As the planet is literally burning, I’ve decided to post twice this week. So, this week we’ll have a #PoliNerdWednesday and #PoliNerdThursday. While I love writing for you guys, its sad that so much is happening in the world, not just our country, I feel like I should be posting daily to stay on top of everything!
If you were on Twitter last week you most likely saw tens of thousands of posts about the Amazon Rainforest burning and #AmazonForest and #PrayforAmazon trending worldwide. This probably sparked your interest, hopefully, and you decided to look up what exactly was going on, why this was so important, what was happening to put it out, and what was real and what were deep-fakes/fake news. I did this too, and found that not only was the Amazon Rainforest burning a climate issue, but also a political issue as well. How? Continue reading to find out!
Here is some background on the Amazon Rainforest, if you already have not done your own research, to help understand why the fires are so important and detrimental at the same time. The Amazon is the world’s largest rainforest, spans 8 countries, and covers 40% of South America. 30 million people live in the Amazon, along with large numbers of mammals, birds, amphibians, and reptiles, most of which are unique to the region. Right now, roughly about the size of a football fields being cleared every minute – according to satellite data. Putting that into perspective, thats pretty much a total of 315,686 football fields burnt. Why does this matter?
Well, if the amazon was to be destroyed completely, it would be extremely difficult to try limit global warming – like the people who have been creating carbon capture technology and taking part in pushing the Green New Deal – and save the planet. Also, unknown to many, the Amazon Rainforest is cared for and home to over a million Indigenous people and at least a hundred more “uncontacted” tribes, which is more than anywhere else in the world. In fact, it was Indigenous Amazonian chieftans who first warned the world about how this could happen based on president Bolsonaro’s “genocidal” policies. They warned people of their home being taken away from them and how it was being burned with them in it. In August, for the first time ever, tens of thousands of indigenous women took to the streets to denounce Bolsonaro and his policies. Now, the destruction of Indigenous lands is not news to me or to any other American, as America was founded upon stealing the lands of Indigenous peoples and on the “ethnic cleansing,” or genocide, of Indigenous peoples. And now, Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, has again shown that he pays Indigenous people no mind, that their lives and home does not matter.
Bolsonaro is absolutely key in understanding the story of how these fires came to be. Why? Just look at his policies, which brings about the political aspect of these fires. When elected in October 2018, Bolsonaro made promises to restore Brazil’s economy by exploring the Amazon’s economic potential: cutting the budget of the nation’s environmental enforcement agency by $23 million. This cut, cut operations of the agency, according to data sent to CNN by Observatorio do Clima, a coalition of Brazilian non-government environmental organizations. When asked about the fires, this was Bolsonaro’s response “We took money away from NGOs they are now feeling the pinch from the lack of funding. So, maybe the NGO types are conducting these criminal acts in order to generate negative attention against me an the Brazilian government.”
Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Not taking the blame for his own rhetoric and instead placing it upon a different entity…I’ll let y’all fill in that blank.
The cause of these fires? Besides President Bolsonaro’s rhetoric, is what his rhetoric has inspired. Farmers and cattle ranchers have long used fire to clear land and make it ready for their use. So, they could very well be behind the unusually large number of fires burning in the Amazon today. According to CNN meteorologist Hayley Brink, the fires fit the established seasonal agriculture pattern, i.e. its the best time to burn because the vegetation is dry. Also, the senior scientist at INPE Alberto Setzer believes that 99% of fires result from human actions either on purpose or by accident. So, who’s to blame? Environmental groups place blame on Bolsonaro, because they believe he endangered the Amazon by relaxing environmental controls and encouraging deforestation. Greenpeace called Bolsonaro and his government a threat to the climate equilibrium. He is also the cause for tensions sparking between indigenous peoples and land-grabbers – those who believed they have unspoken support from Bolsonaro’s administration. This sounds familiar now too, doesn’t it? A certain White Supremacist’s manifesto against Latinx migrants that contained specific, cited language of the current occupant of the Whitehouse come to mind? It does for me.
To answer the question “who is affected by this,” well, pretty much all of Earth and those that inhabit it. Currently, the Amazon is the “sink” for CO2, the gas that is mainly emitted from burning fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas according to the WWF. Before these fires, the Amazon released up to 0.5 billion metric tons of carbon per year due to deforestation, another statistic given by the WWF. The Amazon, once known as the “lungs of our planet,” is now actually harming the planet, because of all the CO2 being emitted by these fires.
The fires in the Amazon were burning for three weeks before media sources picked up on it, before they were trending, and before people were sending money to the frontlines to try and preserve what’s left of the rainforest. Bolsonaro’s blame on the people who are actually trying to save the rainforest and his blatant disregard when it comes to Indigenous peoples is concerning. Very concerning. And he is now refusing any foreign aid to help with the situation, and is 100% backed by the current occupant of the Whitehouse. I think as investigations continue to unfold and reporters dig deeper, we will see who or what is truly behind these fires and whether or not climate change will be irreversible because of this.