The Fires in the Amazon

In recent days, alarm has been raised by the increased frequency of fires in the Amazon. With the election of President Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, many have suspected that it is his “anti-environmental” rhetoric that has led to the spike. Bolsonaro has campaigned on the promise of cutting green regulation and has shown support for the clearing of the Amazon for agricultural and mining purposes. However, some of the fires can be contributed to the time of year — dry season in Brazil, which runs from July to October. Forest fires can also be traced back to other natural causes. 

2019 has not been the worst year for fires; the worst time for fire activity was in the 2000s — with the number of fires peaking in 2005. It is the controversial election in Brazil that has led to suspicions and concerns regarding this year’s fires. While it is currently dry season, where and when the fires have been spotted are a red flag. The time in which they started and where they began is more in line with land clearing than natural causes. Paired with the current administration’s stance and the longstanding tradition of using fire to clear land for farming, logging, and mining, fingers are pointed to the fires being of human origin. 

Many believe that the world must “save” the Amazon from these fires. There are claims that the Amazon produces about 20% of the world’s oxygen. This is untrue, the Amazon produces half of that, and what it does produce is recycled back into its ecosystem. The fires, however, produce carbon monoxide, which can contribute to global warming. The immediate impact will be on Brazil, with the global impact being unclear. 

Not only do the fires affect climate, but they also affect the lives of those who live in the Amazon. The indigenous people of Brazil depend on the Amazon for food, clothing, medicine, and the forest itself is deeply rooted in their culture. The fires are not a new occurrence in the indigenous people’s lives. For centuries, since the Portuguese came to Brazil, the Amazon and its peoples have been exploited for various enterprises. 

With the recent meeting of the G7, a sense of urgency has been placed upon controlling and stopping the fires in the Amazon. A financial support plan of $22 million was proposed to aid Brazil — a large portion of the funds intended to go towards fire-fighting planes. President Bolsonaro reacted negatively to the offer, accusing the G7 of a colonialist view of Brazil. Faced with international pressure, Bolsonaro has sent in Brazilian troops to combat the fires.

– Sophie Linkous ’20

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