‘Our house is burning’ - Amazon rainforest facing record flames

The Amazon rainforest is still on fire. The world’s largest rainforest has been burning since January – and has sparked an uproar in frustration from Chiquitania in Santa Cruz, Bolivia, to France and around the globe. 

According to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), saving the Amazon is still feasible. As of July 2019, the plan to save the rainforest from disaster is to enact a procedure that can keep the land sustainable by conserving resources within this century. Yet, the lack of action is evident. 

The City of São Paulo spent its first afternoon on Aug. 20 shrouded in smoke. Aly Rodrigues is a São Paulo native and the Richland Chronicle’s emeritus editor-in-chief. She is experiencing the fires through her family back home in the city. 

“My city, São Paulo, is really far from the Amazon itself. One time at 3 p.m., everyone was posting, saying, ‘hey, it looks like it’s at night.’ It wasn’t a storm. The smoke from a place miles and miles away covered half my city to the point it looked like it was the night,” Rodrigues said. 

Firefighters try to put out the fire while decked out in protective gear.

Firefighters try to put out the fire while decked out in protective gear.

There is a belief among some Brazilians and concerned global citizens that there is no real action being taken to fight the fires. Brazil’s president, Jair Bolsonaro, is another factor.

“Everyone knows what’s going on. It’s on the news. It’s to the point where you cannot ignore it anymore,” Rodrigues said. 

French president, Emmanuel Macron, wanted to focus on the fires taking place in Brazil before the G7 summit. 

Macron tweeted, “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rain forest — the lungs which produces 20% of our planet’s oxygen — is on fire,” according to The Associated Press (AP).  

Bolsonaro responded with a comment about France’s first lady, Brigitte Macron’s looks. Having insulted the French leader, Macron fired back with hopes that Brazil would find a leader worth following.

Bolsonaro refused to accept France’s offer of $20 million in aid. He said he wishes to receive an apology from Macron. Until then, he will not accept any financial help.

It has become a polarizing topic for the people of Brazil. Rodrigues said, “It is something to worry about, It’s not just me. Just because I’m from Brazil doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worrying.”

According to the INPE, more than 84,000 fires have occurred in Brazil this year as of Aug. 28. More than over 46,000 of those fires have occurred in the month of August. In Venezuela, more than 26,000 outbreaks have taken place this year. Bolivia, Argentina and Columbia follow close behind with 19,265, 14,969 and 14,363 across each country respectively. Brazil takes the lead by far. Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Columbia’s combined annual fires pale in comparison to Brazil’s 2019 fires. The situation arose from a mixture of deforestation, years of drought and a lack of action to conserve the Amazon’s rainforest. 

Much of the problem stems from deforestation, specifically from farmers clearing land by setting fires. According to AP, “The [INPE]’s preliminary figures show 3,571 square miles (9,250 square kilometers) of forest – an area about the size of Yellowstone National Park – were lost between Jan. 1 and Aug. 1. That already outstrips the full-year figure for 2018 of 2,910 square miles (7,527 square kilometers)” AP also stated how three factors, farming, ranching and logging, were major issues that caused the fires. According to AP, without the trees to help create rain, the result could be devastating. 

The fear of drought in the Amazon was more tangible during its height in 2015. According to www.Climate.gov, “Southeastern Brazil the country’s most economically important region and home to São Paulo, its largest city [was] struggling through what the media is calling ‘the worst drought in nearly a century’.”