The Amazon Rainforest Continues to Burn
Wed, April 21, 2021

The Amazon Rainforest Continues to Burn

Last August, all eyes were on the Amazon rainforest. Photos of the blackened sky above Brazil’s famed rainforest started to pop up on Twitter, alarming all of us that “the lungs of the world” was burning at a high rate / Photo by: NASA via Wikimedia Commons

 

Last August, all eyes were on the Amazon rainforest. Photos of the blackened sky above Brazil’s famed rainforest started to pop up on Twitter, alarming all of us that “the lungs of the world” was burning at a high rate. Reports showed that there were thousands of individual fires during that month in the Amazon. 

It’s normal for forest fires to occur in the Amazon, especially during the dry season between July and October. These can be caused by naturally occurring events such as lightning strikes. However, this year was different. According to CNN, an American news-based pay television channel owned by AT&T's WarnerMedia, researchers and environmental organizations stated that the fires were caused by cattle ranchers and loggers who wanted to clear and utilize the land. 

"The vast majority of these fires are human-lit," Christian Poirier, the program director of non-profit organization Amazon Watch, said. 

The National Institute for Space Research (INPE) reported that the number of fires in Brazil during the last week of August was 80% higher compared to last year. More than half of those fires occurred in the Amazon region. Of this number, 99% was a result of human actions “either on purpose or by accident.” CNN meteorologist Haley Brink stated that the fires can't be attributed to natural causes and are "definitely human-induced.” 

Brink added that the fires fit into an established seasonal agricultural pattern. "It's the best time to burn because the vegetation is dry. [Farmers] wait for the dry season and they start burning and clearing the areas so that their cattle can graze. And that's what we're suspecting is going on down there,” he said.

While experts are blaming human activities for the fires, activists are blaming Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. It was reported that he encouraged ranchers, farmers, and loggers to exploit and burn the rainforest like never before with a sense of impunity. Bolsonaro even pushed for anti-environment policies since he started his term. Months after the huge fires happened, many of us are still clueless about the Amazon forest’s current situation.

The Amazon Is Still Burning

Since January, a staggering 121,000 fires have broken out across Brazil, and the Amazon is heavily affected. According to BBC, a British public service broadcaster, at least 7,747 square kilometers of Brazilian Amazon rainforest has already been cleared this year. However, Ane Alencar, the science director of the non-profit Amazon Environmental Research, believes that the true figure is likely to be at least 30% higher. This makes it the worst year since 2008 for Amazon deforestation in Brazil.

With the current status of the Brazilian Amazon, the World Wildlife Fund, an international non-governmental organization founded in 1961, working in the field of wilderness preservation, and the reduction of human impact on the environment, considers it “one of the most endangered ecosystems on the planet.”

Unfortunately, the Amazon rainforest hasn’t stopped burning since August. Experts reported that the problem centers on deforestation through systematic chopping down of trees. “The factors that led to such widespread fires in the first place—decreased enforcement of forest law, illegal deforestation for agriculture, and invasion of indigenous territories—remain in place,” said Nigel Sizer, chief program officer for the advocacy organization Rainforest Alliance. 

Since January, a staggering 121,000 fires have broken out across Brazil, and the Amazon is heavily affected / Photo by: NASA Earth Observatory via Flickr

 

Learning about the status of the Amazon rainforest is extremely important, especially as global temperatures continue to rise. It is home to millions of animals and plants and at the same time provides humans with their basic necessities. The Amazon also plays an integral part in regulating the climate with its trees absorbing and storing millions of tons of carbon dioxide. CO2 is a key greenhouse gas that drives global climate change. 

With the increasing demand and pressure from the entire world, the Brazilian government has finally taken action. Bolsonaro's administration has issued a decree temporarily banning the use of fire to clear land throughout the country. At the same time, it deployed troops in the Amazon to combat the fires. Dr. Joseph Roise, a professor in the Department of Forestry and Environmental Resources, stated that stopping the loss of the forest won’t be easy. According to him, the best solution would be controlling deforestation and managing agricultural activities. 

Amazon Deforestation Is Highest Since 2008

Aside from the wildfires, deforestation is also a major issue heavily affecting the Amazon. Recent data from INPE reported that deforestation in the area has increased to the highest rate in more than a decade. According to CBS News, the news division of American television and radio service CBS, the ecosystem has lost 3,769 square miles of its vegetation between August 2018 and July 2019. This is a 30% increase from the year-to-year rate prior and an 11-year high.

The report not only showed an alarming development in one of the most critical ecosystems for the planet but also emphasizes how Bolsonaro’s policy decisions are driving the destruction. The staggering increase in deforestation rates in the country coincided with the election of Bolsonaro in October 2018. INPE reported that deforestation in June this year was 88% higher than the same month the year before.

Conservation experts and scientists also agreed that deforestation has been the biggest driver in the continuous destruction of the Amazon rainforest. Violence against indigenous people in the country also increased under the Bolsonaro administration. In the first nine months of his term, there has been a number of illegal natural resource extraction, land incursions, and property damage in indigenous areas. 

The current status of the Amazon forest is both alarming and infuriating. If this continues, it will be to the detriment not only of Brazilians but the world as a whole as climate change worsens.

Aside from the wildfires, deforestation is also a major issue heavily affecting the Amazon. Recent data from INPE reported that deforestation in the area has increased to the highest rate in more than a decade / Photo by: Pedro Biondi via Wikimedia Commons