Earth on Fire

2014, Environment  -  60 min Leave a Comment
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3 min read

Earth on Fire is a one hour, Australian special that focuses on mega fires and fires in general as they relate to our forests and ecosystem. This documentary reminds us that our idea of the natural and perfect state of things isn't always based on a reality that ever existed outside of our own modern world, and it does this by examining the rather current epidemic of mega fires throughout the globe.

It doesn't come as a surprise to many that fires can and do ruin topsoil in vast amounts of forest areas, changing the rate of growth when it comes to vegetation in those areas. One such area that has been changed through time by fire's affects are the forests in New Mexico, which one of the documentary's two narrators visits to speak about the history of fires in the area with local ecologists and fire fighters. What were the forests like in the time of the native Pueblos, and how were they affected by the fires we see as a sort of ultimate environmental hazard? The answers to these questions may surprise you.

As Earth on Fire is an Australian production, the film also visits forests there and shows viewers first hand the sorts of foliage and landscapes being affected by mega fires. In Australia, we find out that certain trees have evolved along side fire, needing it to germinate its seeds and allow underlying buds to sprout.

All trees contain fuels, and some tree's leaves are naturally doused in oil, in fact it is because of trees and other land plants that fire is even possible. Just as fire can be both good and bad for trees and forests, fires and the climate also have a sort of give and take relationship; each affects the other.

Knowledge of things like this helps Australian ecologists answer questions as to whether or not issues with fires in the forests that surround them are unique or not. Knowledge of what the trees have to tell us does the same. We can see fire scars, age rings, and even whether or not there were droughts in a tree's lifetime by simply looking at the bark, and knowing what to look for.

Unique challenges now face forests around the world that don't see any direct benefit as a result of burning, and even those that stand to gain can be harmed by too much too soon when it comes to uncontainable flames. While there are ways that fires can be manipulated by man in advance of any major issues, the methods behind this run contrary to the culture of fire suppression that has been ingrained in many of us since much longer ago than many can even remember.

You'll be amazed at all you don't know about the delicate balance between fire, trees, and the climate. What this film lacks in frills it makes up for in facts, and it would be quite hard to watch Earth on Fire without gaining some sort of knowledge about things you probably feel you know more than enough about.