By now you may have heard that many of the images circulating on social media, claiming to show the recent Amazon fires, are actually misattributed pictures. Some of them were taken of previous Amazon fires 20 some years ago, while other photos were taken in places like Sweeden and Montana in the United States. However, there is a very real crisis taking place in the Brazilian Amazon, and there are many fires raging across the rainforest.
In the past week alone, over 9,500 new forest fires were reported in the Amazonian region of Brazil. Since the year began, Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE) has detected more than 74,000 fires, which represents an 84 percent increase since last year.
Reputable satellite imagery has now been released from NASA, showing the true extent of the recent fires.
NASA’s online Worldview instrument gives a glimpse into how widespread the fires are. The images also showed numerous fires spread across Africa as well.
In the image below, the Amazonian fires are represented by red dots on the screen.
Bolivia reportedly sent the largest fire-fighting plane in the world to the border with Brazil in hopes of stopping the blaze.
President Jair Bolsonaro has received pressure from all over the world to take action in the crisis, after days of stalling and insisting that the issue was not a priority. Now, the president is finally admitting that there is a problem, and is reportedly sending government resources to help fight the fire.
However, activists are suspicious of Bolsonaro’s true motives. On Friday, August 23, Bolsonaro signed a decree after an emergency meeting with his cabinet, which orders the deployment of Brazilian military forces to affected regions. This includes indigenous territories, who often find themselves forced off their lands by the Brazilian military.
August 2019 is continuing an active Amazon fire season, with large and intense fires burning in the region. @NASA satellites tracked actively burning fires across South America and captured images of smoke in the last week. https://t.co/EZKu01MPHg pic.twitter.com/VEoNZi2KJQ
— NASA Earth (@NASAEarth) August 23, 2019
A War For Nature
According to an NGO report released last month by Global Witness, an alarming number of environmental activists and indigenous people are being murdered for participating in resistance movements against large corporations and the governments that protect them.
The report found that at least 164 environmental activists around the world were murdered in 2018, which amounts to about 3 people every week. Global Witness suggests that these numbers are likely on the low side, as it is very difficult to track these deaths and their causes.
Even before the recent fires, scientists around the world were warning that the Amazon could be reaching a tipping point due to deforestation, which could result in a complete collapse of the rainforest.
According to the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil, the Amazon rainforest saw an 80% reduction between 2006 and 2012.
Brazil’s part of the Amazon has lost more than 1,330 square miles of forest cover since Jair Bolsonaro became president in January, according to a government agency that tracks deforestation. Last month, 80% more forest was lost compared to June 2018. https://t.co/b7X1VMkytF pic.twitter.com/8z7FY55FgA
— The New York Times (@nytimes) July 28, 2019
Experts believe that many of the recent fires are the result of cattle ranchers intentionally setting fires to clear room for their grazing fields.
According to a Yale study, the Amazon is the largest beef exporter in the world, supplying nearly a quarter of the global market. This practice is responsible for nearly 80% of the Amazon’s deforestation. About 450,000 square kilometers of deforested Amazon in Brazil are now in cattle pastures, according to the study.