Gliese Foundation
Gliese Foundation
Climate change, global warming, and the environment

Devastating wildfires or the return of Phaethon

Category: Poetry

Devastating wildfires or the return of Phaethon


Eons ago,

wildfires almost incinerated the earth.

Phaethon was riding the chariot of his father,

Helios, the god of the sun. 

The brawny horses overpowered his young arms.

He lost control.

The horses galloped through the heaven.

Too far from the earth,

almost freezing it.

Then too close.

Wildfires sparked everywhere.

Mother earth screamed in pain,  

so piercing that it reached the Olympus.

Zeus killed Phaeton with a thunderbolt.


Today’s wildfires are more mundane,

but increasingly devastating.  

Cities sprawl, 

invading forested areas with their blood of cement.  

The wildland-urban interface multiplies.

Poor urban planning: 

like sending houses to the encounter of future fires.

The dream of a bucolic house next to the forest.

The nightmare of a wooden house vanishing into ashes.

Summer, dryness, some wind.

A tossed cigarette.

A campfire badly extinguished.

The rage of the wildfire.


Since fire scares us,

we think that trees must be protected too.

How fool we are!

Forests need soil, sun, rain, wind,

and the occasional fire.

Light fires burn the understory.

Light fires thin the vegetation.

Light fires darken only the tree’s barks.

But we suppress any wildfire.

We leave the forest´s trash at the feet of the trees.

When the wildfire erupts:

it feeds in unlimited combustible,

it climbs the trees, 

it razes the canopies, 

it massacres the animals,

it scorches everything,

even soils are sterilized.  

Only black snags remain.  


And then… global warming. 

Evaporation increases,

stealing more moisture from soils, trees, plants,

drying the land,

forcing the spring to arrive earlier,

giving beetles longer time to kill trees.

Summer becomes heatwaves.

Wildfires explode,

multiplying in number,

enlarging more territory,

lasting longer,

being more violent.

Forests aren´t longer forests:

many trees killed by insects,  

the rest surrounded by dry undergrowth,

surrounded by tinderlike.   


One day wildfires will disappear:

There won´t be more forests,

Only dryness, droughts or deserts.


Pablo Rodas-Martini


Some of the science behind the poem: 

How suburban sprawl makes wildfires more deadly, July 2013

How forest management helps lay the conditions for wildfires, May 2016

Is Global Warming Fueling Increased Wildfire Risks? No date

How climate change is increasing forest fires around the world, June 2017


The myth of Phaethon is one the best knowns of Greek mythology. You find it in almost any book -even for kids- about Greek mythology, but I´d recommend: "Mythology: Timeless tales of gods and heroes" by Edith Hamilton, "The Greek myths" by Robert Graves, "Bulfinch´s Greek and Roman mythology: The age of fable" by Thomas Bulfinch.