Unprecedented fires are sweeping through Brazil's Amazon rainforest and causing record-setting deforestation in the area. Scientists all over the world are sounding the alarm and warning that this could have disastrous implications for the rainforest and even the global environment.
These are the worst fires seen in the region since the establishment of the National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the country's space research center. The center began tracking such statistics after it was opened in 2013, and the organization has said that this is the most serious fire situation that they have seen in the rainforest.
The number of forest fires in the Amazon Rainforest in #Brazil is up 82% from last year. The fires are purposely set by ranchers to clear land. They then burn out of control. The Bolsonaro govt has eliminated restrictions on burnings. This must be stopped! #PrayforAmazonia. RT pic.twitter.com/cAyUlqjdRz
— Daniel Schneider (@BiologistDan) August 20, 2019
The center reported that there have been roughly 72,843 fires in Brazil this year. More than half of those fires have occurred in the Amazon region, which is an 80% increase when compared with last year's numbers.
These statistics are extremely disturbing, especially considering how important that amazon rainforest is to the global ecosystem. As the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon has many times been called the lungs of the earth, because the region produces about 20% of the oxygen in the planet's atmosphere.
Photos and videos released by the international media show the grim scene on the ground in the Amazon, with huge clouds of smoke rising up from the burning treeline.
Witnesses have reported that the smoke has already traveled all the way to Sao Paolo, which is more than 1,700 miles away. Residents of the city are facing pitch-black skies in the middle of the afternoon, and they aren't even anywhere near the fire.
The Amazon rainforest has been on fire for weeks, and it's so bad it's literally blotting out the sun miles away https://t.co/oDjcECJVgp
— Robert Maguire (@RobertMaguire_) August 20, 2019
According to the INPE, more than one and a half soccer fields of Amazon rainforest are being destroyed every single minute of every single day.
This is the Brazilian environmental policy under president Bolsonaro. He doesn't care about life. The Amazon Rainforest's burning for about 3 weeks and nothing's been done. @BadAstronomer @azmoderate #PrayforAmazonia #PrayforRondonia pic.twitter.com/haIrQzFdk9
— Bilu (@olhaoalho) August 20, 2019
The state of the Amazon has been a contentious issue in Brazilian politics, especially since the recent election of the far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro.
Bolsonaro has been especially hostile towards native tribes who have a claim to land in the Amazon, and he also seems to have a close and comfortable relationship with the corporations who are looking to exploit the Amazon for personal profit. Bolsonaro actually ran on the campaign platform of using the resources of the Amazon to restore the country's economy.
Since coming into office, Bolsonaro has significantly cut funding for the rainforest, while simultaneously rolling back regulations that protected the region from miners and loggers. The budget for Brazil's environmental enforcement agency was cut by $23 million on Bolsonaro's orders and their operations have been scaled back to the point of ineffectiveness shortly after the new president was sworn into office.
Earlier this year, the environmentalist group Greenpeace said that Bolsonaro and his government were a threat to the environment and warned that these policies would ultimately backfire, and would result in a "heavy cost" for the economy of Brazil.
Many experts and organizations like the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) are concerned that the Amazon could soon be reaching a tipping point, in which the region will turn into a dry savannah and be unable to recover, according to CNN. If this happens, it could have disastrous results for the ecosystem.