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ZIPPO FIGHTS FIRE WITH FIRE, PLEDGING TO HELP COMBAT THE EFFECTS OF GLOBAL DEFORESTATION

Zippo will plant a tree with every lighter sold in partnership with WOODCHUCK USA’s BUY ONE PLANT ONE ® program, documenting its first step in Madagascar, with National Geographic.

LONDON, GREAT BRITAIN, 30.07.2019 - As creator of one of the most famous flames of all time, Zippo is intimately aware of fire’s usefulness – a force of nature to be summoned at will. But this power, when wielded carelessly, can have devastating effects. Nowhere is this more evident than fire’s impact on forests across the globe. Wildfires destroy 4%* of the Earth’s surface each year, with 84%* as a result of human hand. 

Zippo is working with WOODCHUCK USA and launching a global Fight Fire with Fire project that aims to help counter the effects of deforestation caused by wildfires. Zippo has pledged to plant a tree for each windproof lighter sold from the Fight Fire with Fire collection, to shine a light on the effects of wildfire, starting with Zippo’s first planting sites in Madagascar. Globally renowned storyteller, National Geographic, has documented the efforts.

With unprecedented wildfires reported as far north as the Arctic Circle, and research citing humans as the main threat to the very existence of a third of all remaining animal species*, there is a shared sense of urgency to protect our planet and biodiversity. Zippo believes every individual has the power to make a positive difference; humans are responsible for the majority of fires, so the solution also rests in our collective hands.

To help educate on the problem of wildfires and their causes, National Geographic has produced a video for Zippo and a photography series in Madagascar, the world’s fourth largest island; a land mass that has had 90% of its original forests destroyed. The content produced by National Geographic, focuses on what people are doing to rectify the issue. Real stories show what impact the initiative is having on the ground, sharing the experiences of those who plant mangrove trees, those who work to conserve wildlife, and those who fight to undo the damage caused by fire. The content also details how this positively impacts the planet as a whole, and how the work in these ecosystems is helping restore the Earth’s delicate balance.

Lucas Johnson, Senior Brand Manager, Global Marketing at Zippo comments: “Temperatures are at the highest level on record and wildfires are affecting almost every continent on Earth, but unlike most natural disasters, the majority of wildfires are caused by humans. In the US alone there are around 100,000 forest fires each year clearing up to '9 million acres of land*. The Zippo windproof lighter gives people the power of portable fire, but with this comes responsibility. Which is what inspired us to work with our partners WOODCHUCK USA, documented by National Geographic, to not only shine a light on the devastating effects of fire when it’s misused, but to start reversing damage done by human error. Our work in Madagascar is the first step towards a longer term commitment for the brand.”

burnt_forest_circle

90% of Madagascar's forests have been destroyed in the past 50 years.

employment_circle

Reforestation provides jobs for locals and helps boost the local economy.

wildlife_circle

Creates a habitat for wildlife and brings back healthy farming.

planting_circle

Offsets carbon emissions and improves air quality.


About WOODCHUCK USA

WOODCHUCK USA is a technology-driven wood products manufacturer specializing in customization, founded with a simple mission, to put nature back into people's lives. WOODCHUCK USA believes humans are meant to have a deep connection with the Earth, and it wants to be a daily reminder of that with its real wood products. With every product sold, WOODCHUCK USA plants a tree via its ‘BUY ONE PLANT ONE’ ® program.  It's the company’s way of making a better world for future generations, pledging “It's not about us, it's about our planet and how we can make a difference now.”

 

Sources:

*84% of wildfires caused by humans – University of Colorado, 2017 (link here)

*4% of earth’s surface affected by fire - The National Center for Biotechnology, 2016 (link here)

*National Geographic, 2018 (link here)

*ICUN Red List (Link here)

*National Geographic, Learn More About Wildfires (link here)

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forest_fire

Wildfires are a natural part of our forest ecosystems, but if they occur too often, they can lead to land erosion, loss of biodiversity and changes in the local climate.

Photograph by Pixabay

A world on fire: five forest blazes caused by human hands

Article as published on National Geographic World on fire listicle on date 07/29/2019.

Human-caused forest fires are on the rise – which could have devastating effects for countries all across the world.

BY JACK NEIGHBOUR

Fire plays an important role in maintaining woodland ecosystems. It declutters forest floors of older biomass, and makes way for the next generation of healthy new growth. But fire introduced to undergrowth too often destroys too much; severely reducing biodiversity, and contributing hugely to air pollution – the single most important global environmental risk factor for human mortality. And, as humans remain the leading cause of wildfire, the responsibility to reverse the damage done falls on our shoulders. That’s why iconic lighter brand Zippo is on a mission to fight fire with fire, and help replant the world’s forests to help counter the effects of deforestation.  Here are five human-caused forest fires that highlight why it’s so important that we do just that…

Heilongjiang Fire – China, 1987

One of the largest fires ever to occur in history, the Heilongjiang Fire may have been the world’s biggest fire in centuries. Fueled by a forest worker when gasoline from his brush cutter ignited, the Heilongjiang Fire devoured three million acres of forest in The Greater Khingan Range, including one sixth of China’s timber reserves. Reports attributed the fire’s easy spread to dry conditions in the area – but it was excessive logging activity without any effort to let the forest regrow that really let it rage unhindered. 34,000 soldiers were deployed to put the fire out, and 33,000 people were left homeless.  The loss of timber badly affected the Chinese economy, and the scorched, barren land left behind contributed to the desertification of Northern China. As devastating as the Heilongjiang Fire was, it highlighted the importance of fully integrating climate considerations into fire management.

Wallow Fire – USA, 2011

Still the largest wildfire in Arizona’s history, Wallow got its name when two men accidentally started it while camping in the Bear Wallow Wilderness. Their campfire blew out of control and burned through over half a million acres of land, costing $72 million dollars to extinguish, and a further $37 million to clean up and rebuild after the damage. More than 60 homes, businesses, and other structures were lost, and 6,000 people had to be evacuated. Difficulties in getting firefighting equipment, such as bulldozers and chainsaws, over the rough terrain allowed the blaze to burn hot and fast, throwing plumes of smoke 30,000 feet into the air. When the wind changed, it forced the smoke back down, feeding the fire like an enormous bellow.

Brandenburg Fire – Germany, 2018

Following an increasing number of wildfires occurring in Europe – largely thanks to longer, dryer summers than usual – the forested area of Brandenburg, Germany, caught alight. The cause was never entirely confirmed, but local police believed that evidence pointed to arson.

Brandenburg lost nearly 1,000 acres of its forested land and three nearby villages had to be evacuated. A choking, smoky haze drifted twelve miles to Berlin, causing residents to have to shut themselves in their homes. As if the Brandenburg fire wasn’t difficult enough to fight, the area was littered with unexploded munitions left over from World War II, which began detonating from the heat of the inferno above. Luckily firefighters were able to get the fire back under control.   

Saddleworth Moor Fire – UK, 2018

In the last few years the UK has seen an increasing number of forest fires, but last year’s blaze on Saddleworth Moor, near Manchester, was one of the worst ever recorded. Extremely hot weather was blamed as a primary ignition factor, but locals claimed the fire was started by a visiting group of bikers. Although the initial fire was put out that same day, smoldering peat just under the ground’s surface caused a reignition which raged for another day before being declared a major, uncontained incident. One hundred and fifty people had to be evacuated from their homes, and eventually the military were brought in to put the fire out – which they did, five days later. However, the resulting ash and particulates formed a ground-level haze that swept across Greater Manchester, drastically raising air pollution levels and causing a spike in respiratory issues.

Uttarakhand fires – India, 2016

Throughout the year, man-made fires plagued the pine forests of the sloped, sub-Himalayan Region of Uttarakhand. Widespread media coverage eventually spurred the government on to intervene, sending Indian Air Force helicopters to put them out. Human-caused forest fires in Uttarakhand are a historic problem in the area, but what was remarkable about 2016 was the sheer number of them – 1,600 were set alight over a month. It’s suspected that these increased numbers could be the result of honey or seed collectors trying to frighten off animals, or by those concealing illegal timbering activity. Going forward, ecologists are suggesting that forest floors be cleared of fallen pine needles as much as possible to prevent future fires from spreading – something that can be undertaken by the forest department, but it also needs grassroots buy-in from locals to prevent further major outbreaks.

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Fighting the threat of forest fires in Madagascar with reforestation and… fire?

Article as published on National Geographic Madagascar and hero video on date 07/29/2019.

After decades of deforestation, locals in Mahajanga, Madagascar, are showing the rest of the world that we can be the solution to the growing global threat of forest fires.

BY JACK NEIGHBOUR

We lose around four per cent of our forests to wildfires annually. And without action, that number has the potential to grow. In the first half of this year, traditionally low-risk Europe saw an 8-fold increase in wildfires, and last year the UK alone suffered its most ever recorded in a single year. In that same year, the Woolsey fire in California burned its way through 97,000 acres; destroying 1,643 buildings and necessitating the evacuation of 300,000 people. By the time it was out, an estimated $6 billion in real estate had been destroyed. Sadly, this year has shown no signs of the fire problem improving as China’s Sichuan province succumbed to one of the costliest wildfires in recent years; claiming the lives of 27 firefighters and four others. So what’s causing all of these wildfires? 

The simple truth is that these fires don’t happen spontaneously. Lightning strikes and drier weather brought on by climate change do contribute to the rise in numbers, but these factors pale in comparison to the fires – accidentally or deliberately – caused by people. Although humankind is the leading cause of global deforestation by fire, we’re still capable of reversing the damage done. And, as a reforestation project in Madagascar demonstrates, individual actions can add up to huge changes for the better.

In recent history much of Madagascar’s forests have fallen to fire; mostly due to slash and burn agriculture (traditionally known as tavy) for charcoal production, pasture and logging.

It’s a process that has lead to the disappearance of around 90 per cent of the original forest cover. In recent years though, a new approach to try to reverse this situation has emerged.

This approach is led by NGO Eden Reforestation Projects, which hires thousands of Malagasy people to grow, plant and protect millions of native tree species. Eden garners local buy in by empowering people to run the forest restoration projects in ways that work best for them. “Projects designed to work in first-world countries don’t translate well to the developing world. If they’re not localized to the cultures they’re integrated into, they often end in frustration,” says James Shattenberg, International Director of Eden Reforestation Projects.

Attitudes toward reforestation seem to be one of the hardest hurdles to overcome, with the general view being that forests have always been there, they regrow, and are not something that people need to specifically care for. Luckily these attitudes are changing as more trees are planted and the benefits become more obvious to communities: mangrove roots fortify mud banks to protect against land erosion, and better biodiversity supports fruit, honey and fish. Even the canopies of grown trees form shade over populated areas, bringing the temperature down to comfortable levels during even the fiercest midday heat. As with most things, people believe it when they see it.

For a lot of Malagasies, helping to reverse deforestation by fire also has a positive impact on their own quality of life. In the most extreme examples, those who have lost their livelihoods – mostly due to disappearing resources – find renewed purpose in benefitting their communities. Even those not directly involved in replanting can reap the rewards, as commodities like shrimp, fish and crab numbers begin increasing, affording fisherman more diverse and plentiful catches. It’s the combination of these elements that support a grassroots effort to protect and preserve forests that are slowly, but surely, regenerating.

Changing their attitudes toward fire and the forests is bringing the Malagasy people into a closer symbiosis with the natural world around them. They protect it, and it provides for them. What’s happening in Madagascar has huge potential to become the benchmark for how other countries deal with their fire problem; a change in attitude and an acceptance of responsibility for our impact on the planet leads to a much more sustainable way of life.

Madagascar may be one of the countries most affected by forest fires, but it’s certainly not the only one that is. Many countries are seeing the decimation of entire ecosystems due to forest fires, and there’s a finite amount of time before the air-cleansing trees and wildlife within those ecosystems are gone for good. Everyone has their part to play: on a global level, the UN has set a target to replant more than 850,000,000 acres of forest by 2030 – an area larger than India – and more businesses are shouldering their responsibility too.

Zippo, for example, is planting trees in Madagascar as part of it’s Fighting Fire with Fire project. In partnership with WOODCHUCK USA’s BUY ONE. PLANT ONE ® program, each lighter purchased through the initiative funds the planting of one tree in Madagascar. Across the globe, individual actions like taking proper fire safety precautions, raising awareness and supporting the right initiatives are vital to achieving lasting success in replanting the planet. Just like the Malagasy reforestation project, we can all do our part in a way that works for us.

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Reforesting after fire: Madagascar’s message to the world

Article as published on National Geographic Reforesting after fire and image gallery on date 07/29/2019.

People in the port city of Mahajanga, Madagascar, are coming together to fight deforestation by fire.

Thanks in part to initiatives like Zippo’s Fight Fire with Fire campaign in partnership with WOODCHUCK USA’s BUY ONE. PLANT ONE.® program, the local population are restoring their plant life, and the unique animals that live in it, and showing the rest of the world that the power for positive change lies in our hands.

Zippo Madagascar image gallery

wildfires

(Photo by Shutterstock)

Wildfires are an increasing, global-scale threat – with notable blazes destroying swathes of forest in the US, India, China, UK, Germany, Chile and Portugal in the last four years. Historically, Madagascar has been one of the countries hardest hit, losing 90 per cent of its foreststo human-caused wildfires and land clearance.

fishermen

(Photo by Jack Neighbour)

Early birds catch more fish: Local Malagasy fisherman head out at first light to get a decent catch, but their hauls have been getting less hefty in recent decades. However, reforestation efforts can help biodiversity return to the island—which will also bring the fish who, when young, thrive on the carbon biomass that shed leaves from replanted trees release into the water.

burnt_wood

(Photo by Peter Lamberti)

Blackened stumps litter plains of land that used to be thick with trees. Charcoal production and fire-cleared farmland are seen as one of few sources of much-needed income in Madagascar. Small fires started for these purposes can easily burn out of control if the wind picks up. Now though, wildlife preservation initiatives driven by locals are providing employment alternatives that provide a good income.

local_people

(Photo by Jack Neighbour)

Everyone’s doing their part: Zippo partners with WOODCHUCK USA, who in turn work with replanting initiatives like Eden Reforestation Projects – a non-profit which employs and trains local Malagasy people to restore their land to its former green glory.

workers

(Photo by Jack Neighbour)

Every morning, before the day gets too hot, workers with Eden Reforestation Projects negotiate the sticky mud banks of the Mahajanga estuary to plant around two thousand mangrove propagules (pod-like seedlings that grow while attached to mangrove trees). These long pods fall from the trees naturally, but can end up being swept away, eaten, or burning in the sun. Instead, they’re collected and planted in prime areas to help them thrive. 

mangroves

(Photo by Jack Neighbour)

Mangroves are able to sequester up to four times more carbon dioxide from the air than a rainforest can, which they filter into the ground. The mud they live in is anaerobic, so they absorb oxygen through vertical roots called pneumatophores (pictured).

malagasy_people

(Photo by Peter Lamberti)

In Antsanitiavillage, local Malagasy people understand that the traditional practices of slash and burn farming agriculture for charcoal production and pasture, are contributing to a range of serious issues related to deforestation. More progressive views are taking hold as locals buy into the need for reforestation projects, and learn more sustainable agricultural practices.

replanters

(Photo by Peter Lamberti)

Malagasy replanters cultivate dry deciduous plants to regenerate forests further inland, which are areas particularly vulnerable to fire. Having to survive in intense heat, these saplings have around a fifty per cent survival rate, until surrounding trees thicken to form a more temperate protective canopy.

biodiversity

(Photo by Peter Lamberti)

As the name suggests, biodiversity must be diverse, so seeds are sorted and allocated to ensure a good mix of species are being planted. A seed research and development department in the nursery is dedicated to finding ways of reintroducing varieties of flora into the ecosystem to help them grow successfully.

lemurs

(Photo by Peter Lamberti)

Like all lemurs, the crowned sifaka is only found in Madagascar. As more of their habitat is burnt, they’re unable to supplement their diverse diet. They’re now an endangered species, and like animals on the brink of extinction everywhere, it’s up to us to make sure we don’t lose them for good.