Wildfires Are Burning 5 Million Acres in Siberia and Eastern Russia
As of April 27, ten times the amount of land was on fire in the Krasnoyarsk region compared to the same time last year, The Siberian Times reported. In Transbaikal, meanwhile, three times as much land was burning, and in the Amur region, there were 1.5 times as many fires.
"A critical situation with fires has developed in Siberia and the Far East," Emergencies Minister Evgeny Zinichev said in a video conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin reported by The Siberian Times.
Wildfires ‘critical’ in Siberia and Russian Far East, up to ten times worse than last year. People are flouting cor… https://t.co/OeLh97anyO— The Siberian Times (@The Siberian Times)1588367484.0
Experts and agencies outside Russia have also reported on the extent of the fires. London School of Economics geographer Thomas Smith told Earther that around five million acres of Russian forest and grassland were on fire, and the largest fire was one million acres total, around the size of Glacier National Park.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) also captured the fires from space April 27.
NASA Worldview, Earth Observing System Data and Information System (EOSDIS)
"On April 23, 2020, strong winds helped to push fires set by locals to dry grass out of control," NASA wrote. "The regions of Kemerovo and Novosibirsk among others have been the hardest hit to date. Nine Siberian regions have been affected by these wildfires. Clouds of smoke have swept across the Siberian landscape."
In Novosibirsk, around 50 homes were burned and in Kemerovo, 27, The Siberian Times reported.
Human activity provides the immediate spark for the fires. Farmers burn dry grass even though the practice was banned in 2015, and, this year, the coronavirus lockdown has made the situation worse.
"People self-isolated outdoors and forgot about fire safety rules," Russian forestry chief Sergei Anoprienko told The Siberian Times. "In some regions, the temperature is already around 30C, and people just can't keep themselves in their apartments. People rushed outdoors, and as a result we have a surge of thermal points."
But human activity is also behind the conditions that make the fires more likely. Russia is warming 2.5 times faster than the rest of the planet, and last winter was so warm that Moscow had to truck in artificial snow for a New Year's display, The Guardian reported. Wildfires in Siberia in summer 2019 got so bad that the government was forced to declare a state of emergency. The fires came as June 2019 temperatures in Siberia were almost ten degrees Celsius warmer than average. 2020 is now shaping up to be a difficult fire year as well.
"A less snowy winter, an abnormal winter, and insufficient soil moisture are factors that create the conditions for the transition of landscape fires to settlements," Zinichev told The Siberian Times. He also said unusually hot weather was combining with strong winds to fan the flames.
2020 could be a bad year for wildfires across the globe, Earther pointed out. The Amazon's fire season could be worse than last year's and California only got half of its normal precipitation this winter.
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Returning the ‘Three Sisters’ – Corn, Beans and Squash – to Native American Farms Nourishes People, Land and Cultures
By Christina Gish Hill
Historians know that turkey and corn were part of the first Thanksgiving, when Wampanoag peoples shared a harvest meal with the pilgrims of Plymouth plantation in Massachusetts. And traditional Native American farming practices tell us that squash and beans likely were part of that 1621 dinner too.
Abundant Harvests<p>Historically, Native people throughout the Americas bred indigenous plant varieties specific to the growing conditions of their homelands. They selected seeds for many different traits, such as <a href="https://emergencemagazine.org/story/corn-tastes-better/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">flavor, texture and color</a>.</p><p>Native growers knew that planting corn, beans, squash and sunflowers together produced mutual benefits. Corn stalks created a trellis for beans to climb, and beans' twining vines secured the corn in high winds. They also certainly observed that corn and bean plants growing together tended to be healthier than when raised separately. Today we know the reason: Bacteria living on bean plant roots pull nitrogen – an essential plant nutrient – from the air and <a href="http://www.tilthalliance.org/learn/resources-1/almanac/october/octobermngg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">convert it to a form that both beans and corn can use</a>.</p><p>Squash plants contributed by shading the ground with their broad leaves, preventing weeds from growing and retaining water in the soil. Heritage squash varieties also had spines that discouraged deer and raccoons from visiting the garden for a snack. And sunflowers planted around the edges of the garden created a natural fence, protecting other plants from wind and animals and attracting pollinators.</p><p>Interplanting these agricultural sisters produced bountiful harvests that sustained large Native communities and <a href="http://dx.doi.org/10.1353/eam.2015.0016" target="_blank">spurred fruitful trade economies</a>. The first Europeans who reached the Americas were shocked at the abundant food crops they found. My research is exploring how, 200 years ago, Native American agriculturalists around the Great Lakes and along the Missouri and Red rivers fed fur traders with their diverse vegetable products.</p>
Displaced From the Land<p>As Euro-Americans settled permanently on the most fertile North American lands and acquired seeds that Native growers had carefully bred, they imposed policies that <a href="https://doi.org/10.1086/ahr/87.2.550" target="_blank">made Native farming practices impossible</a>. In 1830 President Andrew Jackson signed the <a href="https://guides.loc.gov/indian-removal-act" target="_blank">Indian Removal Act</a>, which made it official U.S. policy to force Native peoples from their home locations, pushing them onto subpar lands.</p><p>On reservations, U.S. government officials discouraged Native women from cultivating anything larger than small garden plots and pressured Native men to practice Euro-American style monoculture. Allotment policies assigned small plots to nuclear families, further limiting Native Americans' access to land and preventing them from using communal farming practices.</p><p>Native children were forced to attend boarding schools, where they had no opportunity to <a href="https://doi.org/10.5749/jamerindieduc.57.1.0145" target="_blank">learn Native agriculture techniques or preservation and preparation of Indigenous foods</a>. Instead they were forced to eat Western foods, turning their palates away from their traditional preferences. Taken together, these policies <a href="https://kansaspress.ku.edu/978-0-7006-0802-7.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">almost entirely eradicated three sisters agriculture</a> from Native communities in the Midwest by the 1930s.</p>
Reviving Native Agriculture<p>Today Native people all over the U.S. are working diligently to <a href="https://www.oupress.com/books/15107980/indigenous-food-sovereignty-in-the-united-sta" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">reclaim Indigenous varieties of corn, beans, squash, sunflowers and other crops</a>. This effort is important for many reasons.</p><p>Improving Native people's access to healthy, culturally appropriate foods will help lower rates of <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/aian-diabetes/index.html" target="_blank">diabetes</a> and <a href="https://www.apa.org/pi/oema/resources/ethnicity-health/native-american/obesity" target="_blank">obesity</a>, which affect Native Americans at disproportionately high rates. Sharing traditional knowledge about agriculture is a way for elders to pass cultural information along to younger generations. Indigenous growing techniques also protect the lands that Native nations now inhabit, and can potentially benefit the wider ecosystems around them.</p>
By Jake Johnson
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Anger, anxiety, overwhelm … climate change can evoke intense feelings.
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