this topic that’s quasi impossible to name them all. Currently  Anne Applebaum‘s “ Twilight of Democracy   “ is on my reading desk. A book which a the first glance has nothing to do with the US is  “ la France peripherique”   (see also “Blognotice 5.5.2012 : – la géographie le grand gagnant du scrutin des présidentielles 2012 “)  written by the French geographer Christophe Guilluy, –    a similar book as Guilluy wrote it for “peripherical France” focusing on “middle class decline” in rural and periphical America would perhaps also light up why so many Americans have still given their vote to Donald Trump in the last presidential election.

N’oubliez jamais Zhang Zhan, Loujaïne Al-Hathloul , Nasrin Sotoudeh! Never forget Zhang Zhan, Loujaïne Al-Hathloul , Nasrin Sotoudeh!

Hier matin, en finissant ma revue de presse personnelle virtuelle internationale, comme presque chaque matin, – après avoir lu l’article du Guardian sur le verdict du procès de la journaliste Zhang Zhan[1], – quatre ans de prison ferme pour avoir osé d’apporter un peu de lumière sur les évènements de Wuhan, le lock down, le confinement de Wuhan au tout début de la pandémie de la COVID-19. Je partage l’article du Guardian avec les mots « Never forget Zhang Zhan ! That’s real live in China! Freedome and Liberty are unknown words in contemporary China! (N’oubliez jamais Zhang Zhan ! C’est la vraie vie en Chine ! Libération et liberté sont des mots inconnus dans la Chine contemporaine) ».

Quelques heures après avoir lu l’article du Guardian sur Zhang Zhan je découvre dans le Monde l’article sur le verdict du procès de la militante saoudienne des droits de la femme Loujaïne Al-Hathloul , 5 ans de prison ferme[2] ! Je partage l’article sur mon mur Facebook avec les mots « Espérons que le Monde libre n’oublie pas Loujaïne Al-Hathloul ! Let’s hope that the Free World does not forget Loujaïne Al-Hathloul! » . En partageant l’article sur la condamnation de Loujaïne Al-Hathloul sur mon mur Facebook  je pense aussi à Nasrin Sotoudeh avocate iranienne, spécialiste des droits de l’homme, qui croupit quelque part dans une prison iranienne, qui peut être ne reverra jamais plus la liberté. Nasrin qui peut être ne pourra jamais revoir le lever du soleil sur la mer, l’air fraîche de l’aube sur une plage, comme homme libre, comme femme libre !

Trois noms, trois femmes – n’oubliez jamais Zhang Zhan, Loujaïne Al-Hathloul , Nasrin Sotoudeh! J’espère qu’elles pourront sortir vivant de leur prisons, et j’espère aussi que la France et les pays du monde libre, proposent l’asile politique à ces trois femmes et leurs proches. Asile et sécurité pour ces trois courageuses combattantes pour la liberté et les droits de l’homme ! Et que les pays occidentaux, nos dirigeants, nos gouvernements ouvrent enfin les yeux sur la réalité des droits de l’homme en Chine, en Arabie saoudite et en Iran. Personnellement je considère les gouvernements  de ces trois pays comme étant certainement un des plus répressives du monde actuel concernant les droits de l’homme. Triste palmarès !

Il me reste que de finir avec les mots :

N’oubliez jamais Zhang Zhan, Loujaïne Al-Hathloul , Nasrin Sotoudeh !

Liberté pour Zhang Zhan, Loujaïne Al-Hathloul , Nasrin Sotoudeh !

Yesterday morning, while finishing my personal virtual international press review, as I do almost every morning, – after reading the Guardian article on the verdict of the trial of the journalist Zhang Zhan[3] , – four years in prison for having tried to shed some light on the events of Wuhan, the lock down, the confinement of Wuhan at the very beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. I shared the Guardian article with the words “Never forget Zhang Zhan ! That’s real live in China! Freedome and Liberty are unknown words in contemporary China!”.

Dawn on the beach of Port Leucate/ Aube sur la plage de Port Leucate 18.09.2020; © Christophe Neff 18.09.2020

A few hours after reading the Guardian’s article on Zhang Zhan I discovered in Le Monde the article on the verdict of the trial of the Saudi women’s rights activist Loujaïne Al-Hathloul, 5 years in prison[4]! I share the article on my Facebook wall with the words “Espérons que le Monde libre n’oublie pas Loujaïne Al-Hathloul ! Let’s hope that the Free World does not forget Loujaïne Al-Hathloul! “ . As I share the article on the conviction of Loujaïne Al-Hathloul on my Facebook wall I also think of Nasrin Sotoudeh, an Iranian lawyer and human rights specialist, who is languishing somewhere in an Iranian prison, who may never see freedom again. Nasrin who may be will never be able to see the sunrise over the sea, the fresh air of dawn on a beach, as a free human, as a free woman!

Three names, three women – never forget Zhang Zhan, Loujaïne Al-Hathloul, Nasrin Sotoudeh! I hope that they will be able to leave their prisons alive, and I also hope that France and the countries of the free world offer political asylum to these three women and their relatives. Asylum and security for these three courageous fighters for freedom and human rights! And that Western countries, our leaders, our governments finally open their eyes to the reality of human rights in China, Saudi Arabia and Iran. Personally, I consider the governments of these three countries to be certainly one of the most repressive in the world today regarding human rights. Sad record!

All that remains for me to do is to finish with the words:

Never forget Zhang Zhan, Loujaïne Al-Hathloul , Nasrin Sotoudeh !

Freedom for Zhang Zhan, Loujaïne Al-Hathloul , Nasrin Sotoudeh !

Screenshots from my Facebook timeline/Capture d’écran de mon mure Facebook.

Photo: Dawn on the beach of Port Leucate /Aube sur la plage de Port Leucate  © Christophe Neff 18.09.2020

Christophe Neff, écrit et publié le mardi 29.12.2020/ Christophe Neff, written and published on Tuesday 29.12.2020


[1] Davidson, Helen: “Wuhan Covid citizen journalist jailed for four years in China crackdown – Prosecution of 10 Hong Kongers detained in mainland China after allegedly attempting to flee to Taiwan also began on Monday” . The Guardian, 28.12.2020

[2] « La militante des droits humains saoudienne, en détention provisoire depuis plus de deux ans, a été condamnée lundi à cinq ans de prison ». Le Monde, 28.12.2020 mise à jour le 29.12.2020 à 3H11.

[3] Davidson, Helen: “Wuhan Covid citizen journalist jailed for four years in China crackdown – Prosecution of 10 Hong Kongers detained in mainland China after allegedly attempting to flee to Taiwan also began on Monday” . The Guardian, 28.12.2020

[4] « La militante des droits humains saoudienne, en détention provisoire depuis plus de deux ans, a été condamnée lundi à cinq ans de prison ». Le Monde, 28.12.2020 mise à jour le 29.12.2020 à 3H11.

Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2020

Tomorrow Thursday, 07 October, at 13:00 CET the Swedish Academy will announce the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2020. As every year since 2009[1]Paysages” tries to forecast the winner of the Nobel Price in Literature.  Alex Shepard published an article called “Who Will Win the 2020 Nobel Prize in Literature? – Not Haruki Murakami, that’s for sure   “ where we can discover a long list of writers who will not be awarded following Shepard ‘s argumentation. As M.A.Orthofer wrote it in the Literary Saloon, Shepard presents “some entertaining speculation and a bucketful of name”. Orthofer’s thoughts concerning Nobel Prize in Literature 2020 can be fond in the Literary Saloon under the heading “6 October 2020 – Tuesday/Nobel Prize countdown” .

So my list of 2020 favorites begins with António Lobo Antunes, even if he does not appear on any odd list. Antunes could be followed by Maryse Condé, Claudio Magris, and Adonis, Ismail Kadare, Milan Kundera, Margaret Atwood, Jamaica Kincaid, Anne Carson, Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi,  Don DeLillo or  Cormac McCarthy.  More or less the same names I had on my list last year. Tomorrow Thursday 07.10.2020 at 13.00 we will know more!

Christophe Neff, 07.10.2020

P.S.:. (08.10.2020 13:15): Finally Louise Glück was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature 2020.


[1] See also, Le Nobel à Herta Müller ? Der Literaturnobelpreis für Herta Müller ? ,Wer wird den Literaturnobelpreis 2010 verliehen bekommen?, Blognotice 5.10.2011 – neiges automnales & prochain lauréat du Prix Nobel de littérature , Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2012, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2013, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2014, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2015, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2016, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2017, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2018/2019.

Blognotice 11.09.2020: Retrospective on a Facebook post concerning COVID-19 written in April 2020

I decided to publish here in paysages, the original of a Facebook post written and published during the COVID-19 lockdown in Germany on the fifth of April 2020 on Facebook.

Why open this previously private Facebook post to a wider audience?

Seen what happened since this springtime, how this pandemic diseases affected the whole world,  this text written in April 2020 could also be seen as a contemporary history document. Since April 2020 many things happened concerning the spread of COVID-19, – but in my opinion – and after having read again my own text – two important things have to be noted. The management of the COVID-19 Crisis by the Trump administration in the United State was (and is still) a complete disaster. The other point, and this seems to get much lower international media attention than the chaotic management of the COVID-19 by Trump administration, China used the attention gap provided by the worldwide COVID-19 crisis to enforce the “Hong Kong national security law”.

The original text of the April Facebook text is written in italic. I have also added a screenshot of the original Facebook post.

Dear Facebookfriends

You might wonder why I share so much “COVID-19” articles, posts etc. I am very interested in the way this virus spreads around the world. And that has some biographical reasons. More than 20 years ago I was young Post-Doc, I founded a family, had just bought a house, and really didn’t know how to earn money in the future. The German science system was perhaps not as competitive in the beginning of 2000 as it is today, – currently 1-5% of the post-docs have the chance to get a professorship or senior lecture/readership – in the beginning of the 2000 this ratio was about 10-15%, but I really didn’t know what to do to “feed the hungry mouths” of my children. I thought about many alternatives, – building special railway models (some word about it can be find here in my blog (in German) https://cneffpaysages.blog/2018/07/08/erinnerungen-an-die-marklinmoderne/ ), importing vines from Portugal and France, emigrating to Quebec (or other fireprone regions) where they needed “forest fires specialists” and so many ideas more. In this time I had the feeling that the only way to earn my money with research was to apply to the INSERM. During this period the INSERM searched “Geographers” who were able to model impact scenarios of viral disease all around the world, with special focus on France. Perhaps you remember that the SARS epidemic appears to have started in Guangdong Province in China, in November 2002. Modelling fire and vegetation dynamics, or the progression of invasive plants, – is more or less the same as modelling the impact of virus outbreak in a given geographical region. In reality I didn’t apply, because I was lucky in applying for researcher/seniorscientist post at the former University of Karlsruhe, now called KIT.  My job here was to do applied ecological research in francophone Africa, – and I really started my Tunisian years from Karlsruhe …..but then things changed. Now I am doing more academic management and teaching than scientific research in my current job. But I still do some research.

But I am still interested in the “geographical pattern of biological invasion” – and in some way this virus outbreak (Outbreak was a movie of the 1995 with Dustin Hoffmann, perhaps some of you remember it) is also a kind of “biological invasion” even if viruses are considered to be organisms at the edge of life.

So now perhaps you might understand why I share so many things (press articles, scientific papers & reviews) about the COVID 19.

For finishing my personal view on the current situation; – we lost precious time because most of our governments, the western democracies didn’t understand very well (and most of their medical experts) what was really happening in Wuhan. They more or less woke up when they observed the desperate situation in Italy; – with one notable exception the Trump administration was not able to learn anything from the dramatic situation in Italy. They needed the total breakdown of New York City to understand that the US will also be dramatically concerned by COVID 19. I don’t trust any affirmation of the Chinese administration, but I think we should have a look to South Korea and Taiwan to see how a free society can face the virus outbreak. We will all face some hard time, were COVID 19 will show us all the weaknesses of our health care systems. Hope that when this COVID19 crisis will be overcome our societies will be able to learn how to make the health care systems more “stress resilient” and also reduce their economic dependency from the China.

(original text = https://www.facebook.com/christophe.neff/posts/2819708018150558)

Epilogue:

As I wrote it in my last post in paysages (in French), I had the chance to participate in virtual conference concerning the geography of COVID-19 and during the preparation of my own presentation[1] I discovered a very interesting paper „Ecological and epidemiological models are both useful for SARS-CoV-2[2]“ which also treats the similarities (and differences) of ecological and epidemiological models, –  which in some way reveals to what I wrote in the Facebook text and what I did more the 25 years ago modelling vegetation dynamics and wildfire dynamics in Mediterranean ecosystems. Furthermore in preparation of these conference and my own I also read a very interesting book concerning the consequence of COVID-19 lockdown in France “En immersion : enquête sur une société confine” written by Jérome Forquet et al[3]. I don’t know if this book will be translated into English, but for all reading French, this books provides a very comprehensive approach of the French society during the COVID -19 lockdown in springtime 2020, – combining sociological, geographical and geo-medical analysis.

Sources:

Araújo, M.B., Mestre, F. & Naimi, B. Ecological and epidemiological models are both useful for SARS-CoV-2. Nat Ecol Evol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1246-y

Fourquet, J., Gariazzo, M., Jaboulay, G., Kraus, F., Wolber, S. (2020):  En immersion : enquête sur une société confinée. Paris, Éditions du Seuil.

Christophe Neff, Port Leucate 11.09.2020


[1] Neff, C.(2020): „Persönliche Überlegung zur COVID 19 – Situation„. In: COVID-19 als Zäsur? Virtual Oralpresentation  at : Geographische Perspektiven auf Räume, Gesellschaften und Technologien in der Pandemie. 6.7 – 8.7.2020.. Online Symposium. Research Group Transient Spaces & Societies. Geographisches Institut der Leopold-Franzens-Universität Innsbruck. See also on the Webpages of the „Arbeitskreis Medizinische Geographie und Geographische Gesundheitsforschung in der Deutschen Gesellschaft für Geographie (DGfG)“. (Download of the extended Abstract (in German) here).

[2] Araújo, M.B., Mestre, F. & Naimi, B. Ecological and epidemiological models are both useful for SARS-CoV-2. Nat Ecol Evol (2020). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41559-020-1246-y

[3] Fourquet, J., Gariazzo, M., Jaboulay, G., Kraus, F., Wolber, S. (2020):  En immersion : enquête sur une société confinée. Paris, Éditions du Seuil.

Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2018/2019

Next Thursday, 10 October, at 13:00 CET the Swedish Academy will announce the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 and 2019. In the years as blogger on le Monde.fr I tried to make a forecast for the annual Nobel Prize in Literature[1], the last in 2017 – under the titel “Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2017”. Since them a long time has passed, – the paysagesblog on le Monde.fr disappeared, because in April 2019 le Monde decided to stop his subscribers blogs, blogs which were called “les blogs abonnées du Monde.fr” in French[2]. In Juin 2019 “paysages” was relaunched with the post “Nouveau départ pour le blog paysages” on wordpress.com.  So I relaunch here my “Nobel Prize Forecast in Literature” on paysage, in continuation of what I wrote on paysages when it was hosted and edited on “les Blogs le Monde.fr”.

Concerning the Nobel Prize in Literature 2018/19 it’s very difficult to make a plausible forecast, perhaps we will see the name of Anne Carson or Maryse Condé appear on the scene, as  M.A. Orthofer wrote it on the 30 of September 2019 in the Literary saloon. Perhaps one of the prizes could be awarded to Milan Kundera as Bertrand Fitoussi wrote recently in the Express.

scan pierre antónio lobo antunesBut frankly spoken I have no clear idea, – my personal favorite is the Portuguese novelist António Lobo Antunes. Just reading “Até Que as Pedras Se Tornem Mais Leves Que a Água” in the French translation «Jusqu’à ce que les pierres deviennent plus douces que l’eau » of Dominique Nédellec published by Christian Bourgois Éditeur in Paris, I think that Antunes would largely merit to get a Nobel prize in Literature. The book was also recently translated into English by Jeffe Love under the titel “Until Stones Become Lighter Than Water[3]” in the serie “The Margellos World Republic of Letters” published by Yale University Press.

Bookcover Until Stones Become Lighter Than WaterSo my list of favorite’s begins with António Lobo Antunes, even if he does not appear on any odd list. Antunes could be followed by Maryse Condé, Claudio Magris, and the following writers I also listed in 2017Adonis, Ismail Kadare, Margaret Atwood, Art Spiegelman, Marjane Satrapi, or Don DeLillo. Next Thursday at 13.00 we will know more!

Christophe Neff, 08.10.2019

P.S. (10.10.2019 13:25): Finally Olga Tokarczuk was awarded with the Nobel Prize in Literature 2018 and Peter Handke with the Nobel Price in Literature 2019.

 

[1]  See also, Le Nobel à Herta Müller ? Der Literaturnobelpreis für Herta Müller ? ,Wer wird den Literaturnobelpreis 2010 verliehen bekommen?, Blognotice 5.10.2011 – neiges automnales & prochain lauréat du Prix Nobel de littérature , Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2012, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2013, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2014, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2015, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2016, Paysages forecast for Nobel Prize in Literature 2017.

[2] See also: «La fin annoncée des blogs abonnées du Monde.fr, la fin du blog paysages sur les blogs leMonde.fr » and « La fin du blog paysages sur les blogs LeMonde.fr – Das Ende des Blog « paysages » auf den Blogs von Le Monde.fr ».

[3] Book description of “Until Stones Become Lighter Than Water” on the Yale University Press Site.

Pyrotragedies – a critical retrospective on the wildfire situation in Europe during July 2018

July 2018 was the month in which Europe was heavily affected by wildfire events. There where forest fires in Sweden, in Greece and even in Germany there was one major forest fire event in July 2018.  A Scots Pine Forest near Fichtenwalde was heavily affected by a fire[1], thus remembering German authorities that Germany can also  be concerned by forest fires, – and recalling the terrible souvenirs of the Forest fires of the Lüneburger Heide in summer 1975. But it was Greece which was so heavily hit by several fire events, –the 2018 Attica wildfires – the city of Mati had to face a real “pyrotragedy” to use the words of Paulo Fernandes a portugese wild fire researcher[2]. Mati has been more or less completely erased by the wildfires, a landscape of ruins and desolation and a very high dead toll – about 88 people were killed by the fires in Mati[3]. For me the pictures of the landscape of ruins of Mati called up the souvenirs of the terrible fire event of  Pedrógão Grande[4] in Portugal last year.

Working on forest fires since the beginning of my academic career in 1992, I have been one of those scientists, who are continuously warning that climate change will also increase forest fire risks[5],[6]. But I also warn, since the beginning 1990’s, when I was mapping wild fire risks in the “Garrigues de  Nîmes”[7] under the guidance of Louis Trabaud[8], Peter Frankenberg and Rainer Joha Bender[9] that californisation & rural abandonment & bushencroachment are making the coming generation of forest fires so dangerous.

Californisation[10]  is the “terminus technicus” used in francophone geography, spatial planning and forestry for urban sprawl, housing, urban – forest interface, urban wild – interface etc. But I think the difference between the different English terms is that californisation also designs  the intermix of housing and extremely high inflammable forest (or bushformations like Garrigues, Maquis, Matoral, Chaparal etc. ) and high fuel loading[11].

However what term you use, I prefer californisation, because I think it describes the landscape scenery we can see in many Mediterranean regions of the world perfectly. People want to live like “Californians” constructing their house into a “green scenery” of forests & parks, like in Santa Barbara in California. In fire prone ecosystems, and all Mediterranean ecosystems are fire prone ecosystems, housing in such scenery is just like living on “powder – keg”. A forest fire occurring in this environment is a deadly trap for people, – and this exactly happened in Mati[12]. And what happened in Mati can happen in the suburbs of Lisbon, in the suburbs of Barcelona, Nîmes, Montpellier, Marseille, in La Marsa near Tunis ,- or in California or in Australia (even in the Mediterranean part of Chile and in the Cap region in South Africa). Working since the beginning of the 1990 in western European Mediterranean basin, I known so many locations in this area, where catastrophes like these which devasted Mati in Greece could also happen.

The combination of the consequences of climate change with the cocktail of californisation & rural abandonment will provide us more deadly fires in the Mediterranean regions of Europe (and perhaps also in Central Europe, Scandinavia etc.) – and I think society should react and force the governments to adapt their spatial planning to this enforced risk to see deadly forest fires spread up in that environment, to avoid situations that can lead to such fatal forest fires scenarios as the 1949 Landes Forest Fire which was the most deadly single fire which ever happened in Europe[13]. Concerning the 2018 Attica wildfires, this was a run of different fires, according to informations I could get about the fire.

What happened in Greece in the Attica region in July 2018, what happened in Pedrógão Grande in June 2017, but also in October 2017 in Portugal, these are (or were) real “pyrotragedies” and I hope that the fire season, which is going on until the End of October (in European Mediterranean regions) will not provide us other “pyrotragedies” in the Mediterranean (or elsewhere).

But the real question is if the governments in Greece or in Portugal will learn something from these “pyrotragedies”? The 1949 Landes Forest Fire with is high dead toll of 82 people killed by the fire, – provide a real shock in France – and after this shock France has made an enormous effort of systematic planning and construction of system of “Defending Forest against Wildfire” – “Défense de la forêt contre les incendies (DFCI)[14]” – which is now considered being one of the most effective “Anti Forest Fire Defence System” of the world. Perhaps someone should write down the history of the establishment of the French anti forest fire defense system, – as I know this has never been done – because this was not only success story, but the French responsible were able to learn from their different “failures”[15]– and that is very important.

In this context also associations, like the “Forêt Méditerranéenne”, have a very important role, – just remembering all the conferences dedicated to “fire prevention & wild fire management” and also all the articles dealing with forest fire published in the revue  “Forêt Méditerranéenne”[16]. Articles published in this revue are read by the people working in the forests, – the technicians, the forest engineer in direct contact, at the “frontline” with the “wildfires”. But even this relatively effective system of forest fire management, which has been established in France, is now challenged by “climate change” as recently Thomas Curt and Thibaut Frejaville showed in a study about “Wildfire Policy in Mediterranean France”[17].

My personal opinion is that science and research cannot alone provide the solution, at least perhaps applied geography and spatial planning, because it is a societal problem – how do we deal with californisation (urban sprawl, forest & urban interface, whatever you call it) in a highly inflammable environment – environment which also has a notable charge of fuel loading.  How can we manage this highly inflammable environment including climate change processes. It seems to be very difficult to find consistent solutions for that mix of problems. I personally, after working more or less since the beginning 1990s with forest fire risks, I have not “the solution”- but at least we should be honest to people living in this environment, to tell them, that they are living on a “powder – keg”. If there are no evacuation plans (and evacuation has to be trained), if fire brigades are not well trained and have a good equipment living & housing in such a fire prone environment can become very rapidly a  deadly trap if a fire outbreak is not under control very very fast.  Very very fast means to control the fire 30 minutes after outbreak, – after that threshold of 30 minutes it’s a very hard task to avoid the fire to run out of control and evolve into a large deadly fire event.

Concerning climate change, – I guess, that what I described here for Mediterranean regions, –  we will have to face such scenarios also in Central Europe – because the californisation of landscape is also existing in Central Europe, – the intermix of vegetation with housing – and if climate change scenarios provided by climatologists are correct we will also be confronted with an higher risk of fire eclosion in Central Europe.

And what about climate change and fire risks in old world Mediterranean basin? I think it is very difficult to prove that climate change is responsible for the current fire situation in summer 2018 – or for the 2017 fires in Portugal or the Maghreb[18] – but after all the paper I have read for my profession and also my own research work[19], I am convinced that climate change will make future wild fires more dangerous for people in the Mediterranean regions all over the world in the coming years.

Christophe Neff, Grünstadt 07.08.2018

P.S.: This blogpost is a revised and augmented version of a facebook post called “some words about the current forest fire situation in Greece” which I posted on Facebook on 25.07.2018.

[1] See also „Waldbrand in Fichtenwalde. Das Inferno nebenan“ on Spiegelonline.

[2] Original citation « No dia de 23 de julho o mundo foi surpreendido por mais uma pirotragédia, desta vez nos arredos de Atenas » ,  Paulo Fernandes, published in the « Jornal de Notícias » on Monday the 30 of July 2018.

[3] See also „Grèce : un ministre démissionne après les incendies meurtriers » in Le Monde.fr

[4] See „Incendie de Pedrógão Grande“ in wiki.fr, or „ Incêndio florestal de Pedrógão Grande em 2017” in wiki.pt.

[5] In the blogpost „Feux de forêts et lectures de paysages méditerranéens: (Écologie et biogéographie des forêts du bassin méditerranéen ; The Nature of Mediterranean Europe – an Ecological History ; Le feu dans la nature – mythes et réalité) »,published in juin2009, I remembered that i was one the first scientists, warning that climate change could lead to in increase in Forest Fire risks in Central Europe.

[6] In the blogpost “ The Fatal Forest Fire – remembering the “1949 Mega fire” in the „Forêt des Landes” (South West France)”,published in July2009,  I wrote concerning the “1949 Landes forest fire”, that this fire event could be seen as a “historical model for expected forest fires due to global warming in non-mediterranean European forests”

[7] The results of the fire risk mapping were published as a litte book in 1995 in German “Waldbrandrisiken in den Garrigues de Nîmes (Südfrankreich) : eine geographische Analyse“ (ISBN 3-923750-50-1).

[8] Louis Trabaud was of the pioniers of Mediterranean Fire Ecology. He passed away in april 2017, – July Pausas has written a necrology on this personal blog – “Homage to Louis Trabaud”.

[9] Concerning Reiner Joha Bender see also “Blognotice 08.09.2014: Quatre jours de vacances à Leucate, de très petites vacances …. »

[10] See also „Blognotice 15.08.2015: Incendies de forêt à Schramberg en Forêt-Noire et processus de californisation du paysage »

[11] See also „Californisation“ in Wiki.fr

[12] See also the video published by SPON, showing the devastated Mati after the fire event. The video was taken by an UAV.

[13] See also „The Fatal Forest Fire – remembering the “1949 Mega fire” in the „Forêt des Landes” (South West France)

[14] See also „Défense de la forêt contre les incendies » on wiki.fr, even if this article is very poor.

[15] For example see  the special number of the revue forestière francaise dedicated to the fire year 1975 “RFF – SPECIAL – Les incendies de forêts – 1975 (http://documents.irevues.inist.fr/handle/2042/20010) or in 1990  the special number “RFF – SPECIAL – Espaces forestiers… – 1990 (http://documents.irevues.inist.fr/handle/2042/19854) of the same revue, entirely dedicated to forest fire management.

[16] Just to name two examples – in  1990 the French Mediterranean Forests were heavily affected by forest fires, especially the “Massif de Maures” had hard price to pay in this“wildfireseason”. Thus the “Forêt Méditerranéenne” dedicated special numbers of their revue “Incendies & Pin d’Alep T. XIII, n°3, 1992 (Forest fire and Aleppo Pine) and  “Feux et forêts  – Les feux de forêt et la sécheresse en 1990 T. XIII, n°1, 1992 (Fire and Forest – the forest fires and the drought of 1990) to this crucial fire year. Not only to understand what really happened on the terrain during the fire events – but also to improve “prevention”, “forest management” and “Fire defense”.

[17] See „Curt, T. & Frejaville, T: Wildfire Policy in Mediterranean France: How Far is it Efficient and Sustainable?” in “Risk       Analysis ·July 2017 DOI: 10.1111/risa.12855”

[18] See also: Blognotice 14.08.2017: Sècheresse, canicule et feux de forêts – au Maghreb aussi !

[19] Together with some colleagues we analyzed forest fire risks and climate change scenarios and the consequences for Tunisian ecosystems, see :  Neff, C., Aloui, A., El Hamrouni, A., Souissi, A., Grossmann, A. (2007): Ecosystèmes. S. 33–43. In: République Tunisienne, Ministère de l’agriculture et des ressources hydrauliques, GTZ (Coopération technique allemande) (Hrsg.): Stratégie nationale d’adaptation de l’agriculture tunisienne et des écosystèmes aux changements climatiques, Cahier 7, Rapport des groupes d’ experts.