Amazon fires are a global concern

Amazon fires are a global concern

Smoke rises from forest fires in the community of Quitunuquina, near Robore in eastern Bolivia, south of the Amazon basin, on August 28, 2019. (Photo by AIZAR RALDES / AFP)

Tens of thousands of fires continue to rage in the Amazon rainforests. Although the fires are an annual occurrence, this year’s incidents are of grave concern as they are the most intense and widespread in a decade.

According to data from the National Institute for Space Research, Brazil’s space agency, there were over 75,000 forest fires in Brazil’s rainforests in the first eight months of this year compared with 40,000 in the same period last year. This is an 85% increase in the number of fires ravaging the Amazon forests so far this year.

While Brazil’s rainforests are the worst affected, those in Venezuela, Bolivia, Colombia and Peru are also being ravaged. The fires in the Amazon rainforests are a global tragedy as the implications will not be restricted to South America.

The Amazon basin is home to a million indigenous people and around three million species of flora and fauna. The fires would have killed many. The Amazon’s rich biodiversity has suffered crippling losses.

Additionally, forests are crucial for regulating global warming as trees and plants absorb millions of tonnes of carbon emissions. The loss of the Amazon rainforests will weaken the earth’s capacity to absorb carbon emissions.

At a time when we need to be planting millions of trees, the loss of vast areas of the Amazon rainforests to fires is a devastating blow to the fight against global warming. 

Brazil’s far-right President Jair Bolsonaro cannot escape responsibility for the unfolding disaster in the rainforests. He has been encouraging the opening up of the Amazon forests to mining, farming and logging. This has, in turn, encouraged businessmen to burn down forests so that they can extract mineral wealth or cultivate cash crops. However, Bolsonaro isn’t alone in pursuing such policies.

Across the world, including in India, governments are rewriting forest laws and rules to suit the mining industry, real estate sharks and the plantation sector. They are pursuing policies that prioritise short-term exploitation of natural resources for immediate profit. In the process, they are stripping the earth of its natural wealth and making it a less habitable place. 

At the G-7 summit in France, several leaders strongly criticized Bolsonaro and threatened him with sanctions if he did not act robustly to stop the Amazon fires. While strong action to douse the fires is needed, grandstanding will not do the job.

The G-7 is focusing on the symptoms while ignoring the causes. The economic policies of the industrialised nations have no small part in driving deforestation in the Amazon region and encouraging people to set alight forests.

These policies need correction for the world to be able to prevent such manmade disasters and mitigate global warming and climate change.