The impact of wildfires
We all have eventually heard forest ecosystems are fundamental for our global environment and daily life. But how exactly? After oceans, forests are the largest carbon storehouses on the planet, absorbing greenhouse gasses that produce climate change. Additionally, forests provide raw materials such as clean water, food, and wood, which we use and consume daily in our urban contexts. Furthermore, forests are the natural habitat for a diversity of animal species, being the home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity. Today, more than ever, these magnificent ecosystems are progressively in danger, as we have observed acres of forests worldwide burn erratically. Wildfire is the general term for an uncontrolled fire that occurs in an area of combustible vegetation, such as forests, grasslands, or savannahs, usually near rural areas.
"Forests are the natural habitat for a diversity of animal species, being the home to 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity."
Wildfires in Portugal
Three conditions must exist to create a fire, 1) fuel, 2) oxygen, and 3) a heat source. Even though wildfires are considered natural disasters, 85% occur due to human causes, like discarded cigarettes, camp or debris fires, and arson. The other 15% are often related to dry, hot weather and droughts, where the vegetation becomes dry flammable fuel. In these conditions, any form of a spark, whether from natural causes such as lighting or the sun, or human carelessness, can ignite and spread with the wind at a raging speed of up to 22 km per hour. Climate change has increasingly brought hotter and longer summers along the Mediterranean during the past decades. According to the Portuguese Environment Agency, the average number of fires between 2008 and 2017, was nearly 22’000 a year, which corresponds to more than 140’600 hectares of burnt area. Some of the reasons why Portugal has one of the highest wildfire risk rankings in Europe starts with significant demographic changes due to population migration from rural to urban areas. A side effect of this rural abandonment is poor forest management and firefighting techniques. The majority of firefighters are volunteers, moving back to rural areas for the summer season. These teams often find themselves overwhelmed by the quick-growing dimension of most summer fires which have aggravated over the past years. Despite the increase of investment in firefighting assets, Portugal still does not find itself equipped enough for the current level of risk and fire activity.
"According to the Portuguese Environment Agency, the average number of fires between 2008 and 2017, was nearly 22’000 a year."
Additionally, agricultural and forest areas are progressively left unattended or not adequately maintained. Fragmentation of land ownership cripples fire planning and extensive investment. Due to the big paper pulp industry in Portugal, there is a massive plantation across the country of quick-growing eucalyptus trees, which are profitable but highly flammable. Experts state there needs to be a change in the landscapes to more fire-resistant trees like oak or chestnut. The combination of the weather conditions and forest characteristics turn wildfires inevitable.
Wildfires around the World
Wildfires cause a significant impact on an environmental, economic, and social level. Not only are we losing acres of forests every year, which immensely impact our global environment, but also hundreds of animal species and human communities living nearby are in great danger. We see resembling phenomena across the world, such as in the American West, Australia, and the Amazon. It is clear humans have an active role in the preservation of forest ecosystems and the prevention of wildfires. Three ways you can personally make a difference are, 1) inform yourself about your surrounding community and existent fire risks, 2) adopt conscious behaviors to diminish those risks and 3) donate and support associations that work with forest conservation.
"Make a difference: Inform yourself, adopt conscious behaviors and donate."
We have recently released our Forest Series, in which all our products are organic & vegan, ethically produced and designed in Portugal. Organic cotton production uses a natural process based on a combination of traditional agricultural methods and scientific innovation, without toxic chemicals or genetically modified organisms, which promote the health of the ecosystem, the farmers, and the soils. Purchasing products made with organic cotton reduces your environmental footprint, as it also uses 88% less water and 62% less energy. Therefore, you might find that some organically made products have a higher price, as you are also investing in water and air conservation. Currently, only 1% of cotton produced globally is organic. When you choose to purchase organic cotton, you have the power to influence the demand for this product, and consequently, major brands and manufactures will adopt this method.
"Organic products reduce your environmental footprint, using 88% less water and 62% less energy."
Our mission at CRØSS THE.LINE is to create sustainable clothing to raise awareness of the unique ecosystems of our planet, their vulnerability, and how we can better preserve them. By purchasing a piece of our new Forest Series, 10% will be reverted to reforestation and forest preservation.
Check out our Forest Series →