According to data from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research (INPE), the Amazon has been subject to record-breaking wildfires this year – with an increase of around 84% compared to the same period last year. The intensity of the fires inadvertently led to the city of Sao Paulo – which is located thousands of kilometres away – experiencing a blackout at around 3 pm due to the thick smoke that had been swept above the city.

The Amazon rainforest – typically referred to as the ‘lungs of the earth’ – provides around 20% of the world’s oxygen supply. It’s also home to around three million species of plants and animals and another one million indigenous inhabitants. The rainforest has experienced deadly wildfires for nearly three consecutive weeks and the state of Amazonas has even declared an emergency. Just this year alone, there have been approximately 72,843 fires in Brazil with more than half being within the Amazon jungle.

Experts have previously stated that the Amazon plays a significant role in stabilizing the world’s carbon emissions. However, if things continue the way they are, scientists have said the area could become a dry savannah, unfit for any forms of wildfire, and instead of absorbing climate-warming gases could instead begin emitting them. And while fires may occur in the Amazon during a dry season, there is a much more insidious reason why these wildfires have become increasingly intensified and hazardous.

Humans Activity Incites Fires

Since the election of current President Jair Bolsonaro, who has been nicknamed Captain Chainsaw, wildfires have surged exponentially. Activists have pointed the finger at Bolsonaro for pulling back on environmental policies in favour of agribusiness. Previously, the President has commented on exploring the rainforest’s ‘economic potential’ with no regard to the indigenous population that already resides there.

His neglect for environment protections has equally emboldened loggers and farmers who have contributed to deliberately starting fires as a means of illegal deforestation. And as the world continues to feel the effects of global warming, the dry season is a catalyst for wildfires that spread rapidly and without bounds.

Bolsonaro has already made it painfully clear that his priorities do not lie with protecting one of the most important habitats for human survival – even if the facts are there. Recently, after the INPE released data on the increase of deforestation, President Bolsonaro took the opportunity to fire the director, suspecting that the figures were a way of undermining his government.

The last few months have shown some of the most terrifying images credited to the impact of climate change. From Alaska to Siberia, wildfires have run amok, harming ecosystems and people’s livelihoods. July was recorded as the hottest month ever on the planet and Iceland recently lost its first glacier to climate change.

However, loss of the Amazon would be crippling to not just the indigenous inhabitants or citizens of Brazil, but the entire globe. If Bolsonaro doesn’t change his stance on the environment, then we can accept the acceleration of global warming on a universal scale.

Aisha Mohamed