Marathon Burns

Lightening and sunlight have always started forest fires in the hot dry weather and now is the season for woodland burning, from California to Greece. Forest fires were also normal 200 million years ago, especially through the dry times of Triassic and  Jurassic forests, leaving evidence in the form of charcoal from the extinct species of trees (

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A year after the London Olympics, the little town of Marathon, twenty kilometres north of Athens,  is news again. The statue of the marathon flame and Robert Browning’s 1879 image may give power from art,  but they were ineffective beside real urgency last week.

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As these young Greeks now know,  humans cannot control nature for long

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though the professionals are properly equipped despite the hopelessness of the situation –


However, in nature, it takes only a couple of years for the regeneration of woodland to be noticed. The picture below was taken eighteen months after fire had devastated the oak trees on the left. The others escaped.

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Above ground the fire killed-off the branches of the broom shrubs growing on the same hillside. Two growing-seasons after the fire the plants grew back to life, and even into flower. Not so for the burnt-out homes of some of the people.

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