Brazil President Jair Bolsonaro is dismissive of conservationists claims that the Amazon Rainforest is on fire: "I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame."
The Amazon Rainforest produces a fifth of the world’s oxygen, represents at least 40% of the Earth’s rainforests, and is home to 3 million species of plants and animals, and indigenous people.
It has the largest and most biodiverse tract of tropical rainforest in the world, with an estimated 390 billion individual trees divided into 16,000 species, and is known as a vital carbon store that slows down the advance of global warming.
For the past three weeks the Amazon Rainforest, also known as Amazonia or Amazon Jungle, has been ravaged by fires that continue to reap destruction.
Sixty per cent of the Amazon Rainforest lies within Brazil and the country’s President Jair Bolsonaro says non-governmental organisations (NGOs) could be responsible for starting the fires to shame his government after he cut their funding, although he has not made public any evidence.
A record number of fires were recorded in the Amazon this year, according to The National Institute for Space Research (Inpe). Inpe said it had detected more than 74,000 fires between January and August – the highest number since records began in 2013. It said it had observed more than 9,500 forest fires since Thursday, mostly in the Amazon region.
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Terrifying to think that the Amazon is the largest rain forest on the planet, creating 20% of the earth’s oxygen, basically the lungs of the world, has been on fire and burning for the last 16 days running, with literally NO media coverage whatsoever! Why?? #Amazonia is the largest rainforest on our planet, it: • creates 20% of the air we breathe • has 40% of the worlds tropical forest •holds 20% of the worlds fresh water supply • has 10% of the worlds species • has 40,000 of plants species • 3000 edible fruit besides that – there are more than 430 species of mammals, millions species of insects in there, all of them are dying and no one is doing anything about it. 🌳🌳🌳🌳🌳 #prayforamazonia HOW TO HELP? – raise awareness, share this post with your friends, with your audience, let the world know, don’t be silent – as for now there are no funds to donate money to save it, if you find something let me know. i’ll be also updating you on my stories. #amazonfire #amazonrainforest #amazonrainforestfire
However the US space agency NASA said that overall fire activity in the Amazon Basin was slightly below average this year. The agency admitted activity had increased in Amazonas and Rondonia, while it had decreased in the states of Mato Grosso and Pará.
Smoke from wildfires in the #AmazonRainforest spreads across several Brazilian states in this natural-color image taken by a @NASAEarth instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite. Although it is fire season in Brazil, the number of fires may be record-setting: https://t.co/NVQrffzntr pic.twitter.com/4JTcBz9C8f
— NASA (@NASA) August 21, 2019
It was reported that a blackout in the city of São Paulo on Monday – more than 2,700 kilometres away – had been caused by smoke from the Amazon fires. However, meteorologists say the smoke came from major fires burning in Paraguay, which is much closer to the city and not in the Amazon region.
This is #SãoPaulo, my hometown, covered in smoke particles from #Amazon fires (thousands of kilometers away) at 16:00 yesterday. It normally gets dark around 18:00 this time of the year. Forest fires in #Brazil increased 82% this year compared to 2018. pic.twitter.com/atTmE3iwLM
— Rafael Goldzweig (@schmuziger) August 20, 2019
Wildfires often happen in the dry season in Brazil and they are sometimes deliberately started in efforts to illegally deforest land for cattle.
Conservationists have blamed Bolsonaro, who only came to power in January as the 38th President of Brazil, for the Amazon’s plight, saying he has encouraged loggers and farmers to clear the land.
Marcio Astrini, from Greenpeace, said that the increased deforestation and burning are a “result of his (President Bolsonaro) anti-environmental policy”. Bolsonaro said it was the “season of the queimada” when farmers use fire to clear land.
“I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
“The worst year recorded for fires in the Amazon Rainforest was 2016, with more than 68,000. There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average,” Inpe researcher Alberto Setzer told Reuters.
Forest fires are a natural and necessary part of the ecosystem. Even healthy forests contain dead trees and decaying plant matter; when a fire turns them to ashes, nutrients return to the soil instead of remaining captive in old vegetation.