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Amazon Rainforest: The 'Planet's Green Lungs' Are Going Up In Smoke

The Amazon rainforest has fallen victim to a huge number of fires since the start of the year.

The Amazon rainforest is often described as the "planet's green lungs" because it absorbs 14% of all global atmospheric CO2. But now this "lung", considered by scientists to play a vital role in the fight on climate change, is burning at an unprecedented rate.

From January to August, 72,843 fires started in Brazil, compared to 39,759 in the whole of 2018, according to figures from the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), and these fires have been most numerous in states occupied partially or fully by the Amazon rainforest. 

The fires burned particularly fast in July, destroying hundreds of hectares, and the disaster continues. On August 19, the megalopolis of Sao Paulo was plunged into darkness for about an hour after strong winds drew smoke from forest fires burning in the Amazonas and Rondonia states more than 2,700 kilometers away. 

#PrayforAmazonia

On Twitter, internet users jumped to express their fears with the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia, condemning the Brazilian president, Jair Bolsonaro, for failing to take action against deforestation, the main cause of the fires in the Amazon. 

Indeed, the fires in the region are largely caused by slash-and-burn techniques used to transform forest areas into areas for cultivation and livestock or to clear already deforested areas. And the phenomenon is accelerating. Data supplied by the INPE show that deforestation in July was almost four times higher than in the same month in 2018. 

Deforestation In July Was Four Times Higher Than In The Same Month In 2018

Germany, then Norway, have announced their decision to block the funds which they were set to pay (35 and 30 million euros respectively) to the Amazon Fund until they receive signs that the situation has improved. 

But Jair Bolsonaro, an unashamed climate sceptic and great defender of intensive agriculture, isn't cowed. "Isn't Norway the country where they kill whales in the North Pole?", he said to journalists, before advising Oslo: "Take the money and help Angela Merkel reforest Germany."

"That's The War We're Fighting"

The far-right president even insinuated on August 21 that NGOs could have started the fires in the Amazon in order to "draw criticism against [him], against the Brazilian government" : "That's the war we're fighting."

Interviewed by AFP on August 20, the Brazilian environment minister, Ricardo Salles, stated that he had "mobilised all firefighting teams and aircraft" to fight the fires, "in collaboration with the regional governments".

 

Article translated by: Eleanor Staniforth

By Camille Hamet, published on 22/08/2019

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