We Didn’t Start the Fire…Or Did We?

The Amazon Rainforest has been ablaze for the last month, and is declared an "international crisis". Is our human activity to blame for "the lungs of the planet" going up in flames?

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Blinding crimson flames crackle as they engulf millions of lush, vibrant trees in the Amazon Rainforest, obliterate habitats, incinerate ecosystems, and ignite “the lungs of the planet”.

The Problem Facing the Forest:

The Amazon Rainforest, located in Brazil, is on fire and burnt for the past month. The billowing smoke is visible from space as a result of the 74,000 forest fires raging through the Amazon Rainforest, according to Vox. The world’s largest tropical forest is ablaze and is declared an “international crisis” by French President Emmanuel Macron. The rainfall produced from evapotranspiration by the trees is vital to sustaining agriculture, fill reservoirs, and hydrate millions of people. The global consequences of these fires are monumental. The Amazon Rainforest is a massive reservoir of carbon due to its soils, animals, and plants. As deforestation and climate change deteriorate the rainforest, it will cause the rainforest to emit carbon, instead of soaking up carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. NOAA reports that due to its natural environment, the rainforest has been “fire-resistant” for most of its past. However, deforestation and other human activity have weakened and dried out the Amazon Rainforest, which makes it more susceptible to fires. 

Questionable Beginnings:

 Ricardo Salles, Brazil’s environmental minister claims that the fires were started by heat, wind, and dry weather, while CNN meteorologist, Haley Brink reports that the fires are “definitely human-induced”. Another theory some conservationists have as to why the fires in the Amazon Rainforest started is due to Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro encouraging loggers and farmers to clear the land. President Bolsonaro disagreed with that claim and states that it was the “season of the queimada (burned),” which is a time when farmers use fire to clear land. There are multiple theories as to what caused the Amazon Rainforest fire and there may be multiple causes to the fires which ravage the Amazon. 

Personal Deduction:

The Amazon Rainforest fires started due to the high demand for beef. Brazil is the world’s largest exporter of beef, which supplies around one-fourth of the global market, so the most common reason for deforestation is to clear space for cattle ranching. Fires are started intentionally and illegally and are responsible for 80% of the current rates of deforestation, according to Express.co.uk. I believe that the high demand for beef products: beef, cars, leather, and handbags caused a frenzy for land to raise livestock and the land burned escalated out of control. 

Opinion on Support Allocation:

The support given to stop the Amazon Rainforest fires pales in comparison to the support the Notre Dame Cathedral received, which burned down April 15, 2019. The Amazon Rainforest after several weeks has received 20 million dollars from the Group of Seven Nations, 12 million dollars from Britain, and 11 million dollars from Canada in order to protect the rainforest, according to the Huffington Post. A mere two days after the Notre Dame Cathedral burnt down, a collective one billion dollars was donated to rebuild the cathedral, which the Washington Post reports may be more money than they need. I understand the cultural and religious significance of the Notre Dame Cathedral, but I find that the support provided for a rainforest critical to human and animal survival should be the same or even more than a religious landmark.

The “lungs of our planet” remain ablaze and it is crucial now more than ever to recognize how our human impacts take their toll on the planet, especially the Amazon Rainforest.