This website predominantly features positive news, which promote the well-being of the Club’s members on our hikes. Permit me this exception, because news just released by the Government’s Forestry Department is simply shocking.
Out of 1327 fires in Cyprus over the 20-year period 2000 – 2021 25 % (337) were the result of arson! Further, a large proportion of the balance was the result of human negligence. About 14 % (180) were the consequence of natural causes (typically lightning strikes).
It is important to draw attention to the realization that as we go about our ordinary, law-abiding lives, our paths cross those of arsonists, in various forms of disguise. Stricter penalties from legislation is only part of the solution to the problem. Every sane, forest-loving individual has an obligation to react and speak out at every instance of compromising behaviour coming to our attention. Our hesitation to take the correct stance, our inclination to remain silent in such situations provide the excuses arsonists are looking for, to justify their crime.
Still unconvinced about the perils of silence and indifference? Read on.
In 1953 the well-known German playwright Max Frisch wrote The Arsonists (Biedermann und die Brandstifter) (in Greek Μπίτερμαν και οι Εμπρηστές), in which Biedermann, the protagonist, lets two arsonists into his house. He feeds them and lets them sleep in the attic, where they store gasoline canisters. Although the two terrorists actually tell Biedermann the truth about themselves, he does not believe them, and when they become overly demanding, he is too much of a coward to throw them out of his house. When asked, he even gives them matches with which they ignite the canisters and burn down not only Biedermann’s house but the whole town, setting in motion an armageddon.
Biedermann does not want to see the truth, although it is literally driven home to him, and in that he is reminiscent of the German attitude toward Adolf Hitler, who clearly laid out his intentions to wipe out the Jews in Mein Kampf and in his speeches. Hitler’s contemporaries did not take him and his threats against the Jews seriously; their naive disregard ultimately led to the Holocaust, which even the intellectuals did not foresee.
Reassuringly, the chorus in the play speaks out, informing that the happenings are not inevitable fate, but brought on by the people themselves: “For arson, once kindled, kills many, leaves few, and accomplishes nothing… Fate—so they call it!”.
Our forests need each one of us, and let this be your call to action! Thank you. The play was performed in Nicosia in the early 70’s and earlier this year in Athens. (Commentary about the play from an essay by Gerd K. Schneider). The photo above shows a sculpture in the village of Vavla, in memory of a large fire in 2000.