The climate is changing. There is no more doubt about it. In Madeira, after the dramatic floods of February of 2010, we are now facing two years among the driest in History. We could, eventually, live with that, if it weren't for one additional danger, already taking it's toll: the large scale forest fires.
Until 2010 these were unheard of. However the Summer of that same year changed that, when thousands of acres of mountain vegetation were burn to ashes. From that year on we forgot what Winter time looked like, since the precipitation was scarce.
And now, after a reasonably peaceful year of 2011, we are facing once again the drama of the fires. In just a couple of days vast areas of Ponta do Pargo, Calheta and Santa Cruz were burnt beyond recognition.
Doesn't really matter, presently, to attribute guilt or responsibility for the fires. This should have been a prevention job first. And that failed. Now is a time for reflexion. To prioritize. To understand what went wrong and to correct it for the future. In the end... a political responsibility.
However, one thing is certain: Madeira cannot live without water. And her vegetation cover plays the most important role in producing it. In a time of global warmth, the preservation of our forests is not only a question of aesthetics. It's a matter of survival.
Nearby Madeira, the semi-desertic (although beautiful) island of Porto Santo is a dramatic example of how the lack of water can have a decisive impact on the landscape. And on the human societies living on it. That can be the future of Madeira (and the continental Portugal also) if nothing is done. If no prevention is made. If we keep letting the forests being burn faster than we can protect them.
Portugal, as a whole, depends heavily on tourism to survive. It's one of our biggest sources of income (in Madeira, particularly, it's the biggest). And people visit us because we have a lovely climate, gentle people, rich History and... beautiful nature.
We have to ask ourselves if the only thing, in the future, we have (and want) to offer them is scorched earth.
The pristine Laurissilva forest, near Caldeirão Verde. One of the most visited spots in Madeira, for the nature tourism. This enchanted forest has managed to be kept safe from fires. For how long?
Picture taken with Nikon F100 and Tokina AT-X Pro 17mm f/1:3.5.
Fujichrome Velvia ASA 50 scanned in Nikon Coolscan V ED.
Post-processing in Adobe Photoshop CS3.