By John Plue
The Amazon rainforest is 2.72 million square miles, home to 16,000 tree species, 2000 animal species, and 400 indigenous tribes. It has been on fire since January with 93,000 fires blazing through the land as of September 5th, 2019.
Ana Luiza Gregorio de Castro e Abreu, 19, from Niteroi a city in southeast Brazil, explained, “Most information we have indicates that the fires were started as cattle farmers and companies set bits of the land by the Amazon on fire so they could clear it for the season. This happens every year but this time the Amazon actually caught on fire with the rest of the land and it got to proportions never seen before due to the weather.” Burning land to clear it for crops happens all over the world and in the Amazon rainforest since humans began settling in the area around 4,500 years ago. The reasons behind the burning according to National Geographic is to clear way for different crops and it has brought forth rich soil and things like brazil nuts and acai.
National Geographic stated that as of August 29th, 2019, “7,000 square miles of the forest were in flames, an area just smaller than the size of New Jersey.” Most of these fires are caused by humans and have spread due to an abundance of flammables because “low-intensity burning stopped—and as the undergrowth returned, fuel loads increased” National Geographic stated.
The Amazon rainforest is known as the lungs of the world because it is said to contribute to 20% of the world’s oxygen, however, it only produces 6% of the oxygen, according to National Geographic. That does not mean it is not important to the world. The Amazon houses millions of trees, plants, animals. It is one of the last safe places for jaguars and other species of animals. Abreu stated “The death of bits of a huge ecosystem. That’s my number one concern. There are things yet to be discovered in the Amazon with how big it is, plants that are not yet classified. The biggest problem is that the world keeps losing the things that keep it together.”
The fires are not just affecting the area, it is affecting everyone and everything around it. Abreu said, “here was one day in with São Paulo, SP, which is in the Southeast just like Rio, that it got dark light night at just around 4PM. In Brazil, even in the winter, it’s very uncommon for nightfall to happen so early. What had actually happened was that the debris and smoke from the fire had travelled down towards São Paulo and the smoke was so thick people thought it was nighttime.” Sau Paulo is 1,733 miles away from the Amazon rainforest. This is a big concern because smoke can cause problems with machinery, technology, and with people’s health. In fact, USA Today said that some Brazilian’s concerns were on the rise because “respiratory problems – particularly among children and the elderly – have increased as fires in the region rage” and that these health issues could be from the smoke that remains.
The President of Brazil Jair Bolsonaro spoke at the United Nations General Assembly on September 24th, 2019 about the issue of the fires in the Amazon. CNBC reported that Bolsonaro said, “Brazil is one of the best countries in the world at protecting its own environment and fires are not destroying the Amazon rainforest.” There was evidence to show back in August “that the number of forest fires in the Brazilian Amazon between January and August surged by 84% from the same period in 2018.”
A lot of the major concern came when the news started to spread over social media. There was outrage over the fact that there was no news coverage on the fires. A lot of it was brought back to the fact that there was around the clock coverage of the Notre Dame cathedral fire that happened earlier this year. Abreu said, “People think they did their part when they shared on social media to bring awareness to it, but the Amazon still is on fire. It’s worrisome that the Amazon being on fire is not as big of a concern as the fire in the Notre Dame Cathedral was, but they had millions of dollars sent their way instantly and in Brazil the Amazon catches on fire and it becomes almost a joke in social media.”
There are many ways for people to help the Amazon. There needs to be more awareness and more action involved with climate change.