Fires, Arsonists, and Us

Fires engulfing the countryside in Gironde, southwestern France. Image source: CNN.

August 16, 2022, Editorial of the Workplace Newsletters of the Etincelle fraction of the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA), translated from French.

Four heat waves in three months. Since the start of the year, uncontrollable mega-fires have already caused the destruction of nearly 112,000 acres across France, and tens of thousands of people were evacuated overnight in Gironde (a province in the southwest of France).

In recent years, Spain, California and Australia saw the catastrophic consequences of climate change, and it is now being felt in France. In addition to forest fires, there are growing water shortages threatening crops, river transport and the safety of nuclear power plants.

The government is blowing on the embers…

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has long predicted this succession of disasters. Yet, just as during the COVID pandemic, when the government cut back on hospital beds and nurses, the government has also in recent years exacerbated the shortage of fire department and rescue services. Over the last few years, there have been recurrent strikes. The fire and rescue departments lack equipment and training, so much so that even the number of volunteer firefighters is constantly decreasing. The dozen Canadairs (water-bomber airplanes) are no longer sufficient; the fleet is aging, so many of the planes are grounded. This, while forest fires have destroyed four times as much land since 2017 compared to the previous decade.

The National Forestry Office (ONF), in charge of forest management and monitoring, has seen its staff reduced by half in the last few years; at the moment, it does not even have a director! But Béchu, the Minister of the Environment, defends the situation and claims fires spread less quickly in the forests that the ONF is managing… We are tempted to reply: for now…

The rich provide the fuel…

If the financial means are lacking, it is because President Emmanuel Macron, and his friends, prefer to subsidize large companies and exempt the super-rich from taxes. Yet the latter are the main culprits of the uncontrolled climate change currently underway. Not only because their unbridled consumption surpasses the carbon footprint of any other inhabitant of the planet – on August 8 alone, Bolloré’s (one of the world’s 500 largest companies) private jet emitted as much CO2 as an average French person does in two years. But above all, because they are the ones who organize the production and distribution of goods on a planetary scale in an irresponsible way, disregarding the need to protect the climate, as well as the needs of the population.

For example, while the temperature on Earth is constantly rising, Total (French gas company) is announcing new gas and oil extraction projects, a source of accelerated greenhouse warming. Shareholders, who have already been gratified with record profits of 18 billion euros in the first half of 2022, are delighted. In their unbridled race for profit, capitalists are ready to let the planet burn, or drown, as the case may be.

It is up to us to act!

President Macron and Prime Minster Borne suggest “resilience” and recommend that people “prepare” to endure these disasters as the “new normal” of the coming decades. In short, they are telling us to adapt to the coming climate apocalypse so that the rich can continue to enjoy their golf, swimming pools and other privatized paradises. This criminal attitude puts all humanity in danger. We must oppose it now with our solidarity around the disaster areas – which hundreds of volunteers have done, and are currently doing – and our determination to defend ourselves against the fires that the capitalists are setting. If their motto is “after us, the deluge,” let us be the storm that overwhelms them.