Recently, Monchique was in the spotlight when the forest fires were being reported in the international press. The reason why these forest fires repeatedly rage across the Serra de Monchique and its neighbouring regions is closely linked to the investments of Semapa SA and its subsidiaries Navigator/Portucel and the industrial eucalyptus monoculture that is practised in an area of 2,500 km² to the North, both in Nave Redonda and São Teotónio (North-west), as well as in São Marcos da Serra (North-east). The main responsibility lies with the pulp producer Navigator (Semapa AG), which guarantees private producers the sale of their eucalyptus production, and, at the same time, also has its own plantations. Anyone who notices the office paper brands that they buy will understand why there have been infernal fires in Monchique over the last 30 years that have caused Nature and people to lose almost everything.
Cash flow is no longer a valid argument
Semapa SA and The Navigator Company (Portucel SA) would not have been so successful financially if the majority of national landowners had not also managed to feed their own greed by planting eucalyptus. In this business, the risks are spread like in a Casino. Those who are lucky and escape the fire sell each ton for between 30 and 40 euros. There is no concern for their neighbour’s property or life, which can be destroyed in a fire from one moment to the next. What matters is money, nothing else. Cash flow. Because even the burned wood continues to be sellable. The trunks don’t usually burn completely. Only the branches and the leaves, which have an oily sap, burn like petrol. We wonder why eucalyptus is planted on council land (Monchique Council) and also on land belonging to the State. Is this why almost all politicians fail to tell the truth about eucalyptus? Since they say that it is necessary to differentiate, we will leave out the Mayor and the Prime Minister. Eucalyptus contributes 6% to the State Budget. The President of Semapa, SA, Pedro Queirós Pereira (PQP), who recently died at the age of 69 on his yacht near Ibiza, never hesitated to tell people that the State will never ban eucalyptus because thousands of jobs and tax revenues that are very important for the country depend on it. In one of the rare interviews he gave, to the weekly newspaper Expresso, on 6 February, 2016, PQP repeatedly maintained that he would only continue to invest in Portugal if government policy continued to give him carte blanche. And the government even strengthened their support when he invested in Mozambique. BPI (and Barclays) have doubled the 150 million euros available (by selling bonds) for the leasing of millions of hectares of land for forestry purposes in Africa (Fernando Ulrich was the President of BPI and is now on the board of directors of Semapa, SA). Will his heirs change course with his death? Because, even without eucalyptus, there is a lot of money to be made by producing recycled paper. Only 12% of paper is recycled at the moment.
Climate protection prevents forest fires
Let’s go back to Monchique. Sometimes good news comes from Monchique, too. And, more and more frequently, we hear of private initiatives and non-profit associations formed by young Portuguese and foreign entrepreneurs. There are some who no longer wait for the State to act. The project “A Climate-Neutral Life”, which emerged from a debate held during the summer workshop organised by ECO123 in Alferce, will shortly enter into its second phase, proposing to 100 people and households the experience of practising climate protection on a day-to-day basis for 365 days (see page 64).
This project, called “ZERO EMISSION”, is being implemented in partnership with the Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes of the University of Lisbon (FCUL) and the renowned Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research (PIK) in Berlin. Preparations will begin on 27 October at 2:00 pm (at the Café Al-Faris, in Alferce). Under the scope of the project, for a year starting on 1 January, 2019, ECO123 will provide a CO2 emissions calculator on its website, allowing for the exact calculation of each participant’s emissions. Whoever would like to commit themselves to participating in this project for the period of one year should register with us by 26 October at firstname.lastname@example.org. Due to the limited space available for the meeting, the number of participants is restricted to 50 people.
Finding solutions in real experiences
The 2018 fires are a fresh opportunity for us all to review our stance on ecology and to prepare for new challenges in the face of environmental calamities, overcoming them with resilience. Not all houses and forests succumb to fires in the same way. Someone who has an autonomous source of electricity, has planted a forest with indigenous species that are better able to withstand fires and has sufficient water supplies to fight blazes, including fire sprinklers – just like the ones you can find in shopping centres – has done a good preventive job. Why wait for firefighters when you have your own means of protection available? On 27 October, at 2:00 pm, fire-fighting experts will present the essentials that are needed to make a forest more resistant to fire, and will show us how, in the future, forest fires can be better mastered.
All of us can contribute a lot more to preventing global warming (and also the fires) by adopting a more climate-neutral lifestyle. Currently, each Portuguese person emits around seven tons of CO2 per year. The environmental footprint of each and every one of us determines our future. To live in a climate-neutral way, we must all have a considerably smaller ecological footprint, somewhere between two and three tons of CO2. What can we do today to ensure a climate-neutral life in the long term? For a year, in the 100 homes (individuals, families or small businesses with up to 20 employees), ECO123 will analyse what problems arise in the transition to a more environmentally neutral lifestyle and will show how to achieve this lifestyle in our day-to-day life.
Healthier living = living in a climate-neutral way.
The aim of the experiment is to reduce individual environmental footprints by about 40% over a period of one year. The project “A Climate-Neutral Life in Portugal” offers more happiness in everyday living, for example, through the switch from fossil energies to renewable energies, using sustainable purchases from local businesses, where food products are available from within a radius of 100 km,causing less waste and making homes better adapted to heat, cold and humidity. Where can we reduce emissions? How can the car be replaced by public transport, such as buses and trains? Experts from various local, regional and national initiatives, as well as companies, are partners in this project and will follow the aims of the study, acting as consultants over the 365 days. And ECO123 will provide quarterly reports on this experiment, informing us about the new experiences of families, individuals and companies during this project.
We are available to answer questions by phone (+351) 960 341 141.