The Planet’s Lungs are Burning

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The Planet’s Lungs are Burning

NASA Satellite

NASA Satellite

NASA Satellite

Brendan Guillen, Reporter

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The Amazon Rainforest is on fire. If that doesn’t act as a wake up call, the fact that the rainforest produces 20% of the world’s oxygen should. The Amazon is not a stranger to fire, but August has seen a skyrocket this year in the amount of reported fires and burnt land. In fact, according to Brazil’s space research center, the number of fires in the Amazon is 80% higher than last year.

In essence, the world’s lungs are on fire.

73,000 fires have been detected in the Amazon. The growing amount of fires has been connected to the election of Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, who publicly supports the efforts of loggers and seeks to grant companies greater access to protected lands. Adriano Karipuna, the leader of the native Karipuna community in the northern state of Rondonia stated, “We saw the forest covered in smoke, and the sky darkened. Our eyes have become red due to the smoke.” He later said that loggers have gone into the protected areas of the rainforest, emboldened by their president’s views.

“The vast majority of these fires are human lit,” said Christian Poirier, program director of the Amazon Watch organization. He later stated that even in dry seasons, the rain forest does not catch fire this easily. According to an article by CBS News, he also stated “This devastation is directly related to President Bolsonaro’s anti-environmental rhetoric, which has erroneously framed forest protections and human rights as impediments to Brazil’s economic growth.”

Social media has taken notice of the fires, with French President Emmanuel Macron tweeting “Our house is burning, literally. The Amazon rain forest -the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen- is on fire.” Actor Leonardo DiCaprio told his followers that “the lungs of the Earth are in flames” and implored them to become more environmentally conscious. He has now become the head of the organization Earth Alliance, who have pledged $5 million to aid in the preservation of the Amazon rainforest. The funds will be sent to five local organizations: Instituto Associacao Floresta Protegida (Kayapo), Coordination of the Indigenous Organizations of the Brazilian Amazon (COIAB), Instituto Kabu (Kayapo), Instituto Raoni(Kayapo) and Instituto Socioambiental (ISA).

Filipe Martins, one of President Bolsonaro’s foreign policy advisors, replied to such posts by stating, “If you are wondering who is going to save the Amazon, here’s a very straightforward answer for you: It’s not the empty, hysterical and misleading rhetoric of mainstream media, transnational bureaucrats and NGOs.” The Bolsonaro administration is making plans to send the Brazilian army to fight the fires as a result of public backlash, however, as of this moment, only a few hundred soldiers have been sent.

According to an article from the Associated Press, Brazil’s federal police agency will be investigating reports of farmers in the state of Para calling for “a day of fire” on August 10th. Whether or not they are found guilty, this does not explain the excessive amount of fires in the region. We will keep you posted on events in the Amazon.