Fires devastating Amazon rainforest

Fires devastating Amazon rainforest
A C-130 Hercules aircraft dumps water to fight fires raging in Brazil’s (R) Amazon rainforest, Sunday. (AP)
By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 8/25/2019 11:43:43 AM IST

 Global leaders call for urgent action to avert ‘astronomical’ impacts to ‘life on earth’

BRASILIA, AUG 25 (AGENCIES): Brazil’s army on Sunday deployed aircraft to battle the raging fires in the Amazon as global concern and outrage over the potential consequences—and the destructive causes—of the disaster grow.

Thousands of fires are burning in Brazil, many of them in the Amazon rainforest, which is pumping alarming quantities of carbon into the world’s atmosphere. The Amazon Rainforest is 5.5 million km²

The military operations involving C-130 aircraft to put out fires came after Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro triggered global protests over his government’s policies and failure to take swift action to combat the flames.

This particular rainforest is often called the “lungs of the earth,” and 60 per cent of it lies within Brazil. Trees store carbon absorbed from the atmosphere, and the Amazon each year takes in as much as 2 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide — a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. So basically all these trees, take the toxins in the air and convert them to clean oxygen so we can breathe properly.

Official data released Saturday backs up the call for swift action. Agence France-Presse reported, “Some 1,130 new fires were ignited between Friday and Saturday, according to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE).” So far this year, the country has witnessed 79,513 fires, more than half of which occurred in the Amazon, according to the agency. That marks an 82 percent increase from 2018.

The fires were discussed by global leaders meeting in Biarritz, France for the G7 summit. French President Emmanuel Macron said Sunday, “We are all agreed on helping those countries which have been hit by the fires as fast as possible.”

“Our teams are making contact with all the Amazon countries so we can finalize some very concrete commitments involving technical resources and funding,” said Macron.

The French leader and Bolsonaro last week sparred on Twitter over the fires. “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest—the lungs which produces 20 percent of our planet’s oxygen—is on fire,” tweeted Macron. Bolsonaro then accused Macron of using the fires “for personal political gains” and said the French president had a “sensationalist tone.” 

Pope Francis on Sunday added his voice to the chorus of concern. “We are all worried about the vast fires that have developed in the Amazon,” he said, speaking to the public in St Peter’s Square. “That lung of forests,” the pontiff added, “is vital for our planet.”

Bolsonaro—who previously asserted there weren’t resources to battle the fires—has baselessly suggested the fires could have been started by NGOs upset with his policies. But environmental campaigners say his policies promoting deforestation and other manifestations of Amazon exploitation are the main culprits.

According to preliminary satellite data from Brazil’s space agency, trees were being cleared at the rate of five football pitches every minute.

Allegedly, these fires are being started with the aim of deforestation, so the land can be used for business purposes. Moutinho, who has been working in the Amazon forests for nearly 30 years, said fires are mostly set to clear land for farming, ranching or logging, and they can easily get out of control, especially during the July-November dry season. 

Brazil’s National Space Research Institute, which monitors deforestation, has recorded 40,341 wildfires across the Amazon this year, as of Thursday. That’s 40,341 fires in less than five days. That’s an 85 per cent rise over last year’s figure.

The UN secretary general and many world leaders and celebrities have expressed concern. The Amazon will be high on the agenda for G7 leaders at a summit in France this weekend. They are likely to make a strong statement condemning the recent increase in deforestation and urge Brazil to restore the Amazon protections that previously made the country a global environmental leader.

There aren’t any exact figures for the areas burnt, but deforestation as a whole has accelerated in the Amazon this year. The figures show that 9,250 square km of forest were lost between January 1 and August 1.

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