Things That Matter

Brazil Finally Banned Burning In The Amazon Yet 4,000 New Fires Have Started In Last 48 Hours

If you haven’t already heard about it, Brazil’s Amazon rain forest is currently being ravaged by devastating large-scale wild-fires. According to recent reports and the country’s National Institute for Space Research, there has been a 77% increase in the number of fires burning in the area this year. No doubt, this large scale destruction is because of climate change.

Despite a recent ban on all burning methods in the Amazon, new fires continue to rage out of control.

Almost 4,000 new forest fires were started in Brazil in the two days after the government banned deliberate burning of the Amazon, officials have revealed.

Some 3,859 outbreaks were recorded by the country’s National Space Research Institute (Inpe) in the 48 hours following the 60-day prohibition on setting trees alight. Around 2,000 of those blazes were in the Amazon rainforest.

The figures come as the latest blow in an environmental crisis that has caused panic across the world, and which led the agenda at the recent G7 summit in France.

The Amazon fires are at the highest level since record keeping began.

More than 72,000 fires had already been detected across Brazil between January and August – the highest number since records began in 2013 and an 83 per cent increase on the same period last year.

If the Amazon burns away, global climate change will accelerate and many fear additional consequences for the entire world.

Because it is the world’s largest rainforest, the fate of the Amazon – often called the “lungs of the world” – is widely considered by climate change experts as key to the future of the planet.

It is a vital carbon store that slows down global warming while providing some 20 per cent of the world’s oxygen. Its destruction – deliberate or otherwise – reduces the ability of nature to suck carbon from the atmosphere.

President Bolsonaro seems to have finally been moved to action but many fear that it is too little too late.

But Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, who came into power promising to clear vast tracts of the rainforest for development, had, until last week, remained unmoved.

He has systematically weakened institutions designed to protect the rainforest, while offering moral support to farmers wishing to turn the land into cattle ranches.

And, although he has now placed a 60-day ban on burning and deployed 44,000 troops to fight the ongoing blazes, critics fear it is too little too late.

Tasso Azevedo, who runs the deforestation monitoring group Mapbiomas, said the legislation’s focus on fire means developers clearing the forest would continue to legally chop down trees – and then simply burn them after the prohibition period ended.

Writing in O Globo newspaper, he called for the ban on the use of fire to be extended until the end of the dry season in November. He said: “What we are experiencing is a real crisis, which can turn into a tragedy that will feature fires much larger than the current ones if not stopped immediately.”

Meanwhile, Indigenous groups are on the frontlines doing all they can to save their native lands.

As the fires ravage the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, some indigenous tribes are turning to prayer in a bid to halt the destruction and protect their environment for future generations.

“Our rituals pray for planet Earth, to always keep it healthy and safe,” Bainawa said. “We pray for mother water, for father sun, for mother forest and for mother earth, whom today feel very wounded.”

The Amazon also supports tens of thousands of species of animals who are losing their lives in the massive infernos.

Some animals may be able to escape. Large mammals, such as jaguars, stand the best chance of getting away because they are able to run fast enough to get away from the fire in time. But many other animals will be killed almost straight away.

Dr Claudio Sillero, professor of conservation biology at the University of Oxford, tells BBC News that he’s particularly concerned about the smaller creatures in the forest: “They don’t stand a hope in hell.”

“Different groups of animals will fare differently,” he says. “But we really need to worry about amphibians, reptiles and invertebrates. They live in microhabitats, and if these microhabitats get hit by fire then they will disappear completely, and these animals will die.”

Many are also upset with the international community for not doing enough to force progress on the fires.

The G7, which forms a coalition of the world’s most powerful and most wealthy nations has so far pledged just over $22 million to help fight the fires. Just $22 million. Let that sink in. It may sound like a lot of money but there are several sports players who make that in one season. There are CEOs who make that in one month. Twenty-two million dollars won’t even make a dent in the immense battle that is taking place across Brazil and Bolivia right now.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com