Thousands of fires are ravaging the Amazon rainforest in Brazil – the most intense blazes for almost a decade. However, images purported to be of the fires – including some shared under the hashtag #PrayforAmazonas – have been shown to be decades old or not even in Brazil.
So what’s actually happening and how bad are the fires?
The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe) says its satellite data shows an 85% increase on the same period in 2018. The US space agency, Nasa, has on the other hand said that overall fire activity in the Amazon basin is slightly below average this year.
The Amazon is home to about three million species of plants and animals, and one million indigenous people.The fires in the region are terrible and a tragedy for our planet but with so much misinformation and fake news it’s very difficult to get a true picture of just how much of an increase there has been.
What is clear is that deforestation is a huge problem which has depressingly broken new records of increase consistently for the last 30 years. Loggers and miners are long term offenders but the biggest culprits are undoubtedly the cattle farmers. A long established way of increasing grazing land has been to set illegal fires to clear the forest – once cleared it is no longer protected and can be used for cattle.
Trying to get a clear balanced picture is very difficult; much of the world’s news comes from Brasilian NGO’s and the News Channel Globo – all of which are politically aligned against the current government which has cut the funding and subsidies granted to them by the previous regime. Bolsanaro is a self styled Trump prone to ill informed and populist rhetoric and remarks – such as the now infamous ‘poop ever other day’. His lack of diplomacy has alienated both the world’s press and many of the world’s leaders.
Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has suggested that non-governmental organisations had started fires in the rainforest, but admitted he had no evidence for this claim and this morning he tweeted ‘So, if you are wondering who is going to save the Amazon, here’s a very straightforward answer for you: it’s not the empty, hysterical and misleading rhetoric of the mainstream media, transnational bureaucrats and NGO’s, but the sovereign action of Brazil.’
My personal hope is that whilst the focus of the world is on the Amazon that we can take hold and actually address this very real, but depressingly old problem. The world is watching and the time to act is now, before the focus of the world moves onto a topic of fashionable outrage. If this opportunity is wasted I fear that my children will live in a world where the Amazon is reduced to a couple of small National Parks. Lets not forget that Brazil’s Atlantic Rainforest is now only 8% of the size it was 100 years ago.
Sources: BBC News, Rainforest Alliance, Washington Post