When wildfires ignited in Alaska and uninhabited Greenland, the internet noticed. When the São Paulo skies of Brazil turned dark from the clutter of black ash, the internet exploded.
The Amazon is a 2,300,000 square mile rainforest that accounts for 40% of Brazil’s land according to CNN. The forest is home to over 3,000 species of fish, 40,000 types of plants and holds around 130 billion metric tons of carbon. Deforestation means releasing this carbon and destabilizing the global climate. Over the past three weeks, nearly 76,000 fires have burnt across the Amazon, a forest that produces 20% of the world’s oxygen also according to CNN. Hashtags like #PrayforAmazonia swept through the internet with many putting the blame for the fires on Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
Brazil’s economic dependency on its agricultural sector has been the forerunner to many of the fires. As the US-China trade war drags on, Brazil could easily surpass the US as the world’s largest soybean exporter. However, this is only possible if they manage to clear large amounts of land in a short amount of time. Brazil also greatly contributes to the world cattle market, supplying one-quarter of cattle sold. President Bolsonaro supposedly encouraged farmers to illegally deforest land to make room for cattle ranching according to Joenia Wapichana, a member of the Sustainability Network (a Brazilian political party). According to CBS News, this practice accounts for 80% of deforestation rates in Brazil. With a year full of unusually intense droughts, the fires ignited by Amazonian farmers to clear land, burn at uncontrollable rates in Brazil’s dry season (March through November).
In the recent G7 summit in France, the burning of the rainforest led the discussion. French President Emmanuel Macron had tweeted about the fires weeks before writing, “It is an international crisis. Members of the G7 Summit, let’s discuss this emergency first order in two days!”
The international pressures forced Brazil to officially outlaw the intentional burning of the Amazon. Yet, just two days after the announcement, 4,000 new fires were started.
President Bolsonaro is no stranger regarding criticism towards his environmental agenda. He cut budgets for environmental policy power and since coming into power, Brazil ranks as one of the most dangerous countries in the world for political activists according to Fox News.