The Amazon Rainforest fire has been one of the most trending news items across all major global news networks for more than a month now. The raging fire has forced Brazil to declare a state of emergency in the region. It was reported that Peru and Colombia agreed to meet and find a solution to protect the forests. However, in a recent development, the President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro refused $20 million in aid offered by the G7 world leaders.
Brazil has been witnessing a sharp rise in the incidents of forest fires since a very long time. This year the number of fires has hit a record high since 2013. CNN has reported that when compared to last year, the incidents of fire are up by a whopping 85 percent. The country’s space research center, INPE has reported an enormous 80,000 fires so far in 2019.
With Brazil witnessing such a huge increase in incidents of fire, the country is virtually up in smoke. Shockingly, Brazil smoke can be seen even from space. Images of the same were captured by astronaut Luca Parmitano of the European Space Agency from the International Space Station on Monday. It is evident that the haze caused by the fires is spreading wide.
The Brazil rainforest fires got undue publicity globally when numerous hashtags on the subject started trending on major social media channels. There were protest marches too held across the globe by environment protectors and activists. They were demanding immediate steps to ensure that the fires are put out quickly. This also led to many top leaders expressing their views on the subject on social media.
So what caused the fires in the first place?
Here is the practical explanation:
The Amazon rainforest is typically wet and humid. However, July and August spell the onset of the dry season. These are the region’s driest months. To initiate ranching and farming activities in the area, fires are generally used to clear the land. According to Christian Poirier, Program Director of the nonprofit Amazon Watch, most of the fires are created by humans.
President Bolsonaro was pointing fingers at nongovernmental organizations. He suggested that they started these fires as revenge for funding cuts. However, he said that he never accused them in a later interview with the BBC.
The Climate Change Connection To The Brazil Fires:
According to Greenpeace, climate change and forest fires are inter-related and operate in a vicious circle. With an increase in the instances of fires, greenhouse gas emissions also increase. This causes an increase in the overall temperature of our planet. The fallout includes extreme weather conditions, droughts, and other climatic disasters.
“In addition to increasing emissions, deforestation contributes directly to a change in rainfall patterns in the affected region, extending the length of the dry season, further affecting forests, biodiversity, agriculture, and human health,” Greenpeace said in a recent release.
NASA has also released an AIRS Map showing the connection between carbon monoxide release and the fires in Brazil between Aug. 8 and Aug. 22. The animated map reveals a horrifying carbon monoxide plume bloom in the northwest Amazon region which moves south and east, and then toward San Paolo.
The Affected Areas:
Reports emerging from Telesur show that Bolivia and Paraguay are already affected and the smokes are making their presence felt in Argentina and Uruguay as well. Satellite images have identified the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Rondonia, Para and Mato Grosso under a smoke cloud. The worst affected is Amazonas.
It is clear that the consequences of this raging forest fire will be borne by Brazil as well as its neighbors.
Effects of damage to the Amazon go far beyond Brazil and its neighbors. The rainforest of this area is responsible for more than 20% of the world’s oxygen and is houses around 10% of the globally known biodiversity. Amazon has been playing a critical role in controlling and regulating the climate. It is for this reason that the Amazon is also called the ‘Lungs of the Planet’.
Any change to its form or existence can have far-reaching effects on the world. The disappearance of the rainforests can impact drinking water, food, and lots more.
The Fire Count:
The BBC has stated that up to Thursday the Brazilian rainforest was having more than 2,500 active fires. The images of these fires are being sent through tweets and other media resources on various channels. Both the BBC and another resource (Eric Holthaus, a meteorologist) sent tweets of smoke from the fires covering about half of Brazil. The San Paulo sky was in darkness for over an hour on August 19. This happened as the winds shifted because of a cold front. It carried the smoke some 1,700 miles away causing the smoke to appear in neighboring countries.
Are The Fires Still Going Strong?
Yes, the fires are active and still raging. Amnesty International revealed the photo they have got of the burned forests in the Mato Grosso state. Meanwhile, President Bolsonaro said the Brazilian army was being mobilized to fight the fires more effectively. Some relief can be expected in early September as rains are due but it won’t help in extinguishing the major fires. The disappointing news from the weather department is that the rains are set to fall in the areas where it is not needed.
President Bolsonaro, faced with unrelenting fires and growing criticism over its mismanagement, found some relief in the tweet from the US President Trump that said that the US is with Brazil in fighting this disastrous calamity. Trump said the US stood ready to assist fighting the fires.
Meanwhile, Bolivia President Evo Morales was putting together a plan to douse the fires with the Boeing 747 ‘Supertanker’. It can fly with 115,000 liters (over 30,000 gallons) and was expected to be in the midst of action soon.
The Brazilian Fires At the G7 Summit
As mentioned earlier, President Bolsonaro rejected a $20 million aid package from the G7 countries for extinguishing the flames gobbling up the rainforest and causing havoc all around. The President had taken offense to the harsh comments made by French President Emmanuel Macron about Brazil’s protection policies.
He made it clear that international assistance would only be considered if Macron took back his statement. The Guardian reported his chief of staff as reportedly saying that the French President Emmanuel Macron should take care of “his home and his colonies,”
Support for the firefighting mission also came from the Canadian Prime Minister Justin He said that Canada is offering to send $15 million and “water bombers” to help fight the fires.
The G7 Summit, an annual meeting of leaders of the seven countries, namely Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, and the US was held over the weekend. They were unanimous in agreeing to the aid package. Brazil’s president had initially accepted the aid.
The Role of Politicians:
Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro was concerned about the fires devastating Brazil and Bolivia and offered aid to help extinguish them. Support also came from the Venezuelan Chancellery. It expressed solidarity with the indigenous communities in Brazil, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, and Peru.
“Venezuela expresses its deep concern about the gigantic and terrible fires that devastate the Amazon region in the territory of several South American countries, with very serious impacts on the population, ecosystems and biological diversity of the area,” Venezuela’s Ministry of Popular Power for Foreign Affairs said in a statement to Brasil247 on Friday.
A letter by the Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza proposing a meeting of foreign ministers of the Amazon Cooperation Treaty Organization also boosted support for Brazil in these trying times. Support also came from Finland’s Prime Minister, Antti Rinne. The government released a statement saying that the fires in Brazil were “extremely serious” and that he had contacted the European Commission.
“Brazilian rainforests are vital to the world’s climate. I am truly worried about the attitude Brazil seems to have adopted right now regarding its own forests. Brazil should do all it takes to end the fires that are a danger to our whole civilization,” Rinne said in the statement.
However, Bolsonaro also faced criticism. The main accusations included lack of action and encouraging logging and farming in the Amazon. An anonymous senior Brazilian official had earlier stated to the BBC that Bolsonaro was turning a blind eye to deforestation. Ricardo Galvão, the director of the INPE, in fact, defended the data which revealed that deforestation was a shocking 88% higher in June that what it was a year ago. He was fired for the same on Aug. 2.
Help Offers From Others:
Apple’s Tim Cook was the first tech CEO to respond with an offer of aid. On Monday, Cook tweeted that Apple would be donating to help. The amount was not specified.
- Protests against the mismanagement of the fires began with trending of the hashtag #ActForTheAmazon on Twitter last week.
- The hashtags #PrayforAmazonas and #AmazonRainforest were trending earlier last week.
- In Zurich, activists from the Klimastreik Ecological Movement and Brazilians protested outside the country’s Brazilian Consulate on Friday morning.
- In Dublin, the Extinction Rebellion Collective occupied the Brazilian Embassy.
- Images of a protest in Barcelona were widely posted on Twitter.
- Demonstrations were also held in Paris, London, Madrid and Copenhagen, Denmark.
Twitter users criticized the media for their prime coverage of the Notre Dame and other news and not focusing on the rainforest fires. Global billionaires were also criticized for poor or lack of donations.
The Sierra Club’s Associate Director Javier Sierra appealed to global lending institutions to have a relook at their investment plans in Brazil. The Club opined that it was undeserving after the reckless exploitation of the forests by the country.
“The Club calls on international lenders and institutions to reconsider their investments in Brazil after President Jair Bolsonaro’s reckless exploitation and destruction of a critical resource for the future of humanity,” Javier Sierra said in an email.
Norway and Germany said they would not provide further funds for Amazon’s preservation until Bolsonaro makes amends.
“Those who destroy the Amazon and let deforestation continue unabated are encouraged in doing so by the Bolsonaro government’s actions and policies. Since taking office, the current government has been systematically dismantling Brazil’s environmental policy,” Danicley Aguiar of Greenpeace Brazil said in a release Thursday.
The World Wildlife Fund’s European Policy Office has urged Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador, Venezuela, Guyana, and Suriname to protect the Amazon, fight deforestation and reduce the causes of the fire. It also urged the EU and its Member States to act stringently in this regard.
Actor and environmentalist Leonardo DiCaprio created a link on Amazon Watch on his Instagram profile and posted about the fires. The link can be used for donating to the cause. Celebrities like Jameela Jamil, Jaden Smith, and John Cusack have spoken about the disaster.
How can you contribute towards the protection of rainforests?
- Protect one acre of the Amazonian rainforest by donating to Rainforest Action Network
- The Rainforest Trust has saved over 23 million acres since 1988. Donate to this trust.
- Cut down on the use of wood and paper. Check the Rainforest Alliance site for assistance
- Donate to the World Wide Fund for Nature or the World Wildlife Fund
- Sign the Change.org petitions. Some three million-plus signatures are already collected thanks to the efforts of a Rio Branco based lawyer.
- Amazon Watch is committed to protecting the rainforest. They defend indigenous rights and highlight the ill-effects of climate change.
- Donate to the Amazon Conservation Team, which works to fight climate change, protect the Amazon and empower Indigenous peoples. Donate to help plant trees, sponsor education, protect habitats, buy a solar panel, preserve indigenous lands, and more.
- Voice your opinion loud and clear to your elected representatives
- Donate to One Tree Planted, which has been doing commendable deforestation work in the Amazon rainforest and around the world.
- Sign Greenpeace’s petition which asks the Brazilian government to save the Amazon rainforest and protect the lands of indigenous and traditional communities.
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