BY MICAH BECK
For nearly the past month, the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil has been ablaze, causing leaders in Brazil to declare a State of Emergency in the region. In just a 48-hour period, there were reportedly over 2,500 active fires, according to the BBC. The fires are so plentiful that the smoke is visible from the International Space Station.
“The first [day,] Sao Paulo darkened much sooner than usual,” said Pedro Marques, a citizen of Sao Paulo, who told of his experience in an interview conducted over Reddit. “I saw a lot of news, showing a much higher amount of soot in the air.”
In its driest season, the fires in the home to over 390 billion individual trees has been attributed mainly to humans looking to clear land for farming and climate change, but some people believe they are partially blameable on Brazillian President Jair Bolsonaro’s environmental policies.
“Absolutely, Bolsonaro is behind the fires,” said Marques. “He has encourag[ed] farmers to destroy the environment, pardon[ed] environmental fines, dismantled environmental inspection bodies… Only an extremely radical minority now blindly believe[s] in him.”
Noah Litwer, a spokesperson for Amazon Watch, a non-profit based out of Oakland, CA that works to protect the Amazon rainforest, agreed, in an e-mail interview.
”Bolsonaro even introduced legislation to roll back protections for indigenous territories and environmentally protected zones,” said Litwer. “…his administration has been systematically dismantling two agencies that monitor and enforce laws that are in place to protect the Amazon region and the indigenous peoples who live there”.
Some people are even planning to leave Brazil due to Bolsonaro’s controversial presidency.
“I do have students who are preparing to leave Brazil for good due to Bolsonaro being president,” said an ESL teacher in Sao Paulo, who prefers to be only referred to as Mitch, answering questions on Reddit. “…it is definitely in [Bolsanaro’s] best interest for the Amazon to be on fire.”
The Amazon fires are likely to start slowing down in the foreseeable future, but it also has a chance of getting worse.
“The spike of net-fires, according to NASA’s FIRMS (Fire Information for Resource Management System), indicate a slow down. However, a leading Brazilian forestry engineer has noted that the worst is yet to come, as August is the beginning of the annual burn season,” said Litwer. “Bolsonaro has called for a 60-day ban on starting fires in the Amazon region, however, it’s unclear how much of this is for show versus actual impact since he’s on the record as pro-development, anti-indigenous, and anti-conservation.”
The fires in the Amazon are certain to cause long-lasting damage and irreversible effects.
“What this could mean for the biodiversity of the Amazon is a mass-extinction for thousands upon thousands of species, some which we know about and many we don’t.” said Litwer, quoting a recent article from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. “ Today we already have 15 to 17 percent total deforestation in the Amazon. So at the current rates of deforestation, we are 20 to 30 years off from reaching this tipping point.”
While the Amazon continues burning, many people are pouring in millions of dollars of donations.