“Someday the earth will weep, she will beg for her life, she will cry with tears of blood. You will make a choice, if you will help her or let her die, and when she dies, you too will die.”
– Hollow Horn Bear, Brulé Lakota
Over the past three weeks, Brazil has been battling 9,500 fires. So far, they have shrunk the Amazon by 332,356 acres. 1 acre is equivalent to 150 cars parked in a square.
Smoke has turned the sky dark above the city of Sao Paulo – 3,300 kilometers away from the flames.
According to researcher Alberto Setzer, “the dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”
There are many reports of increased illegal deforestation of the area by big corporations. As well as drought, erosion, flooding and landslides, deforestation can lead to the loss of biodiversity.
Deforestation is not new. For the last few decades, there have been fires in the Amazon every year. This year these fires are so big that the world is finally paying attention.
The fires pose a risk to millions of plants and animals and more than 400 Indigenous tribes.
More specifically, the Amazon rainforest is home to 2.5 million plant species, 1,300 bird species, 400 mammals, 400 amphibians and 3,000 edible fruits. It is also the ancestral home of 1 million Indigenous people.
Failure to preserve the Amazon rainforest will have severe consequences for climate change since it is so vital in the fight against global warming.
By absorbing global emissions of carbon dioxide, it produces large amounts of oxygen (20% of all of the world’s oxygen). According to Greenpeace, the wildfires are making a “tremendous contribution to climate change” because the carbon released as a smoke is making the warming effect worse.
Brazil’s far-right President, Jair Bolsonaro, doesn’t seem to take environmental concerns seriously.
He has been encouraging capitalization of the Amazon and has dismantled governmental efforts to protect the rainforest. He recently fired Ricardo Galvão, the director of Brazil’s National Space Research Institute (INPE), after a report was released showing an 88% increase in deforestation since last year.
In a statement regarding the wildfires, Bolsonaro claimed that NGOs are responsible for the fires. Some also believe that the current Amazon fire may be linked to the recent lawsuit against Big Oil that was won by an Amazon tribe. Indigenous people are the biggest barrier to Amazon deforestation and this win was a huge step towards ensuring the protection of vast acres from extractive projects.
Women play a huge role in the leadership of Indigenous communities. On August 13, hundreds of Indigenous women marched together in Brazil to protest the policies of President Bolsonaro. With lots of singing and dancing, and the motto “Territory: Our Bodies Our Spirits”, they demanded respect for Indigenous rights and denounced the invasions of their territories. They also protested against alarming Amazon deforestation rates.
This is not an isolated problem.
We are losing forests all over the world. Most of the burning areas experienced extreme heat last month – with temperatures higher than the long-term averages. In Alaska, 2.5 million acres have been burned so far. In the Canary Islands, a fire which started on August 17 has already destroyed 25,000 acres and forced over 8,000 people to evacuate.
Siberia has been experiencing its worst wildfire season on record during the past month. It has been reported that the smoke clouds are covering an area bigger than the size of Europe and that the blazes are close to cities.
This is a life-threatening international emergency which lacks media coverage. It’s a climate crisis provoked by the ignorance and ambition of human activity. We continue to exploit earth even as we witness more and more natural disasters caused by climate change.
How many more cries for help does our planet need to give until we listen? It is about time we take environmental issues seriously. It’s about time we wake up and realise that we humans are endangered too.
What can we do?
“Why is it taking so long to believe that if we hurt nature, we hurt ourselves? We are not watching the world from without. We are not separate from it.”
– Davi Kopenawa Yanomami
I believe that ecology can be revolutionary because in order to be able to protect nature, we will have to make changes on a social level. We, as humans, must understand that the environment is our home. This is an issue that should not be forgotten once the media stops talking about it. We have to create and maintain awareness by educating ourselves and others.
We should also condemn the insane global soy industry and other agricultural activities that require the deforestation of the Amazon by avoiding companies that import cheap meat from tropical rainforest areas. One tenth of our global emissions come from deforestation. The importance of the rainforest should not be overlooked in favor of short term profit and, therefore, stopping deforestation must be a priority.