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BRAZIL AMAZON FOREST FIRE: WHY IS IT BURNING AGAIN AND AGAIN?

Author: Akhila Anand



The world's largest rainforest and often known as the planet's lungs, is on fire. Environmentalists claim that humans are responsible for 99 percent of forest fires, whether on purpose or by accident. Some of the fires have escalated out of control, causing unimaginable destruction.


The Amazon Forest covers much of northwestern Brazil, as well as Colombia, Peru, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Not to mention that Amazon produces around 6% of the world's oxygen. It also supports a diverse range of species, many of which are found nowhere else on the earth and, unfortunately, are on the edge of extinction. In 2019, fires erupted not just in the Amazon rainforest, but also throughout the Amazon biome, in Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, and Peru. The alarming aspect of the fire is that it escalated at a time when deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon was at an all-time low. Though forest fires are usual in the Amazon around this time, due to the dry season in the southern Amazon, in 2019 the frequency of flames and their intensity had increased dramatically.


Scientists and environmentalists believe that this fire was far from the usual norm and the cause of this disaster was the land being raised to an unprecedented level of industrial use and development in the region encouraged by the new Government. Fire is commonly used by farmers and breeders to clear land for future usage. This year's flames also fell nicely into the seasonal agricultural rhythm, and because the vegetation was dry, it was the best time to burn. In 2019 there have been around 72,843 fires in Brazil, with more than half in the Amazon rainforest[1]. This shows an 80 percent increase in fires during the same period in 2018. The Amazon rainforest fire might be a major setback in the worldwide fight against climate change. Not only will the fire destroy trees and wildlife, but it will also release extra CO2 into the sky which comprises pollutants and poisonous gases such as carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and non-methane organic compounds released by forest fires.


As the forest kept burning it was as if everyone was searching for someone to blame. According to data from Brazilian satellites, Amazonian trees the size of nearly three football fields are disappearing every minute. One-fifth of the Amazon's forest has already been cut and burned to make room for logging, ranching, and mining in the last 50 years. The deforested area is approximately 3,00,000 square miles. What is more alarming is that, at the current rate of destruction, the Amazon rainforest could vanish forever. The initiation of a feedback loop known as dieback would occur if another 20 percent of the Amazon disappeared. The term "dieback" refers to a circumstance in which the forest dries out and fires. When this dieback begins, the forest will be trapped in a loop where any human intervention will be "beyond the reach."


The fire's immediate consequence would be changing in regional atmospheric heating, but it is predicted to have a long-term impact on natural carbon levels. The forest fires are being blamed on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro by environmentalists. Bolsonaro promised to revive Brazil's economy by investigating the Amazon rainforest's economic potential when he ran for president. Bolsonaro, according to activists, has encouraged farmers and ranchers to abuse and burn the rainforest in unprecedented ways. Brazil had an extraordinarily high pace of deforestation in the years preceding 2005. It would take roughly 50-60 years to deforest 40% of the Amazon. Brazilian journalist Silio Boccanera argues that some fires at this time of year - the dry season in Brazil - are to be expected. But many of the fires burning through the Amazon are believed to have been started deliberately. President Bolsonaro has not condemned deforestation and supports clearing the Amazon for agriculture and mining. "So, it's a combination of natural phenomena with locals feeling comfortable enough to do it because the government has not made any effort to prevent it," Mr. Boccanera said[2].


The smaller groups of people are more responsible for starting the fires than big corporations although the big corporations are not innocent, they were better informed, a group that benefitted from destroying areas of the forest for farming - have gone ahead because they have not been stopped by authorities. Moreover, perpetrators now know that even if they are caught, they will not be punished.


It does not matter who is to blame in the end. One of the world's most important rainforests, critical for the survival of our species and all others, is on the verge of extinction. According to the World Fauna Fund, if the Amazon reaches a point of no return, the rainforest might become a dry savannah, uninhabitable for many of its wildlife[3]. It will be a disaster if that happens. The Brazilian Government must adequately support environmental agencies, strengthen environmental legislation, and defend indigenous peoples' rights to properly protect the forest and its inhabitants. The current health, climate, and biodiversity issues are largely due to the exploitation of nature by humans. Without a doubt, Amazon's health is so critical now that climate change and global warming have reached their apex.


References:

[1] https://www.intelligentliving.co/fires-raging-record-rate-amazon-rainforest [2] https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49450925 [3]http://web.archive.org/web/20191220191712/https://www.themarysue.com/the-amazon-rainforest-is-burning/


Edited by Sathyanarayanan Iyer, Associate editor, Lawgic Stratum.

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