|Deforestation continues to threaten our ecosystem and its organisms, with Brazil being one of the most affected nations / Photo by Ignatov Andrei via 123RF|
Amazon, the world's largest rainforest, which covers 40 percent of South America and spans eight countries, is burning at the highest rate. Referred to as "the planet's lungs," the rainforest produces more than 20 percent of the Earth's oxygen. It is also home to thousands of wildlife and more than 30 million people. The current wildfire threatens not only the ecosystem of the rainforest but also impacts the entire world, as the Amazon plays a major role in how the Earth's climate is regulated.
The Sun, a tabloid newspaper published in the UK, recently reported that although wildfires can be common in the dry season, scientists agreed that the fires were caused by illegally deforesting land for cattle ranching. Activists and environmentalists also blamed Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil's president, for the Amazon rainforest fires. This was because Bolsonaro not only encouraged deforestation in the country but also implemented anti-environment policies.
Brazil's National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported that since the beginning of 2019, the country has experienced 72,843 fires. More than half of those occurred in the Amazon region. Every minute of every day, more than one-and-a-half soccer field-size areas of the Amazon rainforest are being destroyed. As the UN Secretary-General said, "I’m deeply concerned by the fires in the Amazon rainforest. In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity. The Amazon must be protected."
The Amazon rainforest wildfires sparked a massive conversation, spawning the hashtags #SaveTheAmazon and #PrayForTheAmazon, among others. Many people, particularly activists and environmentalists, blamed deforestation for the increase in Brazilian fires over the past few years. Deforestation, which is nothing new across the world, has cleared thousands of acres of land to expand agriculture and other activities, such as logging, soy production, cattle ranching, and many more.
|Many people blamed deforestation for the increase in Brazilian fires over the past few years. / Photo by Peta Thames via 123RF|
The current situation of the rainforest has put a spotlight on deforestation. Nigel Sizer, a tropical forest ecologist and chief program officer with the Rainforest Alliance, reported that deforestation is responsible for 80 to 90 percent of the loss of tropical forests across the globe. This contributes to the excessive carbon dioxide emissions that continuously warm our planet.
The Amazon Deforestation
Deforestation continues to threaten our ecosystem and its organisms, with Brazil being one of the most affected nations. Recently, a new satellite data from the INPE showed that deforestation of the Amazon rainforest grew by 278% in July 2019 compared to July 2018. The Guardian, a British daily newspaper, reported that in the first 26 days of August, the rainforest has lost an area measuring 1,114.8 sq km (430 sq miles), which is the same size as Hong Kong.
Since INPE started monitoring deforestation with its current methodology in 2014, it was reported that this year is the single biggest surge in rainforest destruction. Last June, the agency revealed that there has been an 88% deforestation increase since Bolsonaro was elected. He also fired then-head of INPE, Ricardo Galvão and called the data "a lie." The government also announced that they will be hiring a private company to take over the Amazon deforestation monitoring.
Since taking the presidential seat, Bolsonaro has sabotaged environment protection efforts as part of his campaign promise to open the Amazon for business. He has also stated that he supports ranchers, farmers, and miners over indigenous communities and other forest dwellers. Claudio Angelo of Climate Observatory, an NGO coalition of environmental groups, said, “The current Brazilian government was elected precisely with the promise of dismantling the policies and governance structures that prevent deforestation, and they are duly delivering on it.”
Deforestation Caused Brazil's Fires
Although the size of Brazil's fires is still unclear, it has spread massively over Amazon states, affecting not only those regions but also the world. In a tweet, Brazilian Minister of the Environment Ricardo Salles blamed dry weather, wind, and heat for the rising number of fires in the Amazon. However, Paulo Artaxo, an atmospheric physicist at the University of São Paulo, reported that these are associated with a sharp rise in deforestation in the country.
ScienceMag, a magazine under the American Association for the Advancement of Science seeking to "advance science, engineering, and innovation throughout the world for the benefit of all people," wrote that fires were proven used to routinely clear roadside vegetation, crop residues, and overgrown pastures. As a result, the smoke from the burning biomass can interfere with patterns across the region. Worse, it can contribute to global warming.
The Amazon Environmental Research Institute (IPAM), a nongovernmental organization based in Belém, Brazil, also reported that the municipalities with the largest areas of deforestation have the highest rate of fire activities. Scientists regarded this as the worst anti-environment political climate in a lifetime, mainly due to the lack of inactions by the Brazilian government. According to an article by The New Yorker, an American magazine, an urgent new report from the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) showed that deforestation must be stopped and there should be better agriculture to achieve our climate goals.
Reports also showed that tropical deforestation accounts for an average of 15 percent of global greenhouse emissions annually. Scientists found out that if this trend continues, it would trigger greater warming and drying in the forests. Worse, 50 to 60 percent of forests could be gone over the next three to five decades.