By Allison Rigler
The fires have been burning for weeks now, and the BBC reported that its estimated that a portion the size of about two football fields burns every minute; at this moment there are about 80,626 different fires burning all over the Brazillian rainforest.
On August 19, 2019, the skies of São Paulo, Brazil turned black in the middle of the afternoon. A shift in winds directed smoke from the Amazon fires to the city, which is almost 2,000 miles away from the burning forest.
Amazon Fires Science Crash Course
When we learned about the Amazon rainforest in school we learned about lush greenery and frequent rains, so why are there wildfires running rampant through the area? Fires in the Amazon Basin are actually a regular and natural occurrence during the usual dry season,but this year Satellite data captured by the National Institute for Space Research has shown an 85% increase in fires across Brazil, especially in the amazon.
There is a season of “Queimada” where farmers clear their land for planting by burning it, but the National Institute for Space Research has noted that the fires this year are not in line with normally reported fires. Many environmental groups in the area point to Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies, which seemingly encourage using the 2⁄3 of rainforest in Brazil for profit.
Amazon Fires Politics Crash Course
President Bolsonaro was elected into office January of this year and in his campaign he pledged to limit fines for damaging the Amazon and pledged to weaken the influence of the environment agency. Over Bolsonaro’s run the Brazilian Environmental Agency has seen their budget cut by $23 million. Bolsonaro also warned that he could withdraw Brazil from the Paris Agreement-a global agreement to cut carbon- because the agreement requirements threaten Brazil’s governing policies.
When asked about the fires, Bolsonaro denies any linkage to them, but suggests that non-governmental organizations started the fires to ruin his reputation; yet he admits to having no evidence for the claim. Bolsonaro also acknowledged that farmers might be involved in the fires to make a profit- yet there are complaints from farmers of Bolsonaro’s handling of the reputation of Brazil damaging the market for beef and soybeans.
Both German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Emmanuel Macron both called their countries’ attention to the fires on social media.
“Our house is burning” Macron tweeted
But Bolsonaro was quick to call out Macron, accusing him of using the crisis for ‘political gain’ and said calls to discuss the fires at a summit that occurred over the past weekend that Brazil is not participating in would evoke “a misplaced colonial mindset”
After his refusal against discussion for a solution to the fires, Bolsonaro admitted “The amazon is bigger than Europe [in actuality it is about half the size], how will you fight criminal fires in such an area?…We do not have the resources for that.”
Why It’s Important
The rainforest produces about 20% of the world’s oxygen and the lush trees help reduce the carbon footprint of the world, fighting the fight against the rise in global temperatures. Environmentalists fear that if the fires keep burning the forest will not recover its high ‘’potential for carbon storage’’, permanently losing a vital piece in the war against climate change. The shrinking of the Amazon “could bring a tipping point to forest functioning that is not easily reversible”
Not only is the rainforest home to over 40,000 various plant species, but it also houses over 1,500 bird species and 2.5 million insects. Many of these species cannot be found anywhere else in the world, like the Brazilian Social Wasp, whose venom has been found as a treatment for cancer.
Burning with the rich wildlife are the homes and habitats of over 34 million indigenous people.Many of these tribes of indigenous people have had little to no contact with western civilization. The loss of this forest carries with it the loss of wildlife, new discoveries, and historic cultures.
How Can We Help?
-Donate to organizations!
–Be mindful about the products you buy
Products with palm oil are all linked to deforestation- look at the ingredients label!
Some products are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or the Rainforest Alliance (RA)
The only way deforestation and climate change can be stopped is if everyone around the world is informed about the world around them!