A forest falling apart

The Amazon rainforest houses over 1 million different species. In 2019, countless fires have devastated the area.

These fires continue to destroy this extraordinary rainforest, decimating the indigenous villages and destroying the natural habitat of wildlife.

Now a new revelation is showing that the incredible amounts of smoke emitted by the fires can be seen from space. The images were taken by NASA whom issued a statement calling for action to protect the forest.

Deakin University Professor of global change, environment and society, Brett Bryan, from the School of life and environmental sciences, explains how drastic the statistics for this year are.

“By the end of August around 150,000 individual fires were detected which is a jump of around 80% from the year before.”

Smoke billowing into the sky from a fire.

He goes on to explain that this is not a new issue and that decimation of the Amazon has been occurring for years.

“The number of fires is higher than the average over the past 10 years and lower than average when compared to the 2000s.”

“What we are dealing with is a long term decline of a globally significant biome.”

People and creatures are now displaced

The Amazon rainforest is home to many creatures who are now losing their homes and lives to this terrible series of blazes.

Native communities are also being chased out by the fires. Their livelihood is dependent on the survival of the Amazon rainforest.

Local children walking through the Amazon.

So far there have been two recorded fatalities.

A husband and wife who attempted to save their home within the rainforest from the fires. Authorities found their bodies burnt alongside the rubble of their home.

It is suspected that they died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

“The fires are devastating for plants and animals, many of which are not adapted to fire,” Professor Bryan says.

There are grand tensions between people that live in or near the Amazon over the use of the land. Professor Bryan explains that “farmers and ranchers see the forest as an under-utilised wasteland that could be put to more productive use under crops and livestock.”

Fire is used to open up land for agriculture. But, for the indigenous people of the Amazon, it is their home. And fire destroys it.

The environmental devastation

With the Amazon fires completely decimating mass areas of the rainforest, there has been concern around the environmental impact of the devastation.

Many concerns have centred around fear of the earth’s oxygen levels being drastically changed by the loss of forest.

A close up image of embers burning on wood.

“The Earth’s atmosphere is around 20% oxygen and even tropical forests as large as the Amazon, won’t make a dint in this level.” Says Professor Bryan.

“What they are important for are three things: biodiversity, carbon, and water.”

Professor Bryan explains that “tropical forests store vast amounts of carbon. When the carbon is released into the atmosphere, this contributes significantly to global warming.”

It also affects the quality of the water, a vital resource for people all along the Amazon River.

The Amazon jungle in Brazil.

Who’s to blame?

The leader of Brazil insists that action will be taken and that burning fires in the famous rainforest is completely fine.

He attempted to place blame on companies that oppose him, saying that they were responsible for the fires that were taking place. All in an attempt to make him look ‘bad’ and reform the government.

Many of the fires in the rainforest were deliberately lit.

Professor Bryan explains,“the most worrying is reports of organised farmers coordinating via social media and newspapers for a ‘Day of Fire’ in early August which preceded a large acceleration in the number of fires.”

A close up of a bonfire burning deep red.

Tropical forests house most of the variety of life on Earth and humans are currently threatening around 1million species with extinction by deliberately lighting these fires.

“The blame here lies with the failure of governance in protecting the Amazon.”

Professor Bryan explains that much of the responsibility should be placed on the Bolsonaro government and their lax tactics in ‘protecting’ the rainforest.

“The lack of enforcement of protected areas, subsidizing land clearance, and the develop-at-all-costs mentality are promoting deforestation.”

What can the general public do?

The general public can help in the effort to clean up the mess and devastation of the rainforest by placing pressure on their local governments to assist.

The rainforest is being lost to developments which needs to stop.

“The global community needs to increase pressure on the Bolsonaro government to prioritise conservation of the Amazon and increase enforcement of protection laws,” says Professor Bryan.

An Colombian local wearing a green hat sitting by the Amazon river.

He also suggests that citizens of Australia can help.

“They need to write to their local members and ask the Australian Government to voice its concerns directly to the Brazillian government and in relevant international forums like the United Nations.”

Buying products that don’t contribute to deforestation (such as palm oil) can also help.

“Governments need to use all diplomatic and economic means available to improve the protection and management of this global natural asset.”

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