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Cattle Industry Believed Catalyst For Unprecedented Amazon Forest Fires

by | August 21, 2019

Fires are seething throughout the Brazilian Amazon in an environmental tragedy believed to be sparked by a potential cattle ranching deal.

According to CNBC, the fires, which are unusually intense even for the dry season, are at least in part deliberate an illegal quick route to clear cutting employed by the nation’s ranchers.

“The dry season creates the favorable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident,” said Ricardo Mello, head of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) Amazon Program.

European Union satellite, Copernicus, shows smoke from the fires spreading through Brazil to its east coast, covering nearly half of the country. The smoke has now begun spilling into neighboring countries Paraguay, Peru, and Bolivia.

forest fires in Brazil
Forest fires in the Amazon (Source: forest man72/Shutterstock.com)

With over half of the nearly 73000 fires Brazil experienced this year happening in the Amazon, the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) says the data is record breaking. It also a shows an 80% increase in forest fires over last year’s dry season, and that the year’s total is more than double those recorded in 2013.

These circumstances have affected not only the country’s wildlife and habitats, but the lives of its citizens.

The municipality of São Paulo, Brazil is said to be more than 1700 miles away from the fires, yet residents experienced a totally blackened sky filled with smoke from the fires. Social media posts recorded the city in darkness as late in the day as 3pm.

According to the INPE, the equivalent of more than 1.5 soccer fields is cleared every minute (Source: Rich Carey/Shutterstock.com)

Economy, Politics & The Forest Fires

At the beginning of August, INPE director Ricardo Galvão was fired after defending satellite data that showed deforestation was 88% higher in June of this year than in 2018. While INPE has previously stated that its data is 95% accurate, Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro, has called it “lies.” 

The former army captain took office in January, after a campaign which pledged to revitalize the country’s economy through exploring the Amazon’s earning potential.

Budget cuts and federal interventions have since made room for further exploitation of the rainforest. Brazil’s environmental enforcement agency has had its budget cut by $23 million, forcing the agency’s operations to decrease significantly since Bolsonaro was sworn in.

Brazilian Amazon post burning in 2016 (Source: guentermanaus/Shutterstock.com)

Criticism

Carlos Rittl, executive secretary of the environmental non-profit Observatório do Clima (Climate Observatory), told CNN Español that these relaxed environmental controls have encouraged deforestation and emboldened loggers, farmers and miners, spurring them into a free-for-all frenzy.

In an interview with O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper, Galvão called Bolsonaro a “coward” for publicly voicing his accusations about the reputable INPE.

“I hope he calls me to Brasília to explain the data, and that he has the courage to repeat [what he said] face to face,” Galvão said.

Forests play an important role in staving off drought, famine, and water supply loss (Source: Richard Whitcombe/Shutterstock.com)

Threat To Humanity & The Planet

He is by no means Bolsonaro’s only critic.

Greenpeace called Bolsonaro’s government a “threat to the climate equilibrium” and warned that in the long run, his policies would bear a “heavy cost” for the Brazilian economy.

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) also warned that if the Amazon reaches “a point of no return,” the rainforest could become a dry, unyielding savannah.

Though dubbed the lungs of the world, much of the power of the Amazon is its flora’s water sequestration, as well as its forest transpiration. Both play crucial roles in Earth’s hydrological cycle. 

“This isn’t a choice between poverty or a wealthy future based on destroying the environment. It’s a choice between sustainable development and devastation. Bolsonaro could be one of the last Brazilian Presidents in a position to make that choice,” said Bunny Mcdiarmid, Greenpeace International Executive Director.

Panorama of the Amazon Rainforest (Source: Dr Morley Read/Shutterstock.com)

“Facts Will Prevail”

A manifest from the Coalition for Science and Society, a recently formed group of scientists with concerns regarding Brazilian policy, addresses the hard evidence of the ongoing, industry-bolstered climate disaster.

“Satellites are not responsible for deforestation — they only objectively record what happens,” it reads.

“Scientific facts will prevail, whether or not people believe in them.” 

Do you have knowledge to share of the Amazon forest fires? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

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