What Happened

Amazon rainforest
Amazon rainforest fires: What is next for the Amazon rainforest? (Image: REUTERS)

As you may have seen circulating on social media, the Amazon Rainforest was set on fire. The rainforest, which is rich in biodiversity, contributes to the welfare of the planet. Despite the environmental impacts,  Brazilian Cattle ranchers are setting fire to the Amazon as they plan to appropriate the acquired land. 

“These are intentional fires to clear the forest,” coordinator of the Fire Center at Wageningen University, Catheline Stoof, said. “People want to get rid of the forest to make agricultural land, for people to eat meat.”

Brazil is the largest exporter of beef, producing 20% of the world’s supply. As a result of this, many locals are dependent on cattle ranching to make ends meet. Clearing land by fire for cattle is a common practice among locals. This technique is known as slash-and-burn. Moreover, Ranchers have dedicated a day, coined ‘Fire Day’ to clear parts of the rainforest. 

“We need to show the president that we want to work and the only way is deforesting,” an anonymous Fire Day organizer said. “It’s to create pastures by [clearing forest], and with fire.”

The impact of slash-and-burn poses major environmental concerns with the deforestation of the Amazon. The rainforest contains over 2,000 species, many of which are endangered.

Forest fires seriously affect biodiversity, threatening flagship species, and habitats that allow the survival of different species of animals and plants,” the Environmental Protections Agency, WWF Panda said in a press statement. “These sources of fire will increase the consequences of climate change, with potential droughts and floods due to lack of vegetation cover.

Amazon’s Effect on the Environment

Aerial view of a large burned area in the city of Candeiras do Jamari in the Brazilian state of Rondônia. (Photo: Victor Moriyama/Greenpeace) 

The Amazon Rainforest has an immense effect on regulating climate change. Particularly, its ability to dilute one-fourth of the world’s Carbon Dioxide is a vital component. The deforestation of the Amazon raises concerns regarding the future of our planet.

“As the largest rainforest in the world, Amazon’s storage of carbon is substantial enough to change the world climate,” Harvard director of Latin American Studies, Brian Farrell, said. “If it were released into the atmosphere. This is a risk for the entire planet.”

Because of this, the inorganic fires taking place pose a hefty threat on the world’s ecology. 

“Natural fires are not uncommon in any forest ecosystem, but they rarely spread far in the wet forests of the Amazon,” Farrell said. “These Widespread fires are driving wildlife away from their habitats and territories, with resulting catastrophic losses.” 

Environmental Policies 

It is heavily suspected that president Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies encourage deforestation. 

“The unprecedented fires ravaging the Amazon are an international tragedy and a dangerous contribution to climate chaos,” director of The Amazon Watch organization, Christian Poirier, said in a press statement. “This devastation is directly related to President Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental rhetoric…Farmers and ranchers understand the president’s message as a license to commit arson with wanton impunity, in order to aggressively expand their operations into the rainforest.”

However, President Bolsonaro rejects the idea that his stances have an influence on ranchers. Conversely, Bolsonaro believes that NGOs (Non-government Organizations) are setting fire to the rainforest. Brazilian NGOs, which are non-profit organizations free from Government influence, have faced a decrease in funding since Bolsonaro took administration. Hence, Bolsonaros belief that intentional fires are a revenge tactic. 

“There are strong indications that people from NGOs lost the money,” President Bolsonaro said.

When asked for proof regarding this accusation, Bolsonaro responded, “There isn’t any proof for things like this. No one writes down ‘I’m going to burn there’ it doesn’t exist…The fires were lit in strategic places. All the indications suggest they went there to film and start fires. That’s what I feel.”

International Reactions

Paul Rosolie in the Madre De Dios region of the Peruvian rainforest in July 2015.
Paul Rosolie in the Madre De Dios region of the Peruvian rainforest in July 2015. (Photo: Mohsin Kazmi)

As the public becomes aware of the forest fires, Environmental Organisations make statements to further educate the public on the dangers of these fires. 

“It’s not too late,” WWF Panda said. “The world is looking for an environmental leader… to collectively and individually pick up this mantle and act decisively to save nature, and tackle the climate crisis with meaningful action based on existing science, and we urge them to do so.”

In addition to Environmental Agencies, world leaders are attempting to use their influence to resolve the environmental threat.

“Our house is burning. Literally,” President of France, Emmanuel Macron tweeted. “The Amazon Rainforest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days! #ActForTheAmazon”

Furthermore, Norway and Germany have withdrawn their 30 Million Euro contribution to forest/habit protection organization, The Amazon Fund. 

“Brazil broke the agreement with Norway and Germany since suspending the board of directors and the technical committee of the Amazon Fund,” Norwegian Environment Minister Ola Elvestuen said. “They cannot do that without Norway and Germany agreeing… What Brazil has done shows that they no longer wish to stop deforestation.”