Student Writer | Rebecca Thompson
Devastation in the Amazon Rainforest persists as flames continue to spread. Due to escalating international pressure, the nation’s government has deployed the Brazilian Army to fight the fires. It has been assumed that the recent growth in the number of fires within the Amazon is a result of an extremely dry season. However, according to the Amazon Environmental Institute, it is strongly correlated to intentional deforestation.
Contrary to many news reports and social media posts, the heart of the Amazon is not actually on fire. The maps of the Amazon below demonstrate clearly that most of the fires are burning at the fringes of the forest. They also indicate that fires are, in fact, very common in the region during this time of year. Distinctly, the areas that are ignited are those that have formerly been deforested and are now being cleared for agriculture. This is a process that the Amazon has undergone for many years as residents seek to establish cleared land for efficient crop production.
Both deforestation and fires have, however, risen since 2018. In August 2018, forest fires have increased nearly three times when compared to August 2017. Yet, the bar charts below highlight that deforestation and fires are still not as high as they have been in the past. Worthy of note, the rate of deforestation in the Amazon basin has decreased by 70 percent since 2004. However, the fires are still going and with new fires being set frequently environmentalists have warned that the ‘worst of the fire is yet to come’.
According to a study conducted by researchers from the Department of Geographical Sciences at the University of Maryland, between the years 2000 and 2014 Brazil almost doubled its arable land for intensive row cropping. This proliferation is being driven by Brazil’s economic dependency on commodity exports, predominantly from agriculture. With an unemployment rate of 12 percent Brazil is highly likely to continue increasing exports. As you can see, these fires are very much political.
President Jair Bolsonaro has often disclosed a lack of interest in environmental protection; with a substantial increase in deforestation and fires since his election in 2018, one could have good reason to believe that deforestation in the Amazon is becoming acceptable and is likely to continue. While the rainforest, in some sense, belongs to Brazilians, one should consider whether they ought to have the right to make decisions alone as it is after all fundamental to the survival of every living person.