Some 141,000 hectares of woodland have burned down in 2017 so far, Coldiretti said, a dramatic increase of 316 percent compared to the average over the past nine years.
The destruction is costing Italy not only trees but plants, animals, traditional industries and a means of absorbing some of the carbon dioxide that causes climate change, Coldiretti said in a statement marking Italy’s national Tree Day on November 21st.
A long, rainless summer this year dried out much of Italy and left countryside from Piedmont to Sicily exceptionally vulnerable to wildfires – but Coldiretti says that human action, or lack of it, is also to blame.
With almost 11 million hectares of forest covering more than a third of the entire country, Italy’s problem isn’t a lack of woodland, but too much of it.
With fewer farmers to keep woods in check, Coldiretti said, many of Italy’s forests are neglected and overgrown, leaving them at the mercy of arsonists and increasing the risk of mass destruction when a fire breaks out.
The association is calling on the government to involve farmers in the proper monitoring and maintenance of Italy’s forests.
Elsewhere in Italy, environmental watchdog Legambiente is running a campaign to get schools to plant trees on Tree Day, while the Italian consortium of wood and cork producers has promised to donate a tree for every 50 posts on social media with the hashtag #unalberoè (“a tree is”).
Meanwhile the populist Five Star Movement has launched a project to plant nearly 24,000 new trees in more than 50 areas across Italy from Tuesday, including 12,000 in Rome and 1,000 in Turin.
“Che straordinario dono sono gli alberi e quante cose potremmo imparare da loro, se solo sapessimo guardarli, vederli, prestare loro l'amore e l'attenzione che si presta agli amici.”— Anna (@A_MdV) November 21, 2017
Susanna Tamaro #unalberoè #Festadellalbero pic.twitter.com/8RAFMcnYpg
"What an extraordinary gift trees are and how many things we can learn from them, if only we know how to watch, to see, to give them the love and attention that we give to friends" – Susanna Tamaro.