The Earth’s Lungs Are on Fire

  • The Amazon jungle in South America is often referred to as the “lungs of the plant” because it is produces 20% of the earths oxygen.  
  • The Brazilian section of the Amazon has experienced more than 74,000 fires this year compared to 40000 last year – that is a 84% increase. 
  • The upsurge in the number of fires have been caused by farmers and loggers who have deliberately started the fires to exploit the land for industrial or agricultural purposes.
  • The hot temperatures and dry conditions because of climate change enable the flames to spread farther and faster out of control.
  • The area affected is so vast, it can be clearly visible from space.

The uptick in the number of fires has been blamed on Brazilian President, Jair Bolsonaro. It all seems to have started in April this year when  he suggested that Brazil may open a protected reserve in the Amazon to mining, saying in a televised address the country should “use the riches that God gave us.”

Bolsonaro continues to prioritise economic interests before that of the environment, potentially driving focus away from protecting Brazil’s rain forests. Bolsonaro also says that the rise in wildfires was simply down to “queimada” — the time of year when farmers use fire to clear land – Reuters.

Yesterday, Bolsonaro accused non-governmental organizations of setting fires in the Amazon to undermine his leadership, although he admitted he had no evidence to back up his allegations.

His stance and the resultant increase in fires has caused outrage by world leaders. French President Emmanuel Macron has called the Amazon rain forest fires an ‘international crisis’. “The Amazon rainforest — the lungs which produce 20 per cent of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire. It is an international crisis.” he tweeted.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau re-tweeted Macron’s post, saying, “I couldn’t agree more. We did lots of work to protect the environment at the G7 last year in Charlevoix, and we need to continue this weekend. We need to act for the Amazon and act for our planet — our kids and grandkids are counting on us.”

A map showing every fire that’s started across Brazil since August 13, 2019.

Courtesy of Global Forest Watch

A satellite images capture of three fires burning in the Amazon southwest of Port Velho, Brazil on August 15, 2019.

Maxar Technologies

The smoke plumes from blazes in the Amazon have spread from the state of Amazonas to the nearby states of Pará and Mato Grosso, and even blotted out the sun in São Paulo – a city more than 2,000 miles (3,000km) away.

In total, the blazes have created a layer of smoke estimated to be 1.2 million square miles wide. This image from the European Union’s Copernicus Satellite shows the smoke slicing north to south through Brazil.

Imagery from European Union satellites shows smoke from fires in the Amazon rainforest stretching across Brazil and into other countries.

European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts

If the Amazon was completely destroyed by the fires , the tropical trees – and the fauna they support – would disappear, releasing up to 140 billion tons of stored carbon into the atmosphere and causing an uptick in already rising global temperatures.

Author: Bryan Groenendaal

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