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Frogs in boiling water

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A firefigher walks along a dirt road after his shift as emergency service battle a blazing fire close to the Kemerkoy Thermal Power Plant, at Oren near the town of Milas on August 4, 2021. (Photo by Yasin AKGUL / AFP)

For over a week now, fires have been raging on, ravaging the green landscape, wildlife and local dwellings in the western and Mediterranean regions of my homeland Turkey. I watch from the UK feeling angry and helpless all at once, angry that the officials claim the fires are under control while on social media we see hectares of forests engulfed in an inferno, helpless, as other than donating money to support organisations on the ground, I can’t do anything.

There is footage of Turkish Aviation Authority’s firefighting planes flying at air shows as late as 2019 – the same planes we are now told need maintenance and are not airworthy. Instead, the government is renting helicopters by the hour from Russia; meanwhile ordinary citizens and celebrities who shared #GlobalCall and #HelpTurkey are being shamed or targeted by certain sections of society as traitors for “making the country look weak” on the global scene. The same sections also attack TV reporters broadcasting from the scene of fire for broadcasting “fake news.”

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Watching the locals lose their homes and their livelihoods, watching their villages go up in flames and their livestock ravaged by the fire, we see government officials promising new-built homes they will be allowed to pay for on a monthly basis, and then told, “These houses will be so good that those whose houses didn’t burn down will wish they had.”

For the last ten days, it’s as if we’ve been watching a farcical play unfold. Chaotic governance, lack of budget, little to no attention to maintenance that has left one of Middle East’s leading firefighting fleet to rot in a country that is ravaged by forests fires every summer mean thousands of hectares of woodland is no more, along with the wildlife that’s perished.

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While it’s been alleged that some of these fires were started by terrorists, which is currently being investigated, we also still seem to be in denial about climate change. The irony? As the public endanger their lives to put out the fires, they collect heaps of glass bottles and flammable rubbish deep inside the forests – even as volunteers try to help with firefighters’ efforts, they continue casting aside their rubbish. This in a country that made headlines only a few months ago with the mucilage (sea snot) spreading across the Sea of Marmara and northern Aegean waters, aggravated by pollution and climate change.

Climate change has progressed a lot swifter than most reports forecast in the last few years – we see the effects daily across the world from flooding to rise in sea levels to forest fires in hotter climates, all exacerbated by those in power who lack the skills or the vision to do more, and sections of society, internationally, who still don’t see that collectively we are destroying our home. When will it end? When there’s no green left in Antalya? Or Lagos is underwater? When we realise that we’ve run out of water or food?

We are like the fabled frog boiling in a pot of water – tepid water being brought to a boil slowly. The temperature is rising and we’re still enjoying our little swim… You know how the fable ends though, with a well-cooked frog.

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