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Общественная Кампания по борьбе с палами травы и природными пожарами







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About the ISEU Public Campaign “Just stop the grass burning!”

The Campaign was launched in 2016 by Russian environmentalists to fight against the grass burning tradition in Russia. The grass burnings every year become the main reason of wildfire catastrophe in this country. Wildfires are lunched by unauthorized (illegal) grass burning and, frequently, by legal prescribed burning, implementing for agricultural purposes and forest fires protection.

The main focus of the Campaign is the fighting against unauthorized grass burning (prohibited by law in Russia), which people conduct in vast areas at spring and autumn seasons. Those grass burnings give the largest percentage of wildfires in most regions of the country.

The Campaign also aims to reduce the volume of legal prescribed burning, which are allowed to implement in forests lands for prevention them from wildfires. The authority of many Russian regions every year appoint such a huge area of prescribed burning in forest lands that they can't be implemented safety, i.e. using the methods of burning control recommended by specialists and set by law. As a result, the prescribed burning themselves often lunch of strong forest fires.

In 2015 the agricultural grass burning was prohibited by law across the entire country, but many farmers still continue to burn. The third focus of the Campaign is fighting against agricultural burning: to search of appropriate alternatives of crop residues and straws burnings, which would be understandable and convenient for farmers.

In total, all forms of grass burning give annually more than 90% of the causes of wildfires in Russia (forest fires, peat fires, grass fires, steppe fires and reed fires). The remaining 9-10% are caused by other forms of careless handling with fires in natural lands, like campfires which were not extinguished completely, smoldering cigarette butts thrown on dry grass, improper burning of garbage in garden areas, sparks from cars. The natural causes of wildfires can be only thunderstorms without rain (dry thunderstorms), but they are extremely rare in Russia. Almost all wildfires are caused by humans.

Since July 2017 the Campaign “Just stop the grass burning!” has been operating as the public campaign of the International Socio-Ecological Union (ISEU), actual website, old website, which one of the oldest Russian environmental organization and the only international environmental organization which was born in USSR. From this year the Campaign started the steps towards the international character of work. We saw that many countries of the World also have the problem of massive burning of dry vegetation and all negative consequences of these actions, the main of which are the frequent catastrophic wildfires.

The following countries conduct the dry vegetation burning on vast areas for agricultural, forestry, and fire prevention purposes, and, at the same time, suffer quasi every year from catastrophic wildfires: Canada, United States of America, Australia, Russia, Argentina, southern Europe (Portugal, Greece, Spain, etc), Indonesia, several African countries.

The following countries conducted the dry vegetation burning in the past, but then stopped doing it, and after that the wildfires there were significantly reduced: Finland, Sweden, Germany, New Zealand.

However, in many countries where the dry vegetation burning is still intensively implemented, the hazards of this practice, the negative impact of this practice on natural ecosystems, soil qualities, human health, climate and economy, and especially the obvious links with wildfires are almost unknown in society. There are no critical discussions about the burning consequences in the press, among scientists, environmental organizations, activists and all other people. As a result, the society of the most countries has low level of awareness about the problem of dry vegetation burning and knows very little about the risks of this practice. A lot of people do not even know that the authorities of their country conduct the prescribed burning (the intentional burning of dry vegetation like grass, crop residues and straw in the agricultural fields; grass, branches and dry trees in the forests) on large areas. When people find out about that (especially if their country has annual catastrophic wildfires) they come in horror. The logical connection between burning of dry vegetation in natural lands, the danger of this practice especially in dry and windy climate and the annual heavy wildfires is obvious for any rational thinking person.

The objectives of the international work of the Campaign are the follows:

1. To stop all forms of unauthorized (illegal) grass burning. Due to the fact that those burning are implemented mostly by non-professionals without appropriate means of control (often they are conducted intentionally without control) – they often lead to strong wildfires, so they have the greatest danger to environment and people.

2. To implement a wide information coverage and popularization of the whole problem of the dry vegetation burning:

2.1 To inform people about existent types of unauthorized illegal grass burning and legal prescribed burning and areas of burnt lands in each country (the dry vegetation burnings are usually conducted for the purposes of agriculture and forestry, protection of forests from wildfires and for others reasons, including, not rational ones).

2.2 To inform about all potential risks and proven negative consequences of all forms of dry vegetation burning on wildlife, climate, agriculture and public health.

We believe that public awareness about the dry vegetation burning practice will lead to development of critical attitudes and public distrust to all forms of burning. This, in turn, will contribute to consideration this problem at the state, scientific and public level. This can trigger the implementation of objective scientific researches focusing on the impact of dry vegetation burning on soil, native ecosystems, climate, strength and frequency of wildfires, people’s health and economy.

3. To insist on conduction of objective scientific researchs studying the impact of legal prescribed burning and unauthorized grass burning on strength and frequency of wildfires, quality of soils, native natural ecosystems, climate, people health and economy. To insist that those researchs should be implemented by independent specialists in objective and comprehensive manner and should not based on the accepted paradigm of the unconditional benefits and safety of prescribed burnings.

Here the following arguments should be used. Any strong human intervention in Nature is always harmful, unless the otherwise is proved. For this reason, it is not the opponents of prescribed burning practice must prove its danger and harm to environment and people, it is those who promote this practice and conduct the dry vegetation burnings on vast areas must prove their SAFETY and their NECESSITY.

However, the evidence of various harmful effects of dry vegetation burning is obvious and lies on the surface. Although opponents of dry vegetation burning do not have to prove their negative consequences, but they can easily prove them. For do this, only the basic scientific research of the influence of dry vegetation burning on the environment, climate, people health and economy should be conducted.

These researches have not been conducted anywhere, in spite of they are necessary for using such a strong human intervention in Nature as frequent burning of dry plants on vast areas. We suppose that they have not been implemented for the reason that in the countries where the prescribed burning is widely used, the scientific paradigm of their unconditional benefit and safety exists. (A paradigm - is a well-established scientific concept, which is not questioned in society, over which scientists and all other people do not think critically and do not ask question – is it true?). The science of these countries has never set a goal to objectively estimate the impact of dry vegetation burning on the scale and frequency of wildfires, on the quality of soils of agricultural fields, on changes in natural native ecosystems in which the prescribed burning is conducted to protect them from fires, on the health of people. And, finally, on all economy of the country which every year spends a lot of money to carry out prescribed burning, and then even more money – to extinguish of strong wildfires, which most likely were launched by legal prescribed burnings or illegal unauthorized grass burning. The volume of the last one directly correlated with the volume of the first one, because ordinary people frequently see the “bad examples” of wide application of vegetation burning for different needs, which stimulate them to burn by themselves. For example, in wildfires season some people may want to protect their private lands from wildfires by implementation of grass burning by themselves, nobody control them in their own lands… as a result those actions will provide new strong wildfires.

We believe that objective and comprehensive scientific researches of all negative consequences of dry vegetation burning will lead to common conclusion that burning practice should be banned or significantly reduced in each country.

However the multiyear period of burning of dry vegetation has already led to significant changes in natural ecosystems. The most striking example is the native forest ecosystems of Australia. For this reason in some regions the refusal of burning may produce greater wildfires at the first time.

We think that it is necessary to change the attitude to dry vegetation burning and move towards complete termination of this practice in the world. The scientific research should be involved in this issue and the special transition programs should be developed.


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