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Image / Editorial

The Amazon rainforest is burning: Why did we not know?


by Hannah Hillyer
21st Aug 2019
blank

@max1morley Instagram

Waking up this morning, our newsfeeds were inundated with reports of the Amazon rainforest burning. Why didn’t we know this until now?


The Amazon rainforest has been on fire for 16 days but for some reason, this has not been making global headlines.

Whilst scrolling Twitter last week I did see a story about wildfires in the Amazon, but I didn’t know the severity of the problem until this morning. With the fires now raging for well over two weeks, this is all we should have been talking about. So why have our news headlines not been shouting about it until now?

Related: Iceland held a funeral for its first
glacier destroyed by climate change

Instead, news organisations have been focusing on the trivial and inevitable; some picking holes in Greta Thunberg’s inspiring ‘carbon zero’ trip across the Atlantic; others focusing on Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s aeroplane usage; and of course, more Brexit. All the while, the lungs of the world are on fire and none of our major news outlets seemed to care.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Brazil’s government are literally letting people set fire to The Amazon rainforest to deforest land to set up cattle farming. The earths lung which produces more than 20% of the worlds oxygen, more than half of the worlds 10 million plants, animals and insects all for what?! MONEY!! When the Notre Dame was burning, the media covered every single moment of it, the billionaires pledged to save it. But why is it that when an actual natural disaster waiting to happen is in plain sight we choose to ignore it? In Iceland they just had a funeral for a glacier that is no more. We are well and truly trying our best to ruin the planet we live on. Perhaps the sooner we’re off this planet the better. #AmazonFire #amazonrainforest #brazil #planet #savetheplanet

A post shared by Max Morley (@max1morley) on

The Amazon

The area this rainforest covers is vast; stretching into many countries. 60% of the Amazon is in Brazil; 13% in Peru; 10% in Columbia; and it also reaches into Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.

Anyone who has watched a David Attenborough documentary will know how diverse and important this area is for both plants and wildlife; with roughly 16,000 species of trees within it.

At 2,100,000 square miles, its size is difficult to comprehend – and now large swathes of it are on fire (and it’s spreading rapidly).

 

amazon fire

earthobservatory.nasa.gov.com

Worse than ever

Currently, the fires are so severe they can be seen from space. NASA has released satellite imagery which clearly shoes plumes of smoke obscuring large portions of the rainforest. The smoke has spread; leaving São Paulo, thousands of miles from the fires, in darkness on Monday afternoon as it blocked out the sun.

Forest fires are typical at this time of the year, with the dry season running from July to August. However, they have never been this severe. As a tropical rainforest, the Amazon is humid and wet, so fires rarely rage this aggressively. With that in mind, why is there an 83% increase this year compared to 2018?

Related: Climate change experience at Powerscourt is a must

De-forestation is a huge issue in this region, with many farmers deliberately (and illegally) setting alight to land to make way for cattle. INPE researcher Alberto Setzer has confirmed this theory, saying, “The dry season creates the favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.”

Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil, is an advocate for farming and agriculture in the region, despite concerns over the rapid depletion of the Amazon rainforest. It is felt that Bolsonaro has ignored environmental concerns since he took office in January; failing to address the current fires quickly enough.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

Brazil’s government are literally letting people set fire to The Amazon rainforest to deforest land to set up cattle farming. The earths lung which produces more than 20% of the worlds oxygen, more than half of the worlds 10 million plants, animals and insects all for what?! MONEY!! When the Notre Dame was burning, the media covered every single moment of it, the billionaires pledged to save it. But why is it that when an actual natural disaster waiting to happen is in plain sight we choose to ignore it? In Iceland they just had a funeral for a glacier that is no more. We are well and truly trying our best to ruin the planet we live on. Perhaps the sooner we’re off this planet the better. #AmazonFire #amazonrainforest #brazil #planet #savetheplanet

A post shared by Max Morley (@max1morley) on

Where are the tears?

The world watched in tears as Paris’ Notre Dame burned earlier this year. Where are the tears for the Amazon? Perhaps it’s because many of us have taken trips to Paris, posed in front of the cathedral, bought the postcards. The Amazon is too vast, too abstract for us to comprehend. Is this why we are not outraged?

This precious forest is already at a tipping point for irreversible change and we should be frightened at what is happening. It accounts for 40% of the worlds tropical forests, provides 20% of the world’s water and 20% of the oxygen we breathe.

Buildings can be rebuilt, but at this rate, the Amazon won’t be there forever.

Header Image: @maxmorely


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