The Amazon rainforest is on fire

The Amazon has been burning for weeks amid increasing deforestation. The intense smoke was detected by NASA and plunged São Paulo


The images coming from Brazil are really worrying, a mixture of indignation and anger assails us: the Amazon forest is burning at a dizzying pace, the green lung of the Earth is seriously threatened by fire. This was reported by the National Institute for Space Research (INPE) that spoke of an increase in fires of 83% compared to 2018.

The situation was brought to the attention of public opinion by the smoke that blackened the sky of a metropolis like São Paulo last August 19, which also caused a blackout in the city. The hood of black smoke above São Paulo, however, does not depend only on the fires that are devastating the Amazon, but on the combination of two phenomena closely linked to each other. The arrival of a mass of cold air increased low clouds and fog over the city, while the expansion of this same cold air caused a change in the prevailing winds, bringing the smoke of forest fires to São Paulo and those that are incinerating large areas in the nearest Paraguay.

Consequences for the environment – The fact is that, following the smoke cap that covered the Brazilian city, it was impossible to ignore an episode of this magnitude, which threatens the world’s most biodiverse ecosystem.

Indeed, the most serious consequences of the fires in the Amazon are for the environment. The large quantities of carbon dioxide that will be released into the atmosphere worries the world. The rainforest is the main carbon deposit of the planet, whose destruction would cause the release of huge quantities of climate-changing gases in the atmosphere, further accelerating climate change.

The cause of the fires – the Amazon forest is the largest rainforest in the world and, as its name suggests, it is never a dry environment. It is practically impossible for fires to occur spontaneously, which are always the work of man. The period from June to November is notoriously the driest period and the farmers, thanks to the scarcity of the rains, intentionally set the fire to obtain lands to cultivate and pastures, subtracting them from the forest. Moreover, even those who carry out illegal logging use fire to erase the traces of the crime or to remove the indigenous peoples living in the forest.

Fires in the Amazon, therefore, occur every year and are a known problem. But substantial difference with respect to the past years can be found in the policies of the government of Jairo Bolsonaro, a clearly climationist and promoter of the expansion of agricultural areas in the Amazon. Farmers, in fact, would have seized the opportunity to clear rainforests, feeling justified by the reduction of restrictions and penalties for those who set fires. Just imagine that last August 10, in the city of Novo Progreso, in the state of Parà, farmers set up the “day of fire”, emboldened by a government that fully supports them.

Deforestation – The fires that are devastating the Amazon represent an attack on the green lung of the planet, also affected by rampant deforestation. Even the data relating to this latter phenomenon is worrying. In fact, in recent months the Brazilian forest has been destroyed at a dizzying pace: every minute an area equivalent to three football fields disappears. Recently, the Brazilian space agency, data in hand, denounced an acceleration of deforestation following the establishment of Bolsonaro (about 88 percent more than in 2018), but the latter, in response, has dismissed the director of the agency, accusing him of lying about the extent of deforestation and attempting to undermine the stability of the government.

Bolsonaro blames the NGOs – And, according to the president, even the fires of these days would be a conspiracy against his government. Bolsonaro, in fact, pointed the finger at non-governmental organizations, which he said were responsible for the fires after the government withdrew funding for their activities. An accusation not supported by evidence.

Meanwhile, Germany and Norway have decided to suspend the financing of the Amazonia Fund, born for the protection of the rainforest, blocking about 70 million euros.

Summer of fires – Summer 2019 will be remembered for record fires. First the one that developed in the regions surrounding the Arctic Ocean, from Siberia to Alaska, and then the one that flared up in Brazil. However, there is a substantial difference between the two. In the Arctic, due to its size and intensity, the fires were out of the norm and caused a link to be discussed with the increase in temperatures due to climate change. In the case of fires in the Amazon forest, however, this possibility can be excluded because the rampant fire is certainly the work of man’s hand.