The Lungs of the Planet are on Fire
Words by Emma Goldrick
The Amazon is the worlds largest rainforest, a region that accounts for approximately 20% of the air we breathe, 20% of the world’s freshwater supply and 40% of the world’s tropical forests. The Amazon provides a vast landscape of unique biodiversity and infinite utility to the human race, a resource that has become the lifeline to combating global warming. We now must ask ourselves - how long must Brazils Amazon rainforest be on fire before the world cares? Why did it take three weeks for mainstream media to report on this travesty?
Since January, experts estimate 72, 000 man-made fires have been lit both illegally and legally throughout the rainforest. The single largest reason for the excessive and extensive forest fires is to clear the land for cattle farming and other agricultural interests. The current Brazilian leader Jair Bolsonaro who begun his presidency in January this year is a massively powerful supporter of both farming and growing the agricultural industry in general. Conservationists blame Mr Bolsonaro for the Amazon crisis, claiming that he has continuously encouraged loggers and farmers to clear land.
Scientists are drawing a clear parallel between Mr Bolsonaro appointment to President and the accelerated loss of forest and land clearing in the Amazon. Data provided from The National Institute for Space Research have stated that their satellite data shows an 84% increase on the same period last year. This data was provided weeks after President Jair Bolsonaro fired the head of the agency over the data provided in regards to deforestation. Mr Bolsonaro has also been criticised over his environmental policies in which he is said to be favouring development over conservation.
The Amazon slows down the pace of global warming through its carbon stores, which if lost threatens lives all around the world. It is now being estimated that a ‘football pitch’ of the forest is being lost every minute and with that the threat to the three million species of plants and animals that live their increases. The Amazon is one of the most biologically diverse regions which means the transformation of land for agricultural use will hold repercussions globally. Moreover, the Amazon is home to over a million Indigenous people living in communities and tribes throughout the rainforest. With the burning of the forest comes the potential not only to lose lives but to rid the region of its indigenous history and cultural identity. Thousands of years of traditions, stories, expertise is a sack with the fires blazing through the Amazon.
Whilst fires in the region are common and occur during the dry season, what is occurring now is deliberate land clearing. INPE researcher Alberto Setzer acknowledged “The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident”. Mr Bolsonaro appears to be unphased by the fire outbreak, even claiming that non-governmental organisations lit the fires as revenge on the government for slashing their funding. In references to the blazing fires, Mr Bolsonaro stated in a Facebook Live “So, there could be…, I’m not affirming it, criminal action by these ‘NGOers’”.
It is now the role of the international community and its leaders to speak out in protest of this destruction. The burning of the Amazon is not just a regional issue, it affects the future of the plant.