The Destruction of the Amazon Rainforest

Image: Living On Earth

Image: Living On Earth

The Amazon Rainforest is burning, more than ever before. The most recent string of fires, that have sparked media outrage, have been going on for three weeks. However, this fire isn’t some fluke. Fires in the Amazon have been on the rise. This year there has been over 72,000 fires in the Amazon, which is an 84% increase from last year.  The Amazon holds a lot of moisture, so natural fires aren’t very common and when they do occur they die out quickly. Since they are uncommon, the flora and fauna in the forest aren’t used to fires so they die out quickly. The proliferation of fires is for the most part due to deforestation. One common, despite being illegal, method of deforestation is cutting down the trees, letting them dry, and then setting fire to them to clear out the remains. The dried out land allows the fire to spread and become uncontrollable. Let’s be completely honest, the Amazon isn’t burning, it is being burned by corporations looking to use the land for farming or cattle ranching. Despite, this practice of deforestation being illegal, Brazil’s rightwing president, Jair Bolsonaro, has encouraged this practice. In response to criticism, Bolsonaro said environmentalist critics are trying to stop Brazil’s development.  According to the Economist, since Bolsonaro has taken office in January, trees are being cutdown at a rate of over two Manhattans a week. This is not just a Brazilian issue, if the Amazon continues to disappear at this rate, the entire world will feel the impact. Scientists believe that the Amazon is approaching a tipping point of destruction from where there is no turning back. After the tipping point there will be no stopping the rainforest from turning into a dry savannah. As of right now 15-17% of the has been lost, and with the increase of global temperatures scientists believe 20-25% will be the tipping point. Once past the tipping point the conversion into a savannah will take 30-50 years during which 200 billion tonnes of carbon will be released, making climate change even worse.

Often omitted from the conversation about the Amazon are the hundreds of thousands of indigenous people who live in the Amazon. The areas that are being deforested belong to indigenous people. Bolsonaro has not only encouraged illegal deforestation, but also encouraged developers to encroach on indigenous land. The indigenous people who have lived in the Amazon have been there for thousands of years, and now their home is being destroyed. They are the immediate victims of the Amazon’s destruction, yet are often ignored in media coverage as they so often are. Indigenous people are losing their homes, yet the world stays silent. The illegal deforestation of the Amazon is not only dangerous to the world ,but is an invasion and a legacy of colonization, and we must not ignore or let anyone forget it. Our outrage at the Amazon being deliberately set on fire should not only be caused by the loss of a vital ecosystem, but also by the destruction of indigenous homelands through invasion. 

Sneha Jos Comment