Thursday, June 22, 2017

Thoughts from Galicia: 22.6.17

Spanish life is not always likeable but it is compellingly loveable.
- Christopher Howse: A Pilgrim in Spain. 

If you've arrived here because of an interest in Galicia or Pontevedra, see my web page here.

Life in Spain:-
  • This is a UK TV program on Spectacular Spain which you can get via MY5 TV Catchup, I believe. Worth it. If you can get past the presenter's coquetishness.
  • In a place called Cardona, up near Barcelona, there's a salt mountain, which also looks worth seeing.
  • Speaking of Cataluña, the tussle with Madrid goes on, ahead of the (illegal) referendum on independence set for October 1. Witness: Spain's constitutional court on Wednesday forbade the pro-separatist region of Catalonia from promoting its interests abroad through a foreign policy "secretariat." Madrid wants to rein in the wealthy northeastern region's unilateral drive for independence from the rest of Spain and the court judgment found that only Spanish diplomacy has the right to engage in "foreign affairs". So, how is it going to be stopped?
  • An interesting realisation this morning, born of enquiring about this development in my neighbours' garden:-
The Spanish for market garden/allotment is huerta. And for orchard it's huerto. Handy.
  • A bit more on Modelo 720 that I mentioned yesterday, following a check to see if there was any news on it:- A recently written page says that, as yet, there don't appear to have been any humungus fines (minimum of €1,500) for late submission. Wrong, mate, I can assure you. More depressing still was the comment that, even though the EU Court of Justice might 'eventually' conclude the fines really are as illegal as first pronounced, there's no chance of the Spanish tax office ever paying back the money illegitimately taken from taxpayers. It's not just the crooks who are dishonest here. There are also what the Spanish call thieves in white gloves.
  • Reader Sierra has followed up my comment about the commercialisation of Spain's 33[sic!] caminos to Santiago de Compostela with the report that he was given a sachet of sugar on an autovia advertising El Primitivo, the hardest but prettiest of the lot. Note: By the time you read this, there might well be 34 of them. 
I see that both BA and Iberia rank poorly in the latest list of world airline awards. They come in at 40 and 42 respectively, though BA has fallen from 26 last year, while Iberia has risen from 52. The fact that EasyJet is between them at 41 tells you a lot. Both BA and Iberia belong to the same group IAG, which also owns the Barcelona-based low-cost airline, Vueling. This ranks even lower, at 88. In 2006, BA ranked No. 1 . . .  Not really a success story, then. Big might not be beautiful. En passant, one of the airlines which rose most was Ryanair, presumably for having told us they'd stopped hating their passengers and would now refrain from treating them like pigs in transit to a slaughterhouse.

After the horrendous fires down in Portugal, the finger has been pointed at the eucalyptus forests which, as here in Galicia, take up huge chunks of the countryside. Back in 2006, when we had terrible fires here, I described how these ugly trees both contribute to fires and out-survive the native trees after the blazes. They really should be banned but won't be. Here's one comment I wrote at that time:- Something which certainly is a local plague are our eucalyptus trees. These, of course, aren't native(autóctono) and have been introduced as a cash crop. They're prejudicial to the local oaks, pines and chestnut trees, especially after a fire. Of which we have rather a lot. Not before time, the Galician government has proposed making it illegal to have these dreadful trees within 50 metres of a residence. Let's hope it goes through. At the end of this post is something I quoted back then on these antipodean monsters. 

Finally . . . I was amused to learn - who wouldn't be? - that 7% of (North) Americans think that chocolate is made with milk from brown cows. Of course, the figure might well be higher elsewhere. The research is yet to be done.

Today's cartoon:-

One of my all-time favourites . . . 



THE ARTICLE ON EUCALYPTUS TREES

Here’s the translation of an article from yesterday’s Voz de Galicia. It is by Javier Montalvo who is, I believe, Professor of The Environment at the University of Vigo. It brings together several of the threads of the last few weeks and it also helps to explain why the reader who wrote today saw little evidence of devastation in the Lugo, Santiago, La Coruña triangle:-

The Fires are not the Problem

The wave of fires is exactly that, a cyclical and irregular phenomenon, just like waves, although its geographic and seasonal location varies. In the Rias Baixas the probability of fires and burnt wooded areas is ten times greater than in parts of Lugo province with a lower incidence. The arsonists are not the main cause of the annual burning of such an important surface area of Galicia. If all the Tuaregs in the Saharan desert were arsonists, the desert still couldn’t burn; there’s hardly any combustible material there, i. e. a vegetal biomass [leaves and woody material from trees and other plants, plus dead fallen leaves], dry branches and other vegetal residue on the soil. The amount of such combustible material is an important factor, although its quality and distribution are also relevant.

In the middle of the last century, the fires in Galicia were not a problem of today’s catastrophic dimensions. In 1940 the General Plan for Reafforestation was put into effect throughout the state. Since then, Galicia has seen the reafforestation of more than a million hectares, equivalent to more than a third of its surface area. The traditional and diversified use of the mountains [basically pastoral and agricultural]was replaced by a use which was uniform and industrial – wood cultivated for board makers, cellulose manufacturers and saw mills. The mountains were filled with millions of cubic metres of highly inflammable combustible material capable of rapid combustion and propagation. This has been particularly true on the ridges of the western coastlines of the Pontevedra and La Coruña provinces, where there is the greatest production of biomass. A million cubic metres of eucalyptus are left on the mountains every year [in part because in the last 10 years it has depreciated 40%].

The high quantity of combustible material is one of the structural causes of the fires; the pyromaniacs or other immediate causes merely light the match. The abandonment of the mountains contributes to this dangerous scenario but to consider it the only factor is simplistic. The fires also affect those mountains which benefit from planning and management, for example in Amoedo and Domaio.

The cultivated areas of foreign species [eucalyptus and pine] have a higher probability of burning than the Atlantic forests and the areas with deciduous native trees. 25 years ago, the area given over to eucalyptus was already burning 40 times more and the pines 10 times more than the oak or chestnut respectively. Pine and eucalyptus are pyrophorus species. That’s to say, more inflammable because of their resin, their bark and their volatile oily content. They favour fires because their populations persist and they extend their territory after the fires. The extensive areas repopulated by single species facilitate propagation of the fires. Additionally, the higher the trees the greater the speed and spread of the fires via their crowns. For this reason the mountains of Pontevedra and La Coruña are more predisposed to burn, where the fires spread through extensive areas of eucalyptus such as the mountains of Morrazo and those of Cerdedo and another four neighbouring townships in which 8,000 contiguous hectares burned.

What is the solution for ridding ourselves of the fires? Eliminate eucalyptus, convert pine woods into areas mixed with deciduous trees and break up those extensive areas with a propensity to burn by surrounding them with vegetation more resistant to fire. These are the strategic options on which to base a sustainable policy for Galicia.

2 comments:

Sierra said...

Given your known expertise in the subject, thought you'd appreciate the following (sorry about the source!):

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-4625012/Circle-blame-Two-cars-smash-roundabout.html

Anthea said...

So if chocolate is made from milk from brown cows,does white milk only come from white cows? What colour milk comes from black nd white cows?

Search This Blog