This has been a fateful month in the history of environmental apocalypse as the Amazon rainforest, also known as the “lungs of the earth,” have been on fire throughout the month. The Amazon rainforest contributes significantly in nurturing wild species and in regulating the climate. It is the world’s largest rain forest in terms of species – having a diversity of millions of animal species and trees. It absorbs a massive amount of planet-warming carbon dioxide and produces 6% of the planet’s oxygen.
There is indeed no denial of the fact that this humongous fire has been a potent symbol of people’s indifference and negligence to environmental disorder and climate change; however, the real cause of the fire consists of socio-political factors as much as environmental issues. The scariest of the facts is that the fire is still active and the smoke is visible from space.
It is important to note that the fire is not limited within the territory of Brazil anymore and has spread across the neighbouring countries of Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay and Argentina. Previously, satellite images showed fires in the Brazilian states of Amazonas, Rondonia, Para and Mato Grosso.
A forest fire isn’t something that is uncommon and often has various precursors like extreme heat and lightning. However, it has been reported that more than the environmental factors, political and populist reasons are responsible. More than 1,330 square miles of the Amazon rainforest have been lost since January, a 39% increase over the same period last year. Especially after Jair Bolsonaro came to power, the Amazon’s environmental protection was reduced, which he said was necessary to promote economic development.
So the fact here is that the forests were ignited in order to clear up land for industrial and agricultural development. The three Brazilian states with the worst spikes in fire are all governed by Bolsonaro’s allies, a former BBC journalist and the current director of the nonprofit Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit. The states governed by the opposition have actually seen a decline in fires. Leaked documents show that Bolsonaro’s government intends to strategically prevent conservation projects in the Amazon.
This was a rather populist move taken in the name of better utilisation of the land, thus leading to a major catastrophe. Somehow, what happened was beyond anticipation and the blaze went uncontrolled. A few episodes of rain too could not give respite, though it is now being forecast that rainfall in the first week of September can bring about some relief.
However, simply figuring out that the reason is political is not going to solve the issue. The concern now is how the fire can be extinguished. And is there any possibility that the forests can be restored? Unfortunately, they cannot be.
Now the question is, can the government of Brazil blamed completely? They focused on the point of requirement of more farm land which in a way may seem logical. Like Brazil, other Latin American countries like Peru, Uruguay, Chile too, require economic development and industrialisation. Hence, they believe that the allocation of funds towards environmental conservation can be diverted to other areas.
However, it equally important to understand the Amazon rainforest is not merely a bunch of trees, it is extremely necessary not just for the continent but also for sustainability of the entire planet. The rampant deforestation and fire may appear to be something that can be overcome but the devastating impact is irreparable. To maintain a balance in the ecosystem, it is not just the human species that should continue to survive.
We lost thousands of animals and other organisms in these fire spikes apart from the trees. Apart from this, the emission of huge quantity of carbon and other toxic gases are soon going to take a toll of people’s lives. So, the course of development for which all this is apparently done will become redundant.
If we see closely, it will be very clear that the problem is predominantly political. It is politics in the disguise of economic growth and national sentiments that leads to such a situation, the outcome of which generally goes against the benefit of the populace. The Amazon fires brings this question into focus.
Bolsonaro says it’s Brazil’s internal affair, but isn’t Macron right in saying that it’s the world’s lungs that are burning away? The Amazon produces as much as 6% of the oxygen we all breathe. Therefore, what Bolsonaro does in Brazil affects us all.
It is very important for every country to take the issue of ecological crisis and sustainability seriously and refrain from dragging this into politics. Beyond all other factors, sustainability has to be the top priority before it leads to a major humanitarian crisis.