The skies turned unusually dark in the early afternoon in Sao Paulo this past Wednesday, due to the intense smoke coming from ongoing wildfires in the Amazon.
The Amazon rainforest, also known as “the lungs of the world”, provides approximately 20% of the oxygen in the atmosphere. Due to its importance, the fires have alarmed not only Brazilians but the international community as well.
The military was sent to fight the flames in the Amazon on Saturday, three days following the news breaking globally. According to CNBC, Brazil´s president Jair Bolsonaro was pressured into action after international figures such as the President of France Emmanuel Macron protested against the atrocity of the fires. However, a new dispute has emerged today, with Brazil rejecting an offer of $22 million in aid from the G7 countries to fight the fires.
Bolsonaro, said according to BBC News in a press conference, that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) could have possibly started the fires for the purpose of damaging his reputation and as revenge for cutting their funding.
When asked who had started the fires, he said “The Indians, do you want me to blame the Indians? Do you want me to blame the Martians?… Everyone is a suspect, but the biggest suspects are NGOs.”
Environmental organizations, on the other hand, blame president Bolsonaro’s politics for setting off the wildfires in the Amazon. These pro-environment organizations in Brazil claim that ever since Bolsonaro´s presidency started in 2018, his politics haven´t been focused on the preservation of the environment, but on boosting the economy by exploiting the Amazon´s minerals and agriculture.
Satellite data from The National Institute of Space Research (INPE) in Brazil revealed an 88% increase in fires in the Amazon since June 2018. This research showed that there have been more than 72,843 fires in Brazil since January 1st. After the president of INPE supported this data on deforestation, he was fired. Later on, Bolsonaro dismissed this study as “lies” according to CNN.
The president of Brazil, said these types of fires are common during the season of “quemaida”, which means burning in Portuguese – a time of the year when farmers burn lands deliberately for agricultural use. Currently, the dry seasonal conditions in the Amazon enable the rapid spread of wildfires. However, INPE has said that blazes this magnitude are usually started by human actions.
“There is nothing abnormal about the climate this year or the rainfall in the Amazon region, which is just a little below average,” Alberto Setzer from INPE told Reuters. “The dry season creates favourable conditions for the use and spread of fire, but starting a fire is the work of humans, either deliberately or by accident.” from Newsweek.
More controversy on the government’s lack of environmental stewardship has emerged when the Observatorio do Clima (Climate Observatory) told CNN in an exclusive interview, that the government had cut $23 million from the budget of Brazil´s environmental enforcement agency, which is the key to prevent illegal logging in the rainforest. Bolsonaro said NGOs that are receiving less funding, are the biggest suspects for this fire because they want to revenge by attracting negative attention to his government.
Bolsonaro, referred equally to President Macron who tweeted: “Our house is burning. Literally. The Amazon rainforest — the lungs of our planet which produces 20% of our oxygen — is on fire. It is an international crisis,” according to CNN, calling him a “sensationalist”, Macron mentioned that the Amazon should be talked about at the G7 summit that took place on Saturday.
International leaders led by Macron agreed at G7 to release $22 million for fire-fighting planes and logistical support as soon as possible. However, Bolsonaro rejected the offer, saying G7 treated Brazil´s Amazon, “as if we were a colony or no man’s land” reported BBC News. The chief of staff to Bolsonaro, Onyx Lorenzoni told the G1 news website “We appreciate [the offer], but maybe those resources are more relevant to reforest Europe.”
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