“Earth provides enough to satisfy every man’s needs, but not every man’s greed.”
― Mahatma Gandhi
The funniest thing on Instagram this week was the tweet repost that said “the wrong Amazon is burning” and “the wrong ice is melting”. After that, it got less funny. There was the guy who tried to say that the fires burning down 20% of the Earth’s oxygen-producers are fake news. He probably blames the vegans. Then the person who thinks the fires are actually good for the rainforest, like a controlled burn to clear dead brush and branches.
Conspiracy theories are fun, but in all seriousness, there seems to be some confusion over the true root of the fires. I’ve had a few people ask for my opinion, so here’s my best analysis:
Recently, Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro passed a new environmental policy that revokes protections for rainforest preservation. In a matter of days, he disposed of three decades of environmental policy. The deforestation has increased exponentially, to the point that Norway and Germany have temporarily halted funding for projects in Brazil. France, who holds €381 billion in Mercosur stocks, may pull out of the EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement, a massive trade deal between the EU and Mercosur countries (Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay) intended to improve worker and environmental conditions on exports.
As part of Bolsonaro’s campaign promise to improve the Brazilian economy, he plans to annihilate the world’s largest rainforest. Removing environmental restrictions is economically motivated. In addition to his new environmental policy, he encouraged farmers, ranchers, and loggers to utilize the Amazon resources and land. In fact, he actually planned some “fire days”, where ranchers could burn the rainforest together. Think of it as an ice breaker, the farmers get to know each other through arson, and they also help melt icebergs in the future.
Environmentalists say that during the dry season, farmers burn patches of land to expand grazing acreage for their cows. So far this year, 73,000 fires have been recorded. That’s an 83% increase from 2018. Bolsonaro is actually trying to blame leftist conservationist NGOs (non-governmental organizations), arguing that they want to demonize him. This is simply a red herring—a way to conceal his role in endorsing arson.
Back to “funny thing” number three, controlled burns are sometimes used to refresh soil and help forests regrow in certain, dry ecosystems (I’m still against it, let nature do its business, it’s made it this far without us). However justified, controlled burns are incomparable—these fires are a brutal act of fascistic arson. In a just world, the illegality of burning native lands, that house millions of indigenous people and produce 20% of the world’s oxygen, would be obvious. Additionally, the fires have released the equivalent to almost 230 megatons of carbon dioxide, which prevents heat from escaping the atmosphere, thus contributing to global warming.
Destruction caused by humans is usually just a transaction. Bolsonaro and his supporters with financial interest in the Amazon will not take responsibility for the obliteration of the Amazon. It is not in the nature of people who consider their personal gains to be more important than moral culpability (this was my Jane Austen moment, it just means that they are greedy and mean).
Some might argue that justice can’t be served for those without voices, but I’m pretty sure trees have been talking wayyyyy longer than us (Ents, guys, Ents). Check out our Action Page for some things you can do to help #SavetheAmazon
“The Amazon Is on Fire – How Bad Is It?” BBC News, BBC, 23 Aug. 2019, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-49433767.
“Beef Sustainability: McDonald’s.” Beef Sustainability | McDonald’s, corporate.mcdonalds.com/corpmcd/scale-for-good/beef-sustainability.html.
Brown, Shelby. “The Amazon Rainforest Is on Fire: What We Know, and How You Can Help.” CNET, CNET, 21 Aug. 2019, http://www.cnet.com/how-to/the-amazon-rainforest-is-on-fire-what-we-know-so-far-and-how-you-can-help/.
“EU-Mercosur Trade Agreement.” Trade – European Commission, ec.europa.eu/trade/policy/in-focus/eu-mercosur-association-agreement/.
Neslen, Arthur. “Burger King Animal Feed Sourced from Deforested Lands in Brazil and Bolivia.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 21 Aug. 2017, http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/mar/01/burger-king-animal-feed-sourced-from-deforested-lands-in-brazil-and-bolivia.
“The Rainforest Alliance’s Response to the Wildfires in the Amazon Rainforest.” Rainforest Alliance, Rainforest Alliance, 22 Aug. 2019, http://www.rainforest-alliance.org/articles/rainforest-alliance-response-to-wildfires-in-amazon-rainforest.
Reuters. “Brazil’s Bolsonaro, Without Proof, Accuses NGOs Of Setting Amazon Rainforest On Fire.” HuffPost, HuffPost, 21 Aug. 2019, http://www.huffpost.com/entry/brazil-bolsonaro-ngos-amazon-rainforest-fire_n_5d5d9eede4b002d8c5304952.
Riederer, Rachel. “An Uncommon Victory for an Indigenous Tribe in the Amazon.” The New Yorker, The New Yorker, 15 May 2019, http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/an-uncommon-victory-for-an-indigenous-tribe-in-the-amazon.
Yeung, Jessie. “Blame Humans for Starting the Amazon Fires, Environmentalists Say.” CNN, Cable News Network, 22 Aug. 2019, http://www.cnn.com/2019/08/22/americas/amazon-fires-humans-intl-hnk-trnd/index.html.