Vienna – Austria’s agriculture minister felt compelled to point out on Thursday that people do not live in forests and that trees do not explode in her country, reacting to assertions by US President Donald Trump.
Discussing the massive wildfires on the US west coast this week, Trump told broadcaster Fox: “You look at countries, Austria, you look at so many countries, they live in the forest, they’re considered forest cities, so many of them.”
“And they don’t have fires like this, and they have more explosive trees,” Trump added, explaining that European countries remove inflammable dead leaves and trees from the forest floor.
Trump’s statements triggered many internet memes, including an image of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz dressed up as an elf, and a chart of different pine cones labelled as “Austrian hand grenades.”
Austrian Agriculture and Tourism Minister Elisabeth Koestinger clarified in an op-ed in the British Independent newspaper that “people do not live in the forest, but rather with the forest” in Austria.
Forests cover 40 000 square kilometres, or nearly half, of Austria’s territory, and around 300 000 jobs are directly or indirectly linked to forestry.
“No, we don’t have any exploding trees in Austria!” Koestinger added.
However, Trump was not completely wrong.
Austrian forests are indeed tidied up to remove breeding material for pests and to reduce the fire hazard, the minister confirmed.
Meanwhile, Austria’s state-owned Federal Forests pointed out on Facebook that Austria is home to one “explosive” plant: The bark of the alder buckthorn shrub was once used for making gunpowder.