I am concerned about the increasing number of fires in the Amazon. It made me wonder how that affects the rest of the world? How that affects me? What can I do to mitigate the situation?. Well, I hope to be able to answer all those questions in this article.
Who is Jair Bolsonaro – President of Brazil?
He is an ex-military officer known for his racist, misogynistic and anti-LGBT comments. Also, for his preference for the military dictatorship and his professed admiration for military regime tactics. He was perceived as a strong man able to re-establish security and to end political corruption. A solution for a country in crisis and the only perceivably viable option of changing the status quo. Voters wanted a change as political and economic crisis have been devastating for Brazil. Increasing homicide rates, former presidents impeached and serving sentences for corruption charges was enough for Brazilian people.
Apparently, Bolsonaro made his campaign through the mediums of Facebook, WhatsApp and TV news where clips about his ideas were circulated and seen by millions of people. Brazilians, instead of seeing the red flags given off through this person’s actions thought that “he was just being honest” and they saw his strong opinions as a symbol of strength and determination.
I found some of Bolsonaro’s phrases that describe his ideals:
- His statements about a black settlement in Brazil:
- “They do nothing. They are not even good for procreation.”
- He has referred to black activists as “animals” who should “go back to the zoo”.
- In response to a congresswoman’s claim on how he encouraged rape, he said: “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it.”
- Bolsonaro later said he was not a rapist, but if he were he would not rape do Rosario because she is “ugly” and “not his type.”
- He said he “would be incapable of loving a homosexual son … I would prefer my son to die in an accident than show up with a moustachioed man.”
- “The dictatorship’s mistake was to torture but not kill.”
Bolsonaro and the Environment
The president has been severely criticised for his claims on how environmental protections blocks Brazil’s economy growth. In his campaign, he promoted agribusiness and industrial farming into the Amazon. He said he would not allocate “one more centimetre” of land to indigenous reserves if elected.
Bolsonaro has said that he would remove environmental protection laws in a part of the forested coast south of Rio de Janeiro to create “a Cancún of Brazil”. It is also worrying that his environmental minister has called climate change a “secondary issue”.
The truth is the number of fires in Brazil has increased dramatically compared to in other years (83% increase vs 2018). Satellite images have shown shocking photos of how the north of Brazil is covered by smoke. The following figure shows how the number of fires in Brazil has increased more than double since 2013.
Nobody knows what is causing the fires. They could be a consequence of the dry season. Also, they could be a deliberate attempt to deforest land for cattle ranching illegally. Bolsonaro has been hardly criticised for his environmental ideals and lack of action to stop the fires. At this point, my question is, why is everyone surprised? I mean people knew what kind of person he was, and still they voted for him! He is just being consistent with what he said in his campaign. I know, it is sad, but all of us should have seen this coming.
How are the fires in the Amazon affecting the rest of the world?
These are a few points to describe the importance of the Amazon to the world (Sewell, 2019):
- The Amazon Rainforest spreads over some 5.5 million square kilometres (approx.)
- It is home to more than 40,000 plant species and 2,000 species of animals, some of which live solely in the trees while others find their homes on the forest floor or the Amazon river.
- There are 427 mammal species, 1,300 bird species, 378 species of reptiles, and more than 400 species of amphibians.
- Brazil takes the biggest share of the Amazon with 64 per cent of the land mass of the whole forest.
- More than 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen is produced by the Amazon rainforest, and it is often referred to as “the lungs of the Earth”.
An increase in the number of fires means changes in rainfall patterns, extending the length of the dry season and negative effects on human health. Also, fires bring about more greenhouse gas emissions, raising the temperatures and causing droughts. (Brown, 2019) “Fires release pollutants including particulate matter & toxic gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and non-methane organic compounds into the atmosphere” The World Meteorological Organization.
In conclusion, these fires are affecting everyone’s health and future. Some experts have said that it could take 200 years to recover all the areas that have been affected so far.
- French President Emmanuel Macron has proposed to discuss this emergency at the next G7 meeting
- German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed Macron’s call
- UK Parliament member Rebecca Long-Bailey drafted a letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, asking Johnson to tell Bolsonaro that the destruction of the Amazon must stop
- NASA has been monitoring the fires. Over the past week, the Aqua satellite and the EU’s Sentinel 3 have been tweeting images of the smoke on social media.
- António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, tweeted “I’m deeply concerned by the fires in the Amazon rainforest. In the midst of the global climate crisis, we cannot afford more damage to a major source of oxygen and biodiversity.”
- Leonardo DiCaprio added a donation link to Amazon Watch on his Instagram profile and posted about the fires. Celebrities like Jameela Jamil, Jaden Smith, John Cusack and others have also taken to social media to speak out about the fiery devastation.
What can we do?
- Spread the news and why this is so important for all of us
- Reduce your paper and wood consumption
- Reduce your beef intake
- If you can, donate to several conservation websites (see -Brown, 2019- link)
- BBC News (e.d.) (2019) Amazon fires: Bolsonaro says Brazil cannot fight them. Available from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-49433437[Accessed 23rd Aug 2019]
- Brown, S. (2019) The Amazon rainforest is still on fire: What’s happening and how you can help. Available from: https://www.cnet.com/how-to/the-amazon-rainforest-is-on-fire-what-we-know-so-far-and-how-you-can-help/[Accessed 23rdAug 2019]
- Forrest, A. (2018) Jair Bolsonaro: the worst quotes from Brazil’s far-right presidential frontrunner. Available from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/jair-bolsonaro-who-is-quotes-brazil-president-election-run-off-latest-a8573901.html[Accessed 23rd Aug 2019]
- Kirby, J. (2018) Corruption, fake news, and WhatsApp: how Bolsonaro won Brazil. Available from: https://www.vox.com/world/2018/10/29/18025066/bolsonaro-brazil-elections-voters-q-a[Accessed 23rd Aug 2019]
- Sewell, K. (2019) Amazon rainforest fire: How big is Amazon rainforest? How much of the rainforest is left? Available from: https://www.express.co.uk/news/world/1168434/amazon-rainforest-fires-map-how-big-amazon-rainforest-brazil-deforestation[Accessed 23rd Aug 2019]
- The Guardian (e.d.) (2018) ‘Exterminator of the future’: Brazil’s Bolsonaro denounced for environmental assault. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/may/09/jair-bolsonaro-brazil-amazon-rainforest-environment[Accessed 23rd Aug 2019]