Our earth is burning.
Climate change and global warming are speeding up.
And in case you haven’t heard, the Amazon rainforest is on fire.
The Amazon rainforest has been burning for three weeks, with no sign of slowing down. Despite being known for its wet and humid climate, there have been more than twice as many fires in Brazil this year as there were over the same period in 2013. It also experienced an 84% increase in fire outbreaks from 2018, with more than half occurring in the Amazon. The primary cause behind the raging fires — people.
Illegal logging is a USD$100 billion global industry, with a worrying trend of deforestation and slash-and-burn agricultural practices. In recent years, the government has been fighting illegal logging, ranching and mining. But as Brazil’s new right-wing president, President Jair Bolsonaro, took over the reins and declared Brazil’s vast protected lands as an obstacle to economic growth and opened them up to commercial exploitation, the fate of the world’s largest rainforest was sealed. Farmers and loggers were emboldened to clear the land illegally for cattle ranching, even organising “fire days” to leverage on the weaker law enforcement.
The Amazon Rainforest, once spreading over some 5.5 million square kilometres, and home to more than 2,000 species of animals, began to fall.
What Are Some Actions Taken?
Brazil declared a state of emergency in early August as fires continued to spike. For an hour on Monday afternoon, the skies darkened over San Paulo, Brazil, upending every last sense of normalcy as the government faces a fresh wave of criticisms. NASA satellites circling the tropics four time a day continue to capture the billowing smoke that has engulfed more than half of Brazil, as the fires can be observed even from space.
On Thursday, Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro acknowledged that the country lacks the resources needed to fight the raging Amazon fires — a week after saying the government doesn’t need foreign aid on the rampaging wildfires. The leader also claimed Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) are responsible for setting fires in the Amazon rainforest, lashing out at the furore against his environmental policies.
The president also shares that the administration is working to keep the Amazonian fires under control. Meanwhile, he sacked the head of Brazil’s space agency in July, disputing the data from the satellite footages.
The Amazon fires have sparked international media attention and outrage from both the United Nations and the political leaders. France’s president, Emmanuel Macron, refers to the fires in the Amazon as an “international crisis” and highlights the urgency to tackle the issue at the upcoming G7 summit.
What Is the Public Sentiment?
The world is engulfed in shock and horror as photos and news on the Amazon fires began to spread like wildfire. Hashtags surfaced on social media, as #PrayforAmazonas and #AmazonRainforest started to trend. The media is criticised for its widespread coverage and fanfare on the fire at Notre Dame, while giving little attention to the Amazon fires.
Actor and environmentalist, Leonardo DiCaprio uploaded an Instagram post to address the fires, with a direct donation link to Amazon Watch on his profile. Other celebrities like Jameela Jamil, Jaden Smith, Ariana Grande and Kylie Jenner have taken to social media to speak out about the matter.
People are urged to donate to charities such as Rainforest Action Network to protect an acre of the Amazonian rainforest, and the World Wide Fund for Nature to protect the species in the Amazon and around the world.
Why Should Singaporeans Be Concerned?
Yes, the Amazon rainforest might seem like a faraway place to us Singaporeans, that it’s easy to feel dissociated from what is going on. But what’s plaguing Brazil will soon become a global issue should the wildfires continue to spiral out-of-control.
The Amazon is a vital carbon store that holds more than 20% of the world’s oxygen. It is the “lungs of the planet” and home to 10% of the world’s known biodiversity.
As the world’s largest rainforest, it is a key source in slowing down the pace of global warming, consuming a quarter of the 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon from the atmosphere annually.
If the fires continue to burn, the global thermostat will increase, making it almost impossible to keep worldwide warming below 3.6 degrees, in accordance to the Paris climate records. The huge amount of carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide emissions will also pose a threat to human health.
More needs to be done for the Amazon rainforest, and perhaps it can start when Brazil’s leader stops playing the blame game.