Forest Fires

Fire is the natural release of energy through chemical reactions. With forest fire season coming to the northern hemisphere, fires will almost instantaneously release all the pent up energy within the living organisms. Branches that once shaded the ground become ash and get blown hundreds of kilometres away. Creatures that once flew, ran and crawled through the forests understory, will lose their homes and likely their lives. While, we enjoy the warmth of fires in fireplaces, when unleashed these chemical monsters wreck havoc.

Fires occur naturally from such causes as lightning. However, the prevalent cause today is human action. Some people are concerned that the resulting effluent causes changes to Earth’s climate. This may be true. But, it’s also the complete release of the energy from the Sun that was captured by the flora and fauna. Once it’s gone, many years must pass before new growth can again capture the Sun’s energy, if we give it the chance to grow back.

Scientists estimate that each year humans burn biomass equivalent to 8700 teragrams of dry matter. Assuming the dry matter has an energy content of 20 megajoules per kilogram then annually we burn 1.74e20 Joules worth. This is almost half our annual consumption of primary energy (oil, coal gas). If we keep throwing away this vast reservoir of energy what will our future civilization have?