For the past three weeks large forest fires have been raging throughout the Amazon rainforest in South America and yet, there are still many who don’t even know what’s happening.
More than 2,500 fires are currently active and devastating thousands of hectors of age-old rainforest. Many of the fires are naturally occurring, though the intensity of the blazes have been perpetuated by the increasing rate of deforestation caused by illegal logging, land clearing and the intentional slashing and burning of the land for cattle ranching and agriculture.
So far not much has been done. Until a couple days ago, a lacking media coverage and government intervention stunned those aware of the unfolding events. Some claimed that powers at be were allowing the world’s largest rainforest, “the lungs of the Earth” to continue to burn itself alive for invested economic interests.
Across social media, individuals are outraged by the lack of thought being put to resolving the issue. Many have compared the events to the burning of the Parisian cathedral, Notre Dam earlier this year stating that, “when the Notre Dame was burning, the world’s media covered every moment of it and billionaires rushed to restore it. Right now the Amazon is burning…No media coverage. No billionaires.” An emerging international outcry is beginning with the continual circulation of the hashtag #prayforamazonia as people begin to realise the devastation currently unfolding in the region.
“An international crisis” said the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson.
Until earlier today, Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro had claimed that non-governmental organisations had started the fires to make him look bad, although he later admitted to having no evidence for his claim. He also added that the media reports on the events were ‘exaggerating’ and that the spreading of disinformation has led to a misunderstanding of the intensity of the fires in the region. He has said, “forest fires exist in the whole world and this cannot serve as a pretext for possible international sanctions.”
However, with the forest fire smoke being made visible from space, it’s hard to believe that the extent of the burning is merely an ‘exaggeration’.
Indigenous community throughout the many regions of the Amazon have had their ways of life and livelihoods decimated. A short video circulating on social media from Russia Today pictures a tribal woman emphatically pleading as she explains how corporations having been intentionally burning parts of the forest in order to clear the land for farming. The woman cries as she explains how the Indigenous community have been trying to nurture the area despite the disruption received from the corporations.
This isn’t a new threat to the Amazon however, constant deforestation and threats against indigenous communities regarding land rights have been an ongoing occurrence over the past decade as large multination companies seek to use land and extract more resources from the Amazon. Today, the leader of the indigenous Mura community, Raimundo Mura said that this is “white man’s goal to finish off the Amazon.”
International pressure continues to build
As the blazes continue be left unchecked, pressure from the international community is being but on President Bolsonaro and other international leaders to take steps to mitigate the problem. In Rio de Janeiro, protesters marched against the Brazilian Government in response to the current apathetic approach being taken to resolve the crisis. President of France, Emmanuel Macron also released a tweet saying, “our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest – the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen – is on fire. It is an international crisis.” The president urges an emergency debate ahead of the G7 meetings scheduled in a couple days.
He has also threatened to block an EU trade deal with Brazil and its neighbouring countries which accounted for 20.1% of exports in 2018 and has done so in response to their handing of the forest fires by governments in the region. Macron said that Bolsonaro had lied to him at the Osaka summit earlier in June about his stance on climate change. However, Bolsonaro insists that Macron is taking this action solely for political gain.
In spite of this, Bolsonaro has been forced to reconsider his approach and as of today the Brazilian president has planned to deploy army troops to record and tackle the impact of the fires for the next month.