A friend exclaimed over a FaceTime call the other day: “I can’t go out without a mask.” This was no COVID-19 remark — in fact, cases in Antalya remain minimal, besides my friend Levent Kaya received his second Pfizer shot a month ago.
He was referring to the roughly 180 wildfires — posing an imminent threat to Turkey and its air, as they surrender the West coastal line. He responded after being asked about the situation by my Mom. As my family and I saw him through our 9 by 7-inch iPad screen, he was struggling; struggling as he forcefully attempted to hold his bogus smile in place, while he juxtaposed his day-to-day life before the fires and the present.
Normally, Kaya looked forward to this time around the day as he would go on his usual 10 km run through town. Although flames were not a threat for his area anymore, as he opened his front porch — judging by his facial expression, followed by 4 consecutive coughs — I could sense deep anguish.
“It still smells burnt,” he said.
He complained about the air quality — he elaborated about checking Google day after day, witnessing Antalya’s air quality decrease from healthy to unhealthy for sensitive groups in his area, hence the mask when going out. Spending most of the last 19 months inside due to the coronavirus, he returned to the same old depressing ritual.
This was the worst series of wildfires ever experienced in the Region. 18 villages in Antalya were forced to evacuate and most injuries were due to smoke inhalation. Tourists had to evacuate, houses burned down and almost 160,000 hectares of forests have fallen victim to flames this year alone.
In likewise situations elsewhere, it is crucial for nearby nations to provide their assistance and help out. Which evidently strongarmed Turkey in putting an end to the fires. If nations don’t work collectively together to reduce our global footprint, the world will continue to get hotter and we can expect an increase in wildfires for dry provinces like Turkey.
Frankly, numerous cities/provinces around the world watch their air quality worsen. Wildfires are only a fraction of why air quality is turning poor. If we act responsibly in diminishing our emissions, we can hope that the next generation can pursue their usual 10km jogs through town and feel content and secure when going out.