By Victoria Olatunji
Last month, Brazil’s Amazon rainforest experienced a widespread fire outbreak. The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world, with approximately 3 million species of plants and animals. This rainforest, home to 350 indigenous and ethnic groups, is burning at record rates.
According to National Geographic, “Brazil’s National Institute for space research reported a record 73,843 fires this year, an 80 percent increase from last year.” The number of fires identified by satellite images in the amazon so far this month is the highest since 2010.
The raging rate of the recent fire has raised significant concerns among many environmentalists and scientists.
Consequently, the devastating effect of this crisis affects the animals and natives who call the Amazon home.
These widespread fires are driving wildlife away from their habitats and territories. The life and livelihoods of the Yanomami and other indigenous peoples are under threat not seen since the first Europeans entered South America.
The great fear is that the loss of habitat will cross a threshold of no return, a tipping point for the transformation of climate cycles that will result in new rainfall patterns.
The rainfall cycles in the Amazon depend on the transfer of water through rainforest plants to the atmosphere. Here, it condenses as rain that is delivered over a vast region, sustaining the rainforest and the continent. If fire removes the plant life, the land will dry, and grasslands will replace rainforests.
The economic and ecological consequences for these cities depend on the sources of atmospheric water, as well as the natural ecosystems and indigenous peoples they support.
Environmentalists and conservationists are wary of an environmental tipping point that could lead to severe consequences for the planet. According to Time Magazine, “the Amazon tipping point could also lead to a cascade of other potential climate tipping points.”
The rainforest contributes to the Earth’s climate, influencing weather systems, generating oxygen, and absorbing vast amounts of carbon dioxide — the heat-trapping greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. As a result, the fire could speed up climate change and pose a risk for everyone on the planet.
Many blame Jair Bolsonaro, Brazil’s president, for brushing off environmental concerns and accusing environmental groups of setting fires in the Amazon. Bolsanaro attempted to explain the fires by suggesting “that non-governmental organisations had started fires in the rainforest, but admitted he had no evidence for this claim,” according to BBC News.
A sharp spike in deforestation followed by the burning in August has led many to believe the fire started because of unforced environmental laws by Bolsonaro.
However, some found the burning was human-induced. The numerous wildfires across the Amazon rainforest blamed on cattle ranchers and loggers, who want to clear and utilize the land for agricultural use.
Senior Environmental activist, Katie Cardinal, believes the Amazon fire is a combination of increased deforestation rate, exacerbated by weakened laws, and improper land management.
Many environmentalists, including Cardinal, have argued and expressed frustration that not enough is being done. Cardinal suggests that collaborative measures need to be taken to put an end to the crisis and hopefully prevent such a catastrophe from happening in the future.
Cardinal argues that sufficient economic resources, political will, practical approaches, global response, and environmentally friendly policies are needed to turn things around.
Cardinal also believes that the collaborative effort of politicians, citizens, lawmakers, presidents, and the union is necessary to make a change in the environment.
Although the Amazon rainforest fire may be a local concern, it has tremendous global consequences that could affect everyone on the planet. Conservationists and environmentalists, like Cardinal, are calling for action.
Photo Courtesy PhotosForClass.com