Burning Too

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Take a long hard look at this map, especially the upper right-hand corner, and then tell me why Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro deserves a dressing-down from leaders of some of the world’s most powerful countries, while Russian President Vladimir Putin, guilty of the exact same indifference towards the forest wildfires raging over what, as the map suggests, is a much larger area in Siberia and the Russian Far East, has been criticized only by Greenpeace Russia and rank-and-file Russians living in the line of the fires and the enormous smoke clouds generated by them.

What has Putin ever done to deserve this indulgence?

When you have puzzled that one out, try and explain how four [ahn-TEE-fuh] musicians from Washington, DC, wrote the anthem for the summer of 2019 way back in 1989, that is, exactly thirty years ago, when many of today’s hottest climate changers were not even a gleam in their parents’ eyes.

Anytime but now
Anywhere but here
Anyone but me
I’ve got to think about my own life

Anytime but now
Anywhere but here
Anyone but me
I’ve got to think about my own life

We are consumed by society
We are obsessed with variety
We are all filled that anxiety
World would not survive

We gotta put it out, put it out, we gotta put it out
The sky is burning
We gotta put it out, we gotta put it out, put it out
The water’s burning
We gotta put it out, put it out, put it out
The earth is burning

Outrage
But then they say…

Anytime but now
Anywhere but here
Anyone but me
I’ve got to think about my own life

Anytime but now
Anywhere but here
Anyone but me
I’ve got to think about my own life

The world is not our facility
We have a responsibility
To use our abilities
To keep this place alive

We gotta put it out, put it out, put it out
The sky is burning
We gotta put it out, we gotta put it out, put it out
The water’s burning
We gotta put it out, put it out, we gotta put it out
The earth is burning

Right here
Right now
Do it
Do it
Now
Do it
Now
Do it
Now
Do it

Lyrics courtesy of Genius.com

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Greenpeace Russia: Siberian Wildfires Are Planetary Disaster

49754589_303A satellite view of the forest fires in Siberia, July 21, 2019. Courtesy of Deutsche Welle

Wildfires in Siberia becoming a planetary-scale disaster
Gismeteo
July 29, 2019

Grigory Kuksin, the head of Greenpeace Russia’s firefighting project, called wildfires in Siberia and the Far East a planetary-scale disaster.

Smoke from fires usually moves east or north, but this time it is moving west. Thus, the smoke has engulfed Siberian cities and has reached the Urals. The smell of burning is reported in the Volga Region and Tatarstan.

The wind that changed its direction is expected to bring the smoke to Kamchatka. It may even reach other continents across the ocean, which means it will become a planetary-scale disaster.

Kuksin believes that the smoke will continue to affect the region for a few more weeks. Heavy rain is needed to extinguish such a large fire, but no precipitation is expected.

The expert believes it necessary to reconsider the area of control and implement special measures to avoid similar situations in the future.

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Why There Are So Many Forest Fires in Russia
The scale and aftermath of the disasters are exacerbated by the consumerist mindset of authorities and the lack of resources in a weak economy
Vladimir Ruvinsky
Vedomosti
July 29, 2019

Dense smoke from forest fires has covered cities in Siberia, the Urals, and the Volga region. The fires could have been dealt with at an early stage, but regional authorities avoid fighting fires when they can avoid it due to a lack of money and means.

According to Greenpeace Russia, the fires have encompassed over three million hectares of forest, an area comparable in size to Belgium. The total for the spring and summer of 2019 is eleven million hectares, an area larger than Portugal. During this century, 2003 and 2012 saw worse fire seasons, but Grigory Kuksin of Greenpeace Russia says the records set during those years will probably be beaten this week. Usually, the smoke from the fires drifts towards the sparsely populated east and north. This year, however, the fires have attracted more attention since the smoke has drifted westwards, towards Novosibirsk, Yekaterinburg, Chelyabinsk, and Kazan.

The current fires are largely a consequence of decision-making by Russian authorities. More than 90% are the burning fires are located in so-called monitoring zones, areas where regional authorities may not fight fires if the expenditures on extinguishing exceed the damage they cause. This regulation was adopted in 2015 when Russian federal authorities basically legalized what had been an implicit rule during Soviet times. But the Soviet authorities had, in fact, fought fires in remote areas. Nowadays, regional governors are not officially obliged to fight them. They take advantage of this, especially because they lack money and equipment.

While Russia has lots of woodlands, its economy is too week to fight all forest fires. Kuksin argues that the gigantic monitoring zones could be decreased while increasing prevention measures and using available resources to better effect. Most fires are caused by people: they are mainly sparked when loggers burn residue wood in logging areas.  Such fires could definitely be put out immediately, but local authorities have made a practice of refusing to fight them. They are the major cause of the biggest fires, which have turned into insoluble problems that only the rains can solve.

The way the authorities see things, the anticipated costs of putting out fires in the monitoring zones are always higher than the damage caused by them. The damage caused by forest fires is primarily calculated in terms of the minimum price of timber. This cost can be written off (and if not, there is no damage), i.e., forest fires often cost almost nothing in terms of official damages. However, as Konstantin Kobyakov, an environmentalist at WWF Russia, points outs, Russia loses three times more forest in fires annually (three million hectares) than the forest industry removes (one million hectares), meaning the country already faces a deficit of woodlands that will only keep growing.

Kuksin recalls that gas and oil industry infrastructure, such as pipelines, is located in the monitoring zones, and uncontrolled blazes are approaching hundreds of villages and small towns. Damage assessment does not account for air and water pollution or the real harm caused to people’s health by acrid smoke, which is harder to calculate but does considerably increase mortality. In addition, stable high-pressure systems have formed over the gigantic fire zone in Siberia, triggering abnormally heavy rains along the perimeter. The fires generate a lot of greenhouse gases and soot, which accelerates the melting of arctic ice and climate change, meaning they increase the risk of more fires in the future.

Translated by the Russian Reader

“I Felt Like Going Up to Him and Spitting in His Face”

“I Felt Like Going Up to Him and Spitting in His Face”
Yevgeny Karasyuk
Republic
July 2, 2019

Torrential rains began falling in the western part of the Irkutsk Region early last week. When they were over, there was no doubt the bad weather had caused local rivers to rise, producing a major flood involving human casualties and large-scale damage.

The flood, which affected over ninety towns and destroyed at least a thousand homes, has been declared the most powerful in the region in the one hundred some years since the weather there has been systematically observed and recorded.

The flood put a crimp in President Putin’s schedule, probably even as he was attending the G20 summit in Japan, which wrapped up on Saturday.

He visited the flooded region the same day, but he had no intention of staying there for long. He never left the airport in Bratsk, a city that had also suffered from the flood, but which had not been inundated as disastrously as other cities and towns.

Putin’s visit to Bratsk on his way home to Moscow from Osaka was a logistical opportunity he could not pass up, of course. The Russian regime’s personification has long ago reached the point the populace regards the president as morally responsible for any high-profile disaster anywhere in the country.

Going where disaster has struck is thus a matter of political instinct. The president last showed his trust in it only six months ago in Magnitogorsk. The critics can accuse Putin of arriving at the sites of tragedies after they are over and visiting fake patients with arms demonstratively in slings, but he knows what he is doing.

He still finds the strength to board a plane so that, a few hours later, he can appear, stern-faced, before the cameras and issue orders at emergency meetings of local and federal officials. This is exactly what the president did late at night in Bratsk.

The speed with which Putin arrives at the epicenter of events, like the amount of time he spends there, matches the alacrity with which Russia’s press reports the news.

“Putin instructed the head of the Emergencies Ministry to fly immediately to Kemerovo.”

“Putin was informed about the tragedy in Magnitogorsk immediately.”

“Putin demanded that immediately, as of today, compensation be paid to the victims [i.e., the residents of the affected districts in the Irkutsk Region] and that an action plan for rebuilding housing and doing it as quickly as possible be outlined without delay.”

All the fuss testifies not to the might of the so-called power vertical Putin has fashioned but, on the contrary, to its weakness. It produces nothing remotely resembling independence, flexibility, and responsibility on the part of local authorities, especially when it comes to the safety of ordinary Russians. Putin continues to run our vast country manually, but the outcome of his administration is quite deplorable, as we can see.

irkutsk.jpegA satellite image, provided by Roskosmos, shows the parts of the Irkutsk Region affected by the flooding. Courtesy of Republic

It does not matter a whit where and when the president arrives, and how long he stays there because it happens after the fact. Russian authorities usually do nothing at the most crucial moments. In a country run by the security services [siloviki], a country where there are more experts in security than anywhere else, a country with a whole emergencies ministry, it can easily happen that you would not be warned of impending disaster.

According to the Emergencies Ministry, four out of ten Russians are still not covered by the early warning system. Its absence goes a long way toward explaining the disaster in Krymsk in July 2012 in which entire houses and their sleeping owners were swept away by flood waters in the middle of the night. While Moscow was fiddling around with modernization and digitalization, towns in Krasnodar Territory did not have radio transmitters at their disposal to sound warning signals and inform residents of the approaching flood.

Seven years have passed since the disaster in Krymsk, and what happened there has happened again in Eastern Siberia. Residents of the town of Tulun, in the Irkutsk Region, have claimed they were not warned about the impending flood, and so they did not have time to gather their belongings and flee their homes. Local officials, however, assured Putin everyone had been warned.

“I watched our mayor giving his report to Putin and I felt like going up to him and spitting in his face,” a local woman who could not contain her emotions told journalists.

Officials now say they knew nothing. Irkutsk Region Governor Sergei Levchenko said regional authorities were not informed of the dangerous rise in the levels of water in local rivers, while the Emergencies Ministry has claimed the opposite.

Officials argue nature is capable of catching anyone by surprise, including the Russian state. At Irkutsk State University, scientists said global climate change had caused the flooding. Arctic and subtropical air masses had mixed with humid air from the Pacific Ocean, something quite rare for the region, to produce the atmospheric anomaly that led to the disaster.

In fact, all that is required in such circumstances is that officials pretend they sympathize with the populace in its plight and are ready to help. But the authorities, disinclined by habit from bowing to public pressure, could not make such a sacrifice.

“What do you want me to say? Do you want me to complain? I can complain to you, too,” Alexander Uss, head of Krasnoyarsk Territory, retorted to local residents upset by their governor’s passivity.

Krasnoyarsk Territory was next in the flood’s path after the Irkutsk Region, but the floodwaters have begun to subside.

You can relax. Putin will not be paying you a visit.

Translated by the Russian Reader

Neapolitan Ice Cream in the Cradle of Three Revolutions

neapolitan-1Neapolitan ice cream à la russe. Photo by the Russian Reader

Not that I had been looking very hard these past twenty-four years, but yesterday I found one of my favorite childhood desserts in the frozen foods section of the cornershop on my street: Neapolitan ice cream.

It was called trio plombir in Russian (plombir is just mock-fancy Russian, appropriated from the French, for rich ice cream, ordinarily referred to as morozhenое), but that hardly mattered, because it was Neapolitan ice cream in every way that counted.

neapolitan-2What could be better on a warm October evening than a large slab of trio plombir? Photo by the Russian Reader

And why am I still eating ice cream in mid October, you ask? Because the high temperature in Petersburg the day before yesterday was nineteen degrees Centigrade.

Please don’t be envious of me, though, faithful readers. From here on out it is all downhill. The forecast temperatuare high for the next to last three days in October is minus one degree Centigrade. I will probably have forgotten all about Russian Neapolitan ice cream by then. {TRR}

 

 

A Certifiable Genius

Monument to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Petersburg, July 18, 2015
Monument to Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, Petersburg, July 18, 2015

The pioneering Russian rocket scientist Konstantin Tsiolkovsky was, undoubtedly, a certifiable genius.

The amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is quite small (0.03%), which does not facilitate crop yields. Its quantity could be increased 30 times (to one percent) with great benefit to plants and no harm whatsoever to man. The gas is not poisonous, and an abundance of it in the atmosphere would only hinder its secretion from the lungs. One percent would cause almost no hindrance, even if we are talking about human lungs.
—Konstantin Tsiolkovsky, “The Future of the Earth and Mankind” (Kaluga, 1928)

Photo and translation by the Russian Reader

Leave the Capital!

Emergency Situations Ministry Recommends Residents Leave Yekaterinburg, Advises Those Who Stay Not to Leave the Apartment and Gargle
URA.Ru
July 23, 2016

Smog has enveloped Yekaterinburg. Photo: Vladimir Zhabrikov © URA.Ru

The Emergency Situations Ministry (EMERCOM) office for Sverdlovsk Region has made a special appeal to the region’s residents, which it has posted on the agency’s official website.

As our own correspondent reports, the rescue service has warned that adverse weather conditions of the first level of hazardousness have settled over the region until 8 p.m., June 26. During this time, calm weather and high temperatures will facilitate the formation of smog in the air.

Mayors have been advised to closely monitor industrial emissions, and motorists, to abandon the use of private vehicles and switch to public transport. Monitoring of unauthorized waste incineration has been increased.

To date, the rescue service has not recorded levels above the maximum allowable concentration of pollutants in the air. Nevertheless, they have asked the public to take the following precautions.

The public has been advised to leave the city during this time. (The message does not indicate which city. Apparently, Yekaterinburg is meant.) If this is impossible, then people are advised to go outside as little as possible and keep doors and windows closed, and when leaving the house, people should put on a dampened cotton-gauze bandage. After being outside, it is advised to take a shower and change one’s clothes or thoroughly wash up and rinse one’s throat.

As URA.ru has previously reported, a dense smog, due, allegedly, to forest fires in Siberia, has enveloped Yekaterinburg the last several days.

NB. Yekaterinburg, Russia’s fourth largest city, has an estimated population of one and a half million people. TRR

Translated by the Russian Reader. Thanks to Comrade AK for the heads-up. See “Greenpeace Russia: The Far East and Siberia Are Burning,” Russian Reader, May 25, 2016.

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Baikal on Fire

russia.a2015234.0355.250mLake Baikal in Eastern Russia, the deepest and oldest lake in the world, is home to 20 percent of the world’s unfrozen fresh water.  As of August 24, 2015 this lake is facing a crisis with 36 fires equaling an area of 138,500 hectares (342,240 acres) currently burning around its shores.  The fires which surround the lake are cutting off its water arteries, which can adversely affect the ecological balance of the lake.  At present the depth of the lake is at an all-time low.  As a result, the drier coastline could lead to more summertime wildfires. Soot and ash are washing up on the shores of the lake and the skies above the lake, a popular tourist area, are completely covered in smoke.  So too, an unusually hot summer and a lack of rainfall have contributed to making the situation worse.

This natural-color satellite image was collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite on August 22, 2015. Actively burning areas, detected by MODIS’s thermal bands, are outlined in red.  NASA image courtesy Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Rapid Response Team. Caption: NASA/Goddard, Lynn Jenner

source: NASA

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Baikal on fire – ‘it feels like doomsday’
By The Siberian Times reporter
23 August 2015
The Siberian Times

Pristine forests around the world’s oldest lake go up in flames.

Baikal inferno. Picture: Chono Erdenebayar

These unnerving images show the scale of destruction from wildfires close to Lake Baikal, the jewel of Siberia. The sky is aglow over the Republic of Buryatia from the uncontrolled burning, the latest outbreaks of fires that have been destroying forests around the world’s oldest and deepest lake for a number of weeks.

Locals and tourists could only gaze from beaches beside the lake at the impressive but disturbing images from the flames and smoke.

The shocking scenes came amid a warning from a senior politician that wildfires now pose the greatest threat to the lake, on the UNESCO World Heritage List, which contains 20% of the unfrozen freshwater on the planet.

Mikhail Slipenchuk, deputy head of the Russian parliament’s committee on natural resources and ecology, said: ‘Fires near the lake’s shores actually kill the water arteries, thus damaging the water balance in the lake’.

Baikal on fire - 'it feels like doomsday'


Baikal on fire - 'it feels like doomsday'


Baikal on fire - 'it feels like doomsday'


Baikal on fire - 'it feels like doomsday'


Baikal on fire - 'it feels like doomsday'
Pictures from around the town of Gremyachinsk, and maps of wildfires around lake Baikal. Pictures: Chono Erdenebayar and Andrey Razyvayev

Some 36 fires are burning over an area of 77,000 hectares, after a hot summer with a lack of rainfall, it was reported.

These pictures were taken by Chono Erdenebayar close to Gremyachinsk, on the shore of Lake Baikal, some 138 km south of Ulan Ude.

‘It feels like doomsday’, said one eyewitness.

On the lake’s eastern shore, the area is famed for its sunny bays and sandy beaches.

Thanks to Echo of Moscow radio and Novaya Gazeta editor-in-chief Dmitry Muratov for the heads-up