The world’s largest and most important rainforest is in flames.
These raging fires may seem very far away from where Singapore is located, but it is an international environmental crisis that could end up affecting the entire world if nothing is done to stop it.
In case you’re still not too sure what exactly is going on, here are ten facts about the Amazon fires that you should know about.
1. The Importance of the Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon Rainforest is often referred to as “the lungs of the planet”. But why?
The rainforest provides 20% of the world’s oxygen supply and it is crucial in ensuring that we have enough clean, safe air to breathe. The trees help to remove Carbon Dioxide (CO2) from the atmosphere, which is produced excessively from many human activities like the burning of fossil fuels.
Throwback to secondary school Science and Geography lessons, anyone?
The Amazon River, which runs through the rainforest, also contains 20% of the world’s flowing fresh water.
2. The Fires Have Been Going On For a Long Time
It is hard to pinpoint when exactly the first few fires began because fires are a common occurrence in the Amazon Rainforest.
However, according to the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), there were more than 74,000 fires between January and August this year.
It observed more than 9,500 forest fires since last Thursday, and they were mostly in the Amazon region.
3. 17% of the Rainforest Has Already Been Destroyed
The Amazon Rainforest spreads over 5.5 million square kilometres, across nine South American countries: Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana.
According to National Geographic, 17% of the Amazon rainforest has already been destroyed over the past 50 years due to deforestation. It is extremely alarming to think that so much damage could be done in such a short amount of time.
4. These Fires are Intentional
Contrary to what most people may think, the fires are not occurring due to dry weather and too much heat, although that usually has been the case for the past few years.
The Amazon rainforest is intentionally being set ablaze and many have blamed Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro for it. This is because he has been encouraging loggers and farmers to clear the land.
Bolsonaro, who used to be an ex-military captain, started his presidency on 1 January 2019, and shortly after, the rise in forest fires began.
“I used to be called Captain Chainsaw. Now I am Nero, setting the Amazon aflame.”
Those were his exact words.
5. Bolsonaro Had Been Planning This For a While
He has been nicknamed the “Trump of the Tropics” and he had been planning to open up the rainforest to logging even during his election.
According to The Straits Times, Bolsonaro had vowed that he would not give up “one centimetre more” of land to indigenous communities in Brazil, who lived in about 60 per cent of the Amazon rainforest.
He ended up being elected with massive support from logging agribusinesses and very strong opposition from environmentalists and conservationists.
6. Skies in Sao Paulo Turned Black
Residents in Sao Paulo (Brazil) witnessed the sky turning black and filled with thick, black clouds in the middle of the day. Scientists have said that this happened due to the smoke from the fires in Bolivia, Paraguay and remote parts of Brazil, and also because of the city’s elevation of 25,000 feet.
It looked like it was midnight, although it was only around four in the afternoon.
“The smoke didn’t come from fires in the state of Sao Paulo, but from very dense and wide fires that have been happening for several days in Rondonia and Bolivia,” said Josélia Pegorim, a meteorologist with Climatempo, in an interview with Globo.
7. It Might be Impossible to Restore the Rainforest
17% of the rainforest has already been lost thus far and scientists believe that losing another 5% would be sufficient to tip the Amazon into a sort of “unstable state within which it becomes impossible to actually restore it”.
If that doesn’t sound scary to you, then I don’t know what will.
This means that we really need to work our hardest to ensure that another 5% of the rainforest will not be burned down, no matter what.
8. You can Help by Donating to Organisations
And the fastest and most effective way would be to donate.
I know, I know, it’s not easy to fork out some of your hard-earned savings, but let me remind you, it’s for the sake of our (one and only) home. We don’t have another planet to run away to if the earth becomes polluted with toxins and we have no more oxygen left.
There are many organisations and charities that are accepting donations to help the rainforest, such as Amazon Watch (nothing to do with Jeff Bezos!), World Wildlife Fund, and Rainforest Alliance. You can either choose to be a one-time donor or donate a fixed amount of money monthly.
9. It’s Time to Cut Down on Beef
Now, I’m not going to lie. Beef is actually my favourite meat and this is going to be a really difficult thing to do.
But, it’s necessary.
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), Brazil is actually the world’s largest exporter of beef, providing nearly 20% of global beef exports in 2018.
A lot of the people and businesses starting the fires are cattle ranchers, who are clearing land in order to raise and feed their cattle. They need to do so because of the high demand for beef. So basically, if there’s a lesser demand, the lesser they’ll need to produce in order to meet this demand.
10. This is an International Crisis
Although the fires are only occurring in Brazil, it is pretty much an international crisis, as France’s president Emmanuel Macron has said.
It has already brought grave consequences to Brazil, its residents as well as the many indigenous people who consider the rainforest their home.
Not to mention all the animals and plants that just didn’t deserve this at all.
We can’t ignore these fires or pretend like it won’t affect us in the long run, because it most certainly will.
The Amazon Rainforest is called the “lungs of our planet” for a reason and we all know that no one can survive without their lungs.
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