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Story Publication logo January 7, 2020

'Roots and All' Podcast: Wildfires With Saul Elbein

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In the name of renewable energy, the British government is subsidizing the clear-cutting of the American Southeast. Image courtesy of Saul Elbein. United States, 2018.
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The American Southeast is the home of one of the most biodiverse, ecologically crucial—and heavily...

A firefighter tries to extinguish a wildfire in the village of Casais de Sao Bento in Macao in central Portugal. Image by Patricia De Melo/ AFP via Getty Images. Portugal, 2017.
A firefighter tries to extinguish a wildfire in the village of Casais de Sao Bento in Macao in central Portugal. Image by Patricia De Melo/ AFP via Getty Images. Portugal, 2017.

My guest for this episode is Saul Elbein. The National Geographic published an article by Saul on December 9th titled "How to live with mega-fires? Portugal's feral forests may hold the secret", which provides an insight into what conditions are needed for mega-fires to occur, the effects they have on humans once they take hold and how we can, and indeed must, be responsible for curtailing these events in the future, however the way forward is not certain and will undoubtedly involve a large amount of individual responsibility. I began by asking Saul just how much of a problem forest fires are becoming across the globe.

About Saul Elbein:

Saul is a freelance journalist who writes non-fiction features for outlets such as The New York Times Magazine, the National Geographic and one that some listeners may be fans of, the radio program and podcast, This American Life. He writes articles about the environment and the complex and often tense relationship between people and the land.

"Above all, my work is guided by one idea: the world is changing for all of us alike. Vast storm fronts sweep across it, bending down forests in their wake, shaking boulders from the mountains. We can see the outlines of faraway storms before they reach our homes. In my small way, as a Texan far from home, I try to chart these storms and find a logic in them." – Saul Elbein www.saulelbein.com

What we talk about:

Are forest fires getting worse globally?

What areas are most at risk?

How more densely planted areas can actually be more susceptible to wildfires?

How have the ways communities are structured contributed to the problem?

Do people realise the extent of the problem?

What is being done to tackle the problem in Portugal and is it enough?

What should/could be done?

Is there a danger communities are waiting for someone in power to do something when we all need to take back management of our lands, which involves a cost to the individual, at least in terms of time?

Is there a danger knowledge of land management is dying out?

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