For over a fortnight straight, the Amazon rainforest has been burning. A record number of forest fires have swept the landscape. The rain forest is often referred to as the lungs of planet earth due to the amount of carbon dioxide which is turned back into oxygen throughout it’s 670 million hectares. It is the worst state the rain forest has ever been in and it at present there is little chance of improvement.
For decades upon decades, vast areas of the rain forest have been destroyed. Whether it is for animal agriculture or paving the way for another type of industry, the Amazon rain forest was on the brink before the latest and most devastating outbreak of fire. Over 1 million indigenous people and 3 million animal species live in the Amazon, all of which are at serious risk now more than ever.
Fires do break out in the rainforest naturally, in fact it is not uncommon, but on this occasion the number of fires is up 84% on the same time last year. The real reason the Amazon is burning at a rate never seen before is humans. Scientists have identified that human activity, such as mining, farming and drilling, have intensified the natural fires.
A significant proportion of the rainforest lies with the borders of Brazil, with the constantly controversial right-wing leader having plenty to say on the forest devastation. Jair Bolsonaro has a track record of having little to no regard for the welfare of the Amazon, he has had plenty to answer for from the wider world in the last two weeks.
The environment agency has slacked off under the Presidents ruling. Less frequent and less harsh penalties for deforestation and a clear government wide mentality that there is more support for the industrial scale destruction of the rain forest than for those people who call the Amazon their home.
Bolsonaro made absurd claims that it was Non-Profit Organisations who had started the fires in order to drum up national and international support for funding to preserve the rain forest. When asked for physical evidence of this, he said he had nothing more than a feeling. He added that the culprits could also be NPO’s trying to embarrass the government, displaying further just how fragile this mans ego truly is. It is a weak attempt to shift away from the fact Bolsonaro and his government are in the process of selling out a precious part of the planet for cold hard cash. Frankly, it is terrifying.
An increase in deforestation is something which was made to be expected before Bolsonaro took office. His plans centred around business and in cattle farming he had one of the most lucrative businesses on the planet. It is the ‘controlled’ fires used in creating space for cattle farms which are one reason the rain-forest is suffering worse than ever before. The past six months have seen the Bolsonaro governmental environment agencies strip away legislation protecting the rain forest, effectively signing a death warrant for occupants of the Amazon. A continuation could see this sentence extended to the wider world.
The international reaction to the rain forest crisis has been strong, with some European countries pulling funding out of Brazil to quell the deforestation. Greenpeace condemned the Bolsonaro government for being a ‘threat to the environmental equilibrium.’
Planet Earth is sliding towards environmental oblivion. Many of the most switched on scientific minds suggest that if a fifth more of the Amazon is destroyed then it will be no longer possible for humans to salvage what is left of it.
Industrial farming and logging have created a situation in the Amazon rain-forest, the likes of which the planet has never seen before. the next time you want to have a moan at someone for banging on about how we should save the rain forest, it might be time for you to listen to them. A rain forest in which 20% of your planet’s oxygen is produced is being wiped out of existence and it is putting every single life on earth at risk. Bolsonaro and his government need to pay for their crimes against humanity, but reversing the damage done is a task we as a species must embrace.