Our house is burning

first_imgIt is common for wildfires to occur in dry seasons, Brazil is no exception, nor is burning parts of forest a practice. But the flaming rain forests of Amazonia tell a grave story this time, one that has repercussions on the entire planet at large and its climate. In Brazil, forest fires are deliberately started in efforts to illegally deforest land for cattle ranching. Dry season only provides favourable conditions for the rapid spread of fire. These man-made fires in the world’s largest rainforest are of the intensity that the smokes have not only enveloped the region and blocked out sunlight but have even wafted thousands of miles away to the Atlantic coast. Amid concerns over this deliberate destruction of the environment that houses a biodiversity hotspot, there is also the question of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro’s policies for his largely anti-environment stance and the damaging impact it is showing. The rainforest has been ablaze for the past several days at an alarming rate for both governments and environmentalists alike across the world. Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research has reported that forest fires in the region have doubled since 2013 and have increased by 84 per cent compared to the same period last year. This year alone, there have been 72,843 fires and more than 9,500 of those have happened over the past few days. It is widely attributed to the Bolsonaro government’s anti-environment rhetoric that farmers are emboldened to organised a ‘fire day’ along BR-163, a highway that runs through the heart of the rainforest. With this as a method, the farmers also set ablaze forests to get the government’s attention to clear pastures for their livestock. The climate of that region is not extreme dry, the kind to make a fire break out on its own, but dry enough to spread fast after it is induced by humans, whether accidentally or deliberately. The Amazon fires, as a result, have taken on such a huge proportion that they are visible from space. NASA released images on August 11 showing the expanse of the spread of fires and reported that its satellites had detected heightened fire activity in July and August. There have been more than twice as many fires in Brazil this year as there were over the same period in 2013. French President Emmanuel Macron being vocal on the issue said the fires in the Amazon are an “international crisis” and called for this matter to be top on the agenda at the G7 summit. “Our house is burning. Literally,” He expressed through a tweet. Obviously, this prompted a furious response from the Brazilian leadership. Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro is a right-wing nationalist who bristles at the idea of foreign interference in the Brazilian Amazon, took exception to his French counterpart’s comments and responded by accusing Macron of using this matter for personal political mileage. He went on to say that calls to discuss the fires at G7 summit in Biarritz, in which Brazil is not participating, evoke “a misplaced colonialist mindset”. Also Read – A compounding difficultyThe Amazonian rainforest is a repository of rich biodiversity and is a vital carbon store that slows down the pace of global warming. It produces one-fifth of the world’s oxygen and about 20 per cent of its freshwater, as per a World Wide Fund for Nature estimate. It is also home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous communities whose lives and homelands are under threat given the persistent encroachment by the Brazil government, local farmers, foreign corporations, and other governments with economic interests in the resource-rich region. Satellite data published by the INPE have shown an increase of 85 per cent this year in fires across Brazil, most of them in the Amazon region. Conservationists are together in holding Bolsonaro’s government responsible for Amazon’s plight, explaining that his policies have encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land at the cost of the environment. The French President and host of the G7 summit of some of the world’s most advanced economies, has emphasised and reiterated that the health of the Amazon was a matter of international concern. The Brazilian President said in response that he was open to dialogue about the fires if it was “based on objective data and mutual respect”, but hit out at the calls for it to be discussed at the G7 summit. In a 2017 study, the University of Leeds found that carbon intake by the Amazon basin matches the emissions released by nations in the basin. The burning of forests, therefore, implies additional carbon emissions. Subsequent research suggests that further deforestation could lead to the Amazon’s transformation from the world’s largest rainforest to a savanna and this would reverse the region’s ecology, and in turn, making a near-irreversible impact on human lives in general. The rain produced by the Amazon travels through the region to the Andes mountain range. Moisture from the Atlantic falls on the rainforest, and eventually evaporates back into the atmosphere. It is established that Amazon rainforest has the ability to produce at least half of the rain it receives. This cycle is a delicate balance with impact on all the major parts of the world. There is a very urgent need to heed this balance. In a consolidated international effort, Norway and Germany have withdrawn funding for programmes that seek to stop deforestation in the Amazon and have accused Brazil of doing little to protect the forests. The example of burning Amazon explains in painful ways how the environment of a region does not belong exclusively to the region and that global climate demands combined efforts from nations.last_img read more