Aerial Firefighting and Disaster Capitalism

War is the father of all things, Heraclitus purportedly said. Certainly, war boosts economic potentials of very specific industries (while bringing demise to others). The most recent exterritorial European war in Libya helps market European fighter jets, which are seemingly hard to sell overseas, as Jamey Keaten and Slobodan Lekic of AP report. The French Rafale jet, universal work horse in the Libya War, took a very prominent position at the 49th Paris Air Show at Le Bourguet.

As a side-show to the display of war machinery, the Russian aeroplane manufacturer Beriev demonstrated their newest water bomber, the Beriev 200-ES in an air show.The aeroplane can take up to 12 cubic meters of water, which equals 12.5 tons of the liquid.

Beriev 200-Es

Beriev 200-ES. Source:

Why should this be interesting? In pure market logics, the Rafale jet is a commodity offered to meet an acute demand for a universal fighter jet in the wake of the millennium. The Beriev 200-ES is an offer to meet another very acute demand in the early 21st century: Climate change and water scarcity caused the urgent demand for solutions to move huge amounts of water in a short time to dump them on fires:

“In the last few years, the Beriev Be-200 Altair has helped fight massive forest fires in Greece, Italy, Portugal, Malaysia, Indonesia and Israel.”

As Slobodan Lekic writes in another AP article on the Le Bourguet Show. The University of Maryland Fire Information for Resource Management System provides an impressive visualizations of the cause of this demand. Here’s an animation of detected fires in 2010:

FIRMS: 2010 Fire Detection Animation

FIRMS: 2010 Fire Detection Animation

Clearly visible the Russian fire crisis in the summer months of 2010. Up-to-date visualizations of detected fires of the last 24 hours are available as KML files, viewable on Google Earth or Google Maps or as Plugin File for NASA World Wind.

According to Lekic’s article, Beriev anticipates a “growing global market for well over 100 water bombers in the next decade”. As a comparison: The United States Forest Service disposes of a total number of 23 firefighting aircrafts mostly run by third-party contractors. These contractors play an important role in postmodern disaster management. In the 21st century, not only war is the father of all things, it’s disaster: Kathrina, Fukushima, wildfires, the Mexican gulf oil spill. Wars, crisis and catastrophes are the emerging markets of the 21st century. And, as our times go, there are no problems, there are only solutions. Or as Naomi Klein puts it:

“I call it the Disaster Capitalism Complex. Whatever you might need in a serious crunch, these contractors can provide it: generators, watertanks, cots, port-a-potties, mobile homes, communications systems, helicopters, medicine, men with guns.”

(Her most recent book focuses on this economic phenomenon.)


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1 Response to Aerial Firefighting and Disaster Capitalism

  1. odissi30 says:

    It seems absurd but as soon as there is market for something even awful causes such as war, poverty and natural catastrophes seems to work. And there will be always interest groups which want to keep going.

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