As the Amazon rain-forest ends its third week of burning, the world is forced to watch as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro tells the world:
“The Amazon is Brazil’s, not yours.”
The famously pro-deforestation president has spoken out against preserving the lands of indigenous people before, and has done nothing as of yet to stop them from burning to ash. Even after deliberating over accepting aid from leaders of the G7 summit, he refused to accept any aid until French President Emmanuel Macron took back insults that were allegedly thrown at him by the French leader.
The separation between citizen and leader has never been as distinct as it seems now. The Amazon is home to the largest collection of biodiversity on the planet, and many Brazilians have been protesting to protect its preservation. Protestors also argue for more renewable energy sources, such as wind turbines or solar energy panels, in an effort to have overall cleaner emissions.
Their president has refused to acknowledge this vocal party. The reason for this is that many Brazilians are pro-deforestation. The fact is that the destruction of the Amazon rainforest has been an incredibly lucrative enterprise for miners, loggers, ranchers, and farmers – blue-collar laborers who stand to make more money with the more forest that is gone.
Brazil Wants To Produce More Beef & Soybeans
Right now, Brazil is the largest beef exporter in the world, making cattle ranching a key use of deforested land. As the second largest exporter of soybeans, farmers obviously need land to grow crops. Many of the forest fires this year, which has seen an 84% increase in fires compared to last year, were legally started in efforts to help clear out land for purposes like these.
However, illegal fires are also being started, and it is these that are driving the flames even higher. Illegal mining and logging practices routinely start fires to clear indigineous people off of their lands, before the areas are stripped clean of their natural resources. Indigenous people can even face murder, as in the case of chief Emyra Waiapi, who stood up to illegal gold miners and was stabbed to death for it.
Amazon Rainforest is Still Burning & May Burn Itself
As is, if things go on as they are, then the Amazonian rainforest could face a dieback scenario, in which a forest destroys itself due to an unfavorable environment. Rampant fire and pollution combined with uninhibited deforestation currently points towards a dieback scenario, which could have devastating effects on the world’s climate. Just think: the Amazon currently creates 20% of the world’s oxygen, in addition to playing a crucial role in the water cycle.
However, not all scientists believe that forest dieback will necessarily occur. Others predict a change in forest type for the Amazon, or only some degradation to certain areas. However, scientists are in agreement that the Amazon will change significantly if current rates of climate change, deforestation, and fires continue to rise.
As the Amazon burns to the ground, its politicization might’ve seemed odd and infuriating twenty years ago, but it fits snugly into today’s world of presidential gaffes and apathetic nationalists. Hopefully, as protesters around the world continue to shout out in defense of the rainforest, Bolsonaro – or someone with his ear – could take the time to listen.