The Amazon rainforest might not be something people think about much unless they live in proximity to it, but it’s basically making it possible for life to continue on this earth. Trees clean the air and these ancient forests have been doing a lot of heavy lifting as deforestation has wrecked the planet. Environmentalists have been warning for ages that the rainforest is becoming endangered, which puts all our lives in peril. And right now, they’re on fire.
This story has not been widely reported, and part of the reason is that this story conflicts with the official stance of the Brazilian government, who say the forest fires are “normal.” Reuter’s reports that right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro recently fired the director of INPE, saying the director of the space agency presented him with made-up statistics that showed an increase in deforestation in Brazil. INPE had detected 72,843 fires this ear so far—a record number.
More people began to take notice when it suddenly got dark as night in São Paulo in the middle of the afternoon:
The overcast sky was the results of fires burning hundreds of miles away, so you can imagine how big they must have been:
🌎Just a little alert to the world: the sky randomly turned dark today in São Paulo, and meteorologists believe it’s smoke from the fires burning *thousands* of kilometers away, in Rondônia or Paraguay. Imagine how much has to be burning to create that much smoke(!). SOS🌎 pic.twitter.com/P1DrCzQO6x— Shannon Sims (@shannongsims) August 20, 2019
You actually don’t have to imagine it, because NASA released images conveying the magnitude of the burn via an image map of the area’s CO levels:
"The intensity and frequency of droughts in turn, have been linked with increases in regional deforestation and anthropogenic climate change.”— scherezadenfreude (@zaharaesque) August 21, 2019
NASA on the Amazon basin fires. pic.twitter.com/fpjprAY9ju
People are horrified by the images coming out of the area, which show blazing land, smoke-filled skies, and injured animals:
You don´t need to imagine. See Rondônia. pic.twitter.com/DGSbmzmoJJ
— Valéria (@Souvaleria) August 20, 2019
Rainwater was collected in the city, and it was black and stank of smoke:
There’s more: some São Paulo residents collected rain yesterday when the sky turned dark (from a combination of a cold front & forest fires thousands of miles away). This is what it looked like, & they say it smelled like smoke. 😳https://t.co/Oxbv4AN0Ku
— Shannon Sims (@shannongsims) August 21, 2019
There is some argument over how the fires were started. Bolsonaro insists that the fires are normal calling it the “season of the queimada.” Farmers and ranchers regularly burn parts of the forest to clear land for their industry, but activists say that Bolsonaro’s policies have upped the amount of land cleared astronomically, and these have been starting at somewhat random times rather than a designated season. General climate change has also made the forest susceptible to fires in a way it once was not, because it was once too moist and humid. Now the land is dry.
People are trying to raise awareness of what’s going on with the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia on Twitter:
Brazil’s president is doing nothing to stop what is happening with the Amazon Rainforest. My heritage is from Brazil and it is so sad to see what is happening, it looks like a movie, but it is now. Y’all pray for Brazil! #PrayforAmazonia Brazil is destroying Brasil 😪 pic.twitter.com/vwpB6jfgLu— Maria 🥀 (@BarrosThereza) August 20, 2019
The Amazon Rainforest has been burning for 3 weeks straight and it’s only just being spoken about. Please, help raise awareness of the death and destruction of many types of wildlife. It’s only a matter of time before the whole rainforest is gone. #PrayforAmazonia pic.twitter.com/sk4aM5pt7o— emma (@its_emmx) August 20, 2019
Earths most important ecosystem has been on fire for two weeks, we just lost the first Icelandic glacier, ocean acidification & heat are at their highest level. We don’t have a couple years anymore, we have months.— Patrick (@patrickflorez_) August 20, 2019
Wake up! Think about your kids future. #SpeakUp #PrayforAmazonia pic.twitter.com/FQ9zKXFLT0
The Amazon needs more than prayers, it needs action. In the face of a climate-denying president, it’s going to be an uphill battle, the outcome of which might decide the future for the entire planet.