Rabat – Earlier this month, Brazil declared a state of emergency over the rising number of fires in the Amazon, and despite a worldwide outcry, the fires continue to burn.
So far this year, almost 73,000 fires have been detected by Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), with a sharp spike in July and August. The number is an 83% increase from last year.
While some of these fires are naturally occurring events, Brazilian scientists believe that at least 50% of the fires are set by loggers and ranchers to clear land for cattle.
Environmental agencies have attributed the spike in deliberate fire setting to Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro relaxing environmental policies and regulations in favor of economic growth.
The Brazilian federal government has not provided any major organized effort to fight the fires, and on Thursday, August 22, Bolsonaro said the Brazilian government lacks the resources to fight the fires.
Bolsonaro, a longtime climate change skeptic, has outrighted disputed the cause of the fires, instead claiming that environmental groups have purposely set the fires to make his government look bad.
“On the question of burning in the Amazon, which in my opinion may have been initiated by NGOs because they lost money, what is the intention? To bring problems to Brazil,” the president told a steel industry congress in Brasilia.
When asked if he had any evidence to back this claim, Bolsonaro said he had none – just a hunch.
The Amazon rainforest is frequently referred to as the “Earth’s lungs,” thanks to the huge amount of carbon dioxide the rainforest absorbs to produce 20% of the world’s oxygen.
If too much of the rainforest is destroyed past the point of return, carbon dioxide level’s in the atmosphere will rise significantly, causing the hole in the ozone layer to grow and climate change to worsen.
People worldwide have expressed concerns over the fires and the possible environment affects, with the hashtag #PrayforAmazonia trending worldwide on Twitter.
World leaders have also stepped in voice their concerns, urging the Brazilian government to act quickly. French President Emmanual Macron called for the issue to be discussed at this week’s G7 summit, because “our house is burning.”
Canada’s President Justin Trudeau responded in support, saying world leaders need to “#ActforAmazon” for the sake of future generations.
The UN’s Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also called on Brazil to take action, expressing his “deep concern.”
Average citizens worldwide have also been vocal about the issue, with pictures of the rainforest burning being share on mass and petitions being created calling for change.
One Brazilian petition, created by environmental group Avaaz asking the government to halt illegal deforestation has already received a million signatures.