By A. Carrasco
There have been forest fires in Brazil now for decades and decades, but the fires have never been worse than this year, 2019. During these last 8 months, the amount of forest fires in Brazil has increased by over 76%, with over 87,000 forest fires and 15% of the Amazon suffering burnings this year alone. Researchers say that if we get to 25%, the idea of a rainforest becoming a savannah desert may become possible. IPAM satellites have been looked at the fires, and the director Ane Alencar said that the cause of the fires seems to be clearing land for growing crops and cattle-farming. She explained how the farmers would cut down the trees, and then burn them so that the ashes could fertilize the soil, to make it easier to plant crops. However, this is not the first time that this is happening. So why should we care now? Well, because this time, the ashes have managed to spread themselves across South America - to the extent they caused the São Paulo sky to darken in the middle of the afternoon. Only now are we realising the consequences of choices on the environment.
As I mentioned before, it is uncommon for the fires in the Amazon to be caused by nature. Usually, they are caused by humans - be it accidentally or intentionally. It is common for the "Slash and Burn" tactic to be used to start forest fires and clear land, though it is illegal in Brazil during the dry season, as the climate can help spread the fires to other unintended areas.
This may all be linked to Jair Bolsonaro, the President of Brazil. In April of 2019, he cut down the budget for Brazil's environment group by a whole 24%. Despite increasing the budget slightly after backslash, environmental policy in Brazil is giving out fewer fines for causing forest fires. This means that farmers felt as if they could use "slash and burn" more freely in the name of agriculture.
But who does the world think is to blame for the recent Amazon fire? The French president, Emmanuel Macron decided that the person who was partially responsible for this mess was solely Jair Bolsonaro. This was because he was said to not have reached out to other countries about what was going on in the Amazon before, and for not having advocated for forest-protecting legislation in the past. However, President Jair Bolsonaro has since publicly stated that a non-government organization has been behind the forest fires.
The recent large forest fires are having effects all over the world. For example, on the 19th of August, the city of São Paulo, miles and miles away from the Amazon rainforest, was clouded with dark ashes which blocked the sun, causing the city to go dark at 3pm. This is because, when trees are burnt down they release all the carbon dioxide they had been storing inside of them. In addition to that, the burning wood with low access to oxygen results in the release of carbon monoxide, a dangerous chemical which can be toxic to some animals. The Amazon rainforest produces 20% of the oxygen we breathe. But by burning the forest down, we are releasing all the carbon dioxide stored in the trees.
The fires are being ignited for many different reasons. One of the main reasons is for cattle ranching, which is one of the main causes of deforestation. Brazil is home to 200 million cattle, making it the biggest cattle market in the world. However, to keep that much cattle you need a lot of space, which is why millions of farmers use slash and burn to clear forest land. Another one of the main factors causing deforestation is agriculture. This is because, as Brazil is also one of the main producers of palm oil and other products, it needs a lot of space to harvest crops for oil.
All of that sounds sounds very pessimistic, but we can still help the Amazon. Some of the few steps we can try to take is to reduce our paper consumption, as a large part of deforestation is still caused by logging. Furthermore, we could try to reduce our beef and oil consumption because the main causes of deforestation in the Amazon is caused by cattle ranching and oil production. We can even invest in NGOs focused on pushing for forest-protecting legislation, which we are in dire need of as a country. Through these small steps, we can make a thorough difference...
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