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August 25, 2019

Amazon on fire

Editorial

 
August 25, 2019

The Amazon forest is on fire in Brazil. The fires are so bad that the sky in Sao Paolo, around 2,700 kilometres from the fires, looked like it was full of soot. There is little doubt that the focus must be on the policies of far-right Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. Taking power last year, Bolsonaro indicated numerous times that he would open up the Amazon rain forest to big corporations. Already, the rate at which the Amazon forest was being culled was the highest in Brazil. In order to distract the public, Bolsonaro has claimed that environmentalist groups are behind the fires. No doubt this is a smokescreen for corporate interests allowed to run amok on the Amazon. The president clearly supports clearing the forest for agriculture and mining. The protection of the Amazon rainforest is a global prerogative in the fight to stop climate change. The rainforest is one of the lungs that is cleaning up the pollution we throw into the air. This is exactly why responsibility must be placed on the corporations responsible for setting fire to large parts of the Amazon.

The inaction of the Brazilian government has begun to prompt action. A number of European countries have threatened trade with Brazil while protests have broken out throughout the world. The importance of stopping deforestation in the Amazon cannot be emphasized more. Being a humid forest terrain, there are very few natural fires in the Amazon forest. This means that the over 78,000 fires that are set of have occurred this year are likely to be a function of deliberate human action. Much of the damage is likely to be permanent. While Brazil has finally sent the army in, the real question will be what happens once the fires stop. Will corporations be allowed to take over the empty land – or will the forest be allowed to regenerate? While it would take at least two decades, the latter is the course the world must force Brazil to follow. If the rate of deforestation increases, 40 percent of the Amazon rainforest could be gone in half a century. Many of these fires also threaten indigenous communities in Brazil. In a situation where campaigners rightfully believe that the green light for the destruction of the Amazon comes straight from the top, Brazil will need to take action against those starting the fires – or risk facing sanctions.

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